Voice of San Diego and CalMatters are proud to present Politifest 2023.

Launched in 2011, Politifest has been an annual public affairs summit produced by Voice of San Diego. For the first time, we’ve joined forces with CalMatters to bring together prominent political leaders, policy experts and thought leaders to explore this year’s themes: the social, political and economic implications of the growing housing emergency and the potential water crisis facing our region.


  • Robust schedule of debates, panels and one-on-one interviews with experts.
  • Speakers include members of state and city government, authors, journalists, activists and public intellectuals.
  • Opportunity to join 1,000 attendees, media partners and community organizations to celebrate and engage in politics and policy.


Friday October 6, 2023 at Novo Brazil Brewpub
535 Florence St, Imperial Beach, CA 91932

Saturday October 7, 2023 at USD
University of San Diego – Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies
5998 Alcalá Park, San Diego, CA 92110



Full access: $90
Friday & Saturday

Friday only: $30

Saturday only: $65

Voice of San Diego Members

Full access: $55
Friday & Saturday

Friday only: $20

Saturday only: $40

Students are free. Livestream sessions are free with registration. For sponsor access, community tickets or other pricing inquiries, contact: politifest@voiceofsandiego.org


Interested in sponsoring Politifest? Contact politifest@voiceofsandiego.org.


Friday, October 6 | 5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

When the Sea Swallows San Diego’s Coasts, Where Will We Live?

From Oceanside to Imperial Beach, local leaders are considering ways to preserve their iconic shores from erosion, including sand retention projects and moving homes and structures from the shoreline. (Beer and wine mixer to follow.)


  • Terry Gaasterland, Del Mar City Council
  • Ed Spriggs, former Imperial Beach City Councilman
  • Laura Walsh, California policy Manager, Surfrider Foundation
  • Holden Leslie-Bole, physical oceanography researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Sponsored by Hitzke Development and Climate Action Campaign

Saturday, October 7 | 9:45 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

10:00 a.m.

The Biggest Water Deal in California History: Did It Work?

It’s been 20 years since the largest water agencies in Southern California agreed to the Quantification Settlement Agreement. A look back at San Diego’s biggest water security deal on the Colorado River. Moderated by Voice CEO Scott Lewis.


  • Adel Hagekhalil, general manager and CEO, Metropolitan Water District
  • Dan Denham, general manager, San Diego County Water Authority
  • Tina Shields, water department manager, Imperial Irrigation District
  • Michael Cohen, senior associate, Pacific Institute

Sacramento v Small Cities: The Housing Battle

A conversation about the challenges state housing policies create for smaller cities. Moderated by Voice of San Diego reporter Tigist Layne.


  • Richard Bailey, Coronado Mayor
  • Tony Kranz, Encinitas Mayor
  • Catherine Blakespear, State Senator
  • Ricardo Flores, Executive Director, Local Initiatives Support Council

Understanding Sacramento: How Your State Government Works

States are the foundation of government in the US. In populous states like California, state governments play an especially prominent role in making decisions that affect your daily life. But how much do you really know about California’s government and how the state legislature works? CalMatters’ Capitol Reporter Sameea Kamal and CEO Neil Chase will talk you through the essential functions of the legislature and the tools CalMatters offers to better understand California’s government.


  • Sameea Kamal, CalMatters Capitol Reporter
  • Neil Chase, CalMatters CEO

11:15 a.m.

The Colorado River: How Will the States Learn to Share?

Who has to give up what: Can western states share the Colorado River and thrive?


  • Jeff Kightlinger, Acequia Consulting, consultant, Imperial Irrigation District
  • Brenda Burman, general manager, Central Arizona project
  • Adel Hagekhalil, general manager, Metropolitan Water Authority of Southern California
  • JB Hamby, chairman of the Colorado River Board

Sponsored by California American Water

Is The Rent Too Damn High?

Why is the rent so high? Sustained rent hikes in major metro areas like San Diego are now driving up housing costs in formerly affordable cities like Fresno, Bakersfield and Santa Maria. Will these trends continue or is relief in sight?


  • Sahanti Singh, Legislative Director, Tenants Together
  • Corey Smith, Executive Director, Housing Action Coalition
  • Tina Rosales, Policy Advocate, Western Center on Law and Poverty
  • Gilberto Vera, Senior Attorney, Legal Aid Society of San Diego

What It’s Like Being Homeless

Life without a home is often a life spent in survival mode. Speakers will talk about the daily struggles of living unsheltered, challenges they faced getting off the street, police interactions and more.


  • Levi Giafaglione
  • Natalie Raschke
  • Vic

Sponsored by KPBS

Ask a Youth: Perspectives from San Diego Students

Talk with Aaron Price Fellows, who reflect the diversity of San Diego high schools, about various topics ranging from homelessness, transportation, gun violence, mental health, climate, and public education. Each student has studied their topic deeply and will share their perspective.

Sponsored by San Diego Foundation

12:15 p.m.


1:15 p.m.

San Diego County Supervisor District 4 Debate

A discussion with the candidates for the Board of Supervisors District 4 special election. Moderated by NBC San Diego’s Priya Sridhar.


  • Monica Montgomery-Steppe, San Diego City Councilwoman
  • Amy Reichert

Sponsored by Burnham Center for Community Advancement

How Can California Boost Its Water Supply?

Where can California get enough water to survive the next inevitable dry stretch? Can it pump more water from the salty Pacific Ocean? Treat waste flushed down toilets and washed down drains? Capture runoff that flows off streets into storm drains? Tow Antarctic icebergs to Los Angeles?

Every time another drought rolls around, an array of suggestions rise to the surface. This panel will look at the strategies that could work — along with the more outlandish ones — and the obstacles they face.


  • Heather Cooley, Director of Research – Pacific Institute
  • Alvar Escriva-Bou, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA
  • Gregory Pierce, Human Right to Water Solutions Lab Director, UCLA Water Resources Group Director

Why Are Home Insurers Fleeing California and Should The State Step In?

A look at the factors that affect the price and availability of home insurance in California, featuring experts, policymakers, and consumer advocates. It will tackle the question of what, if anything, California can do to make sure people have affordable home insurance options. Moderated by CalMatters CEO Neil Chase.


  • Valerie Brown, Deputy Executive Director – United Policyholders
  • Lloyd Dixon, Senior Economist at RAND Corporation and Director, RAND Center for Catastrophic Risk Management and Compensation

2:30 p.m.

What We Know About Homelessness

A conversation with Dr. Margot Kushel of UC San Francisco about causes of homelessness.


  • Lisa Halverstadt, Voice of San Diego senior investigative reporter

Sponsored by San Diego Housing Federation

SB10 and an Unaffordable City

San Diego was the first city to try to implement SB 10 but it provoked a resistance that led the mayor to pause one of the moves he hoped would address the housing supply and affordability crisis. What is SB10? This panel will explore it and the political limits of policies that would make it easier to build in neighborhoods that the city has, so far,  reserved for single-family homes. Moderated by Voice of San Diego CEO Scott Lewis.

Cost of Water Smackdown

Representatives from San Diego’s biggest and namesake city and one of its smallest cities go head-to-head over the region’s wildly high water prices.


  • Nick Serrano, Vice Chair of San Diego County Water Authority board
  • Jack Bebee, General manager, Fallbrook Public Utilities District

3:30 p.m.

Coffee Break

Sponsored by Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate at USD

3:45 p.m.

Voice of San Diego Podcast

A live recording of the Voice of San Diego Podcast focused on housing laws and policy, hosted by Scott Lewis, Andrea Lopez-Villafaña and Jakob McWhinney.


  • Rob Bonta, California Attorney General
  • Liam Dillon, LA Times journalist

5:00 p.m.


Sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Pacific Southwest

Keep in Touch

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We welcome any questions or comments you have. Ask away!

Questions: Contact us by email, text, phone or online form.

Sponsor Politifest 2023: Contact Julianne Markow
Email: julianne.markow@voiceofsandiego.org
Phone: (619) 550-5673 (click here for full details)