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San Diego’s women leaders sure aren’t afraid to go after the positions they want. Doing something meaningful with those positions, though, is another story.

Back in 2014, then-Councilwoman Sherri Lightner joined with Council Republicans to usurp then-Councilman Todd Gloria as Council president.

The following year, then-Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins announced she would challenge a sitting Democrat, Marty Block, for his seat in the state Senate. She marshaled enough money and support to force Block to step down rather than face her in the 2016 election. Now, Atkins is poised to become the leader of the state Senate when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Last year, Councilwoman Myrtle Cole took a page from Lightner’s playbook and became Council president over fellow Democrat David Alvarez, bolstered by her Republican colleagues. This week, she won the position again, then ousted two Republican colleagues from subcommittee spots.

Whether you support these women and their politics, you have to admit, they showed some power moves.

And then …

Lightner’s tenure as Council president was utterly unremarkable. Her only major push came at the very, very end of her tenure, when she tried to ban vacation rentals, a proposal that went down in flames. Her jockeying to oust Gloria as Council president amounted to someone speeding in front of you in traffic, cutting you off, then proceeding to drive 20 mph.

Atkins had some major victories in her first term in the Senate, including the passage of SB 2 (though much of the heavy lifting to get that bill across the finish line happened in the Assembly, not the Senate) and the Gender Recognition Act, but her stint as Assembly speaker disappointed many in her party. The L.A. Times wrote a scathing assessment of her tenure, and noted “Atkins didn’t use her position to steer important bills through her house; she didn’t — or perhaps chose not to — push members to vote in favor of key legislation.”

Cole, after beating out Alvarez to become Council president, couldn’t even articulate a single clear policy goal. Just before last year’s Council president vote, she spoke in vague, meaningless terms about her plans for the year: “What I plan to do is work with every single individual on this dais. That’s what I plan to do to move their district forward and to move this city forward. That’s all I wanna do. And I want to move my district forward. I want to continue to make the progress that we’ve been making in my district, and we’re going to do it with everyone.”

Since she didn’t seem to set any terms by which we could measure her progress, we can look to the fact that the Council hasn’t made significant progress on addressing housing or short-term vacation rentals, two issues that were pressing when Cole took over and are still pressing now.

I’m proud to live in a city that has such a diverse group of women in so many positions of power. I just wish some of them would push as hard to make real progress once they’re in those positions as they did to win them in the first place.

What VOSD Learned This Week

One of the anecdotes thrown around by anti-vacation rental advocates is that the number of rentals in the city has exploded. But real numbers about the phenomenon have been elusive, until now. A new analysis for VOSD shows about 9,000 homes are being rented out, but that only 22 percent are for rent more than 90 days of the year.

We also had several folks from all sides of the short-term rental debate on the podcast this week to hash things out before the City Council takes up the issue next week.


Just like with vacation rentals, the city still hasn’t figured out a plan for the Qualcomm Stadium site.

SANDAG released a traffic study for one of the proposals for the site, SoccerCity, which envisions homes, retail and an MLS stadium. The study predicts the plan will bring more traffic than the developers predicted. It also shows that even though it’s precisely the type of dense development close to transit that the city says it wants, it still won’t hit some key goals in the city climate plan.

There’s some weird stuff going on with SANDAG’s analysis, though – and the agency might not do a similar study for a competing proposal, SDSU West.

And speaking of the city’s climate goals, even though changing how people commute is a big part of San Diego’s ambitious climate plan, city planners will no longer measure how new community plan updates fare when it comes to how people commute.


Police crackdowns have turned 17th Street from a skid row populated with homeless encampments into a ghost town.

Lisa Halverstadt tracked the impact of that crackdown: In many cases, people arrested on 17th Street were moved to jail – sometimes without ever being charged with a crime – and others simply settled in different parts of the city.


The new PedWest border crossing has drawn customers away from older businesses on San Ysidro Boulevard and toward the outlet malls.

There’s better news for San Ysidro, though: It’s about to get an influx of public art.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“Fifty-one hours ago, zero 12 22 (indecipherable) murder three minutes in 14 weeks ago in old (indecipherable) murder four five 55,000 plea 10 arrest murder bush (indecipherable) three age 24.”

– I wouldn’t have guessed that a press conference on a serial murderer would be accidentally hilarious, but thanks to a sign language interpreter’s gibberish, it was.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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