By Joe Tash
If he is elected mayor of San Diego, David Alvarez said he will listen to neighborhood residents, “and their concerns will be addressed.”
In an interview with this newspaper, the mayoral candidate and San Diego City Councilman was asked about the One Paseo project, a controversial mixed-use development proposed for the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real in Carmel Valley.
The latest version of the project would consist of 1.4 million square feet of buildings, including offices, retail shops and 608 residential units. Some neighbors oppose the project out of concerns that it will exacerbate traffic congestion on surrounding roads. The Carmel Valley Community Planning Group is expected to consider the project soon, and it will ultimately go before the San Diego City Council for approval.
Alvarez did not take a position on the project, but said, “My record reflects the needs of the community, and those who live in the community, and what they express is very important to me.” Alvarez charged that his opponent, Kevin Faulconer, is more likely to side with developers.
Alvarez, 33, was elected to the City Council in 2010. He grew up in San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighborhood, where he lives today. Alvarez and Faulconer, also a San Diego councilman, are running to complete the term of former Mayor Bob Filner, who resigned in August amid a sexual harassment scandal.
In a November mayoral primary, Faulconer, a Republican, finished first, with 42 percent, followed by Alvarez, with 27 percent, in a field of 11 candidates. Three prominent Democrats — Alvarez, Nathan Fletcher and Mike Aguirre — were represented on the ballot.
Although registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 39 to 26 percent in San Diego (28 percent of voters list no party preference), Faulconer enjoys a sizeable fundraising advantage based on year-end campaign filings, having taken in $1.4 million compared to Alvarez’s $524,000 in 2013.
Alvarez said he has more campaign volunteers on the ground, which he believes will make the difference in the election.
“I’ve never had a lot of money, but I’ve had a lot of people who believe in me and my vision for the city,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez listed five priorities if elected mayor: reinvesting in neighborhoods parks, libraries and public safety; improving infrastructure, such as roads and bridges; establishing reliable sources of water, including the use of treated wastewater for both drinking and landscaping; providing open and transparent government; and creating a climate action plan, that would reduce greenhouse gases and allow residents to purchase electricity from renewable sources.
Alvarez insisted he is ready to take on the challenge of running the city of San Diego, a government agency with a $2.8 billion annual budget and more than 7,000 employees, in spite of only having served one term on the City Council.
He said he began his career in public service at 18, as an educator, neighborhood activist and youth minister. Before being elected to the City Council, he served as a district aid to state Sen. Denise Ducheny.
“My commitment to the community and public service are very clear. And we will make sure we have the most competent individuals making decisions as part of my team,” he said.
“Age has not determined the success or failure of any mayor in the past,” he said. (A case in point: Filner was 70 when he resigned in disgrace last summer.)
Alvarez and Faulconer have differed on a number of recent high-profile issues, including a hike on affordable housing fees charged for new development (Alvarez supported it while Faulconer opposed it), and a community plan update for Barrio Logan. Faulconer sided with business interests that gathered signatures to put a repeal of the plan before voters, while Alvarez helped broker the deal that led to the approved community plan.
The two also disagreed on a pension reform measure, Prop. B, which was approved by voters in 2012. Faulconer signed a statement supporting the initiative, which calls for new city employees — other than police officers — to have 401k-style retirement plans instead of pensions. Alvarez said the measure deprives city workers of a needed safety net for retirement because they are not part of the Social Security system.
They also differ on managed competition, another voter-approved plan to put certain city services out to bid between city departments and private companies. Faulconer has said he will enthusiastically pursue such competitions to cut costs, while Alvarez said he will use managed completion as a tool, but was skeptical of the savings that can be generated.
The differences were less pronounced on two other issues: medical marijuana dispensaries and public funding for a new Chargers stadium.
The two candidates said they support public access to medical marijuana. Faulconer said in an earlier interview that protections must be in place for neighborhoods, such as restrictions on locating dispensaries near churches or schools. Alvarez said the dispensaries must be spread out throughout San Diego’s communities, rather than being concentrated geographically. “You cannot dump all the medical marijuana dispensaries in one community,” he said.
Both also were reluctant to commit to any use of public funds for a new stadium.
Alvarez said he believes a new Chargers stadium could be built on the site of the existing Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley with private financing.
“I oppose the use of general fund dollars that get used for police, fire, parks. I’ve been very clear about that for the last six months now,” Alvarez said.
The campaign, which was on hiatus over the holiday season, is now in full swing in the run-up to the Feb. 11 election. Six broadcast debates are scheduled from Jan. 15-31.