For the first time, five of the nine members of San Diego City Council are women.
At her Jan. 30 State of the District Address, District 1 Councilmember Barbara Bry said she was honored to be a part of such a historic council as she reflected on her accomplishments in 2018 and looked ahead toward the challenges of the coming year.
“As we move through the year, trust, transparency and collaboration are my guiding principles in how we work together,” said Bry.
Bry said in her time in office, she has been fortunate to work with many “dedicated and engaged” residents who serve as champions for District 1 and for the city of San Diego—many of them were in the room to hear her speak at the University City High School Library.
Locally her community accomplishments included the opening of the new Elizabeth Rabbitt Park in Del Mar Mesa, bringing arborists together in an effort that saved 39 trees that SDG&E initially proposed removing in Carmel Mission Park, helping to restore lacking landscaping in Carmel Del Mar and Carmel Grove Parks, and the installation of dozens of new stop signs in Pacific Highlands Ranch, where a new library is in the design phase and the community park and recreation center is set to open in March.
Her stated priorities for 2019 included local projects such as the completion of the SR-56 bike path and a traffic signal at Del Mar Heights Road to provide safe school crossing. Bry also continues to explore the possibility of bringing an additional dog park to Carmel Valley while requesting enforcement of off-leash laws; she is also working to address repairs in Torrey Hills where trees are causing sidewalks to lift.
The high-tech entrepreneur and grandmother said she is not a career politician and has spent her life “challenging the status quo and getting things done”—she said that motivation has not changed since arriving at city hall in 2016.
Last year, she said she called for an independent audit of the water department after many residents were not taken seriously about higher than normal water bills, and questioned the mayor and previous council’s $72 million purchase of a new office building without knowing the full cost of renovation. Two years later the building is still sitting empty costing taxpayers $18,000 a day or $126,000 a week—Bry said fortunately the building will be occupied in the next few months.
“I’m very proud that I was the first elected official and a key leader in the effort to defeat SoccerCity and to pass SDSU West,” Bry said of November’s Measure E and Measure G election battle.
She said her efforts to pass SDSU West were driven by wanting to meet regional needs while “protecting neighborhoods in and around Mission Valley that would have been overwhelmed by traffic generated by SoccerCity.”
Bry also claimed a “legislative victory” in city council’s regulation of short-term vacation rentals that passed in July but was then rescinded following a referendum effort Bry said was “bought by Airbnb.” Bry said she believes the city’s strict short-term rental regulations protect schools, homeowners and renters, and cities like San Diego across the country are now quantifying the “devastating impact” of short-term housing rentals on local housing markets.
“Short-term rentals are not the sharing economy they are the taking economy,” she said, noting that “part two” of council’s efforts will occur later this year. “This year I will continue to fight with all of you.”
Citywide her policy priorities for 2019 are centered on keeping communities “safe, clean and prosperous.”
Public safety efforts include regulations for dockless scooters and bikes and addressing homelessness, which Bry said means protecting those on the street and surrounding neighborhoods by directing city funding toward a solution that is based on effective results.
“What it doesn’t mean is spending tens of millions of dollars on untested and untracked responses and calling it bold,” Bry said. “There is one solution to homelessness and that is housing. Tents, skydiving facilities and incarcerations are costly reactions that lead folks right back to the street.”
Her priorities include supporting small businesses, developing homegrown talent for the innovation economy, expanding transit so residents have an affordable and efficient way of commuting, and to help meet the city’s Climate Action Plan goals and building more housing.
Bry said she disagrees with Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s housing strategies that include lifting height limits citywide, “The beauty and uniqueness of San Diego is our neighborhoods, it’s not one size fits all,” Bry said.
Bry shared the “sobering” fact that Faulconer’s five-year financial outlook for the city projects a $74 million deficit for fiscal year 2020.
“What I’ve seen from my two years at city hall is that we lack a comprehensive data-driven homeless plan, we lack a long-term real estate plan, we lack a long-term housing affordability plan, and we lack an effective human capital plan,” Bry said. “We bounce from reactive decision to reactive decision without examination or concern for cost and impact and without a vision of where we want to be in five years or 10 years.
It’s time to re-examine how the city of San Diego operates.”
While it was not mentioned in her address, Bry has announced a mayoral run in 2020.