Solana Beach City Councilwoman Jewel Edson became the last person to be rotated into the mayor’s seat earlier this month, with new district-based elections and a separately elected mayor on the horizon in 2020.
“Everyone has an opportunity to learn the different facets of the job,” said Edson, first elected to the City Council in 2016 and serving her first one-year term as mayor, on the benefits of the city’s traditional rotation.
She added that the change will be “bittersweet.”
The City Council voted to break the city into four districts, with one council member elected to represent each district, in response to a potential legal challenge against its longtime system of electing five at-large members. In the upcoming year, the Loma Santa Fe Corridor Improvement Project, undergrounding utilities, and expanding and improving city park space are some of the issues Edson said she has on her radar.
Edson’s involvement in local government began about 20 years ago, after retiring from a corporate job and having more free time.
“I decided to use that time and fill it by doing things I had an interest in,” she said.
Edson became a member of Solana Beach’s View Assessment Commission, comprising seven residents tasked with weighing new development with how it will impact the views from neighboring properties. She said the experience “kind of piqued my interest” in an eventual run for City Council.
“When I ran for council, I ran for responsible development,” she added.
Development will be at the forefront of city council agendas all over the state, as local officials will work to accommodate zoning changes for the state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment. San Diego County is responsible for adding about 171,000 new housing units across all income levels, a number assigned by the state.
The San Diego Association of Governments Board of Directors is responsible for dividing those units among the county’s 18 cities and unincorporated area. The 21-member board approved a methodology that places most of them near jobs and transit, which resulted in larger allocations for smaller, coastal cities than many of their local leaders and residents would like.
Solana Beach, for example, is responsible for allowing 876 new housing units, a 157% increase over the 340-unit requirement it received in the previous RHNA cycle eight years ago.
Edson spoke in front of SANDAG board members in November to ask them to more “fairly and equitably” distribute the units.
“The impact of the recommendations vary inequitably from city to city, with small cities bearing the brunt,” she said.
A proposal by Solana Beach City Councilman David Zito, who sits on the SANDAG board, that would have shifted housing units away from smaller cities was defeated by a weighted vote. SANDAG board members who voted against it have said the state Department of Housing and Community Development would not likely approve a RHNA methodology with any sort of carveout for smaller cities.
Edson said Zito, who just completed a one-year term as mayor in December, “was a great role model” at the helm of the council.
“I’m looking forward to serving with my council colleagues,” she said, adding that they don’t always get along but “it takes five of us” to get things done.