San Diego voters had some things to say about housing development and city trash policies before rain turned visits to the polls into mad dashes to avoid getting soaked.
I spent my morning talking to voters in Mira Mesa, University City and Clairemont choosing their City Council representatives – though some chose to sit out those races.
I was eager to hear where voters stood on housing as the topic has been a dominant theme in the District 2 City Council race between incumbent Democratic Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell and Republican challenger Linda Lukacs and the District 6 City Council race between fellow Democrats Tommy Hough and Kent Lee. Hough and Lee’s district includes Mira Mesa and University City while Campbell and Lukacs want to represent communities including Clairemont and Ocean Beach.
My first stop was the Mira Mesa Recreation Center where I met 42-year-old Romel Autus.
The Mira Mesa resident said he backed Measure C, a city initiative to remove the coastal height limit for a planned Sports Arena redevelopment because he thinks more high-density, affordable housing is needed throughout the city – and in his neighborhood.
“People gotta live in Mira Mesa,” Autus said.
To accomplish that, he favors large-scale developments over increasingly large granny flats. Interestingly, Hough has criticized the Sorrento Valley 3 Roots project that Autus deemed ideal.
But Autus said Hough won his vote promising to secure funding to revive the shuttered Mira Mesa Epicentre teen center.
Fellow Mira Mesa resident Beth Breitenbach, 48, said her own one-on-one chat with Lee and Lee’s focus on housing and homelessness issues led her to back Hough’s opponent.
“People need a place to live,” Breitenbach said.
Breitenbach said she also supported Measure B, a city initiative to repeal the city’s century-old People’s Ordinance and allow the city to charge all residents for trash pickup. She believes allowing the city to collect more fees will allow the city to implement environmental reforms she supports.
“I know it might cost more, but it’s important,” she said.
Sorrento Valley resident Manuel Danga, 56, disagreed. He opposed Measure B because he thinks the city already has the property taxes it needs to collect trash.
“I think the funds are already there,” Danga said. “I don’t think they need any more funding for that.”
Danga said he sat out the District 6 City Council race because neither candidate appealed to him.
After chatting with Danga, I headed to the Standley Recreation Center in University City.
University City resident Diane Jemmett, 63, said she backed Hough because she “didn’t care for his opponent” and voted against all the city ballot initiatives, including Measures B and C.
“Sometimes change isn’t good,” Jemmett said.
Fellow University City resident Gary Cottrell, 72, voted to allow the city to charge all residents for trash collection, to lift the Midway building height limit and to overturn a city ban on project labor agreements.
Cottrell, who described himself as pro-union, believes Measure B will back more environmentally friendly services.
“I think people in this neighborhood can afford to pay a little more for their trash pickup,” Cottrell said.
Cottrell also voted to lift the Midway height limit and for Lee because he thinks both will help deliver more affordable housing.
“We need more housing for low-income families,” Cottrell said.
After chatting with Cottrell, I headed to the North Clairemont Community Center, where I met nearby resident Dennis Kane, 67.
Kane said The San Diego Union-Tribune’s endorsement of Lukacs deeming Campbell unresponsive to constituents led him to support Lukacs. He also backed Measure C because he thinks San Diego needs to produce more housing to accommodate its current reality.
“We still think of ourselves as being a coastal town and we’re really a cosmopolitan town,” Kane said.
Fellow Clairemont resident Mallory Barrett, 38, said she sat out the area’s City Council race, in part because she was unhappy with Campbell. Barrett, a former Midway resident, said she voted against Measure C because she is concerned about existing traffic and congestion in the area. She thinks the city should focus more on tacks such as developing vacant land to try to deliver more housing.
Clairemont residents Doug and Maria Gaylord, 52, showed up to the polls together but had different takes on Measure B.
Maria Gaylord, who voted for Lukacs, said she favored city trash reform following an August incident that led the couple’s trash cans to be destroyed – and for the couple to foot the bill for replacements per city policy.
“I don’t mind giving more money if we get better service,” Maria Gaylord said.
Doug Gaylord, however, voted no to avoid “another charge.”
Will Zimmerman, 28, sat out the District 2 City Council race because he didn’t think he had done enough homework on the candidates, but was glad to support Measure B and C.
He’s hopeful Measure B will lead to better trash services and that Measure C will allow for the transformation he thinks the Sports Arena area needs.
“I thought that area was a kind of trashy for a long time,” Zimmerman said. “I would like to see them build something better.”