San Diego City Council candidate Kent Lee is applauded at the Crab Hut in San Diego on Nov. 8, 2022. / Photo for Brittany Cruz-Fejeran for Voice of San Diego
San Diego City Council candidate Kent Lee is applauded at the Crab Hut in San Diego on Nov. 8, 2022. / Photo for Brittany Cruz-Fejeran for Voice of San Diego

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Kent Lee increased his lead over opponent Tommy Hough on Wednesday, solidifying his place as the next Councilman in District 6. Hough, however, vowed not to concede until all the votes are counted.

But he did have a few thoughts on the race the morning after.

“Downtown will likely read the result of this election as a greenlight for the YIMBY-fication of D6,” he told Voice of San Diego. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

From Hough’s perspective, the election wasn’t decided on ideas but attack ads in the final weeks funded by Lee’s supporters, who challenged, among other things, his liberal environmentalist credentials. Lee, in the meantime, emphasized the thousands of doors he and volunteers knocked on in the months leading up to Tuesday.

Lee also pushed back against the YIMBY-NIMBY framing of the election, arguing that most people don’t think in such polarized terms. “It’s not about building more or not building at all,” he said, but about coupling the new homes that are needed with infrastructure and all the other elements required to maintain a high quality of life for everyone.

San Diego City Council District 6 Candidate Kent Lee walks with supporters in downtown on election night. / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran for Voice of San Diego

Throughout the race, both candidates spoke of the need for better public transportation and more affordable housing and were critical of the higher-end developments out of reach to most families.

Hough, a county planning commissioner who got the Sierra Club endorsement, distinguished himself with a “neighborhoods first” campaign that was suspicious of developers and City Hall. He identified industrial areas for home construction and also expressed sympathy for rental control and vacancy taxes.

Lee, who had the backing of the Democratic Party, Mayor Todd Gloria, most of the City Council, the Chamber and major labor unions, argued that it was no longer possible to defend single-family zoning. He proposed ways to bring down the cost of construction, establish a housing fund to help more people buy, and develop a strategy to preserve affordable units before being converted to market-rate.

Though Lee has also stressed that what the city needed most was collaboration among communities, both he and his supporters have emphasized — in addition to housing policy — the importance of keeping D6 an Asian empowerment district. Lee is Chinese, the son of immigrants, and the district is home to the largest Asian and Pacific Islander population in San Diego. It’s currently represented by termed-out Republican Chris Cate, who’s of Filipino descent.

While Hough declined to call the race, Lee claimed victory on Wednesday afternoon. As the results began to roll in the night before, he told fellow Democrats that he looked forward to working with allies at City Hall to boost the region’s housing supply, reduce homelessness and improve infrastructure.

(Left to right) San Diego Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert, Mayor Todd Gloria, City Council District 6 candidate Kent Lee and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera pose for a photo at the Crab Hut in downtown on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran for Voice of San Diego

“The middle-class families in San Diego and working families in San Diego need us to fight for them to ensure that they continue to have a place to enjoy in this city — not just for you, not just for all of us, but for our children and the future generations to come,” he said.

This post was updated after Lee declared victory on social media.

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