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An interview with 2020 San Diego mayoral candidate Barbara Bry

San Diegans will choose a new mayor on Tuesday, November 3. Hear what the candidates had to say.

SAN DIEGO — News 8 sat down in January 2020 with Barbara Bry, current San Diego City Councilwoman who is now running for San Diego Mayor. We asked her multiple questions that are important to San Diegans. 

They included: 

  • One of the biggest issues in San Diego is the housing crisis. Whether it is a shortage of inventory or residents being priced out of the market. What is your plan to deal with this issue?  
  • What do you see as the biggest issue right now with San Diego’s infrastructure? What is your plan to improve the overall quality of San Diego’s infrastructure?
  • Climate change is an important issue for many San Diegans. Where can San Diego improve when combatting climate change? 
  • How will you deal with the differences and the particular needs of San Diegans when it comes to the White House’s policies on immigration and the border? 
  • Why should San Diegans vote for you?

Check out the full interview with Barbara Bry. A full transcription can be found below. 

Barbara Bry (D)

Barbara-Lee Edwards [00:00:00] Welcome. Joining me this evening is a San Diego mayoral candidate and current council member, Barbara Bry. Thank you so much for joining us this evening, Barbara. Thank you for inviting me. It's great to be with another Barbara. Exactly. Yes. Easy to remember each other's names. Right. Let's start right in with the big issues affecting San Diego right now. When we talk to our news viewers, one of the biggest ones is the housing crisis. And there's several layers to it. First of all, there's a shortage of inventory. People just can't find a place to live, whether it's to buy or to rent. And a lot of people say they've simply been priced out of the market, longtime San Diegans. What's your plan to deal with that?

Barbara Bry [00:00:36] So there are many things we're going to have to do to provide more housing. [00:00:41]One of the things we're going to have to do is enforce our existing municipal code. Again, short term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods. That's 16,000 homes right now. We have about 500,000 dwelling units in the city of San Diego. So that's three percent of our housing stock at a time we have a housing shortage. And if we don't start enforcing our existing municipal code, that number is just going to keep increasing, forcing more San Diegans has to have a harder time finding a place to live. [31.7s] So that's one thing I'm going to do. The second thing, I'm very proud as a council member, I have voted to update community plans along transit to allow the buy right development of 45,000 more housing units in the Midway area, Morena, Balboa, and Mission Valley. All appropriate areas for density because they're along transit. But housing is expensive to build. I mean, the price of land, the price of materials, the price of labor, and there's a shortage of skilled labor. And then there are the fees and the fees pay for infrastructure. I know Mr. Sherman would like to do away with fees, but we actually need that money. So I'm looking at a few things. First, how can we get the state to help us with the fees which pay for the infrastructure? And second, how can we have the building industry look at more innovative ways of building? For example, modular housing is being used in other parts of the state. We would have to have a factory here because the cost of transportation is so high. But what if we had a factory in northern San Diego County that could also serve L.A. and Riverside County? Michael Copley is building a project using shipping containers in East Village. I mean, that may sound fairly primitive, but actually some beautiful things have been built with shipping containers. So I'm looking at innovation in terms of how we construct. I'm also looking at how we're going to use public land. So the city owns land, the School Board owns land. Caltrans owns land. The Community College District owns land. What excess land is available that can be leased to developers on a long term 99-year basis that can be used to build more housing? And a combination of these things will provide more housing at a price that real people, working families, can afford.

Barbara Bry [00:03:21] So the homeless situation is only growing and it's very, very sad. It's very sad to see people living on the street. When Todd Gloria was on the city council, the city lost 9,000 SRO units. Those are single-room-occupancy hotel rooms that could be rented by the week. We lost 9,000 of them. We have 5,500 homeless in the city of San Diego. You do the math. Also, during his time on the city council, we went down a disastrous path called Housing First. And I'm very honored that Father Joe Carroll has endorsed me for mayor. I mean, he is above politics and he is very upset at how the city changed direction when Todd Gloria was on the city council. His belief [00:04:08]and my belief is you have to address each person where they are. And some people may need housing some people and a growing number of them have mental health and substance abuse issues. And just putting them in a house, in a room where they can lock the door there, you're not going to help them. They're drug addiction or mental health issues are going to continue. So we have to address the root causes of homelessness. In addition, there were times that enforcement is going to be required. It is certainly not a crime to be homeless. But if you commit a crime while you are homeless, you should pay the consequences. [36.1s]

Barbara-Lee Edwards [00:04:48] As far as the mental health issue goes, how do you plan to tackle that with the homeless population? Are you going to be increasing staff to deal with that sort of a street-level or how would you go about that?

Barbara Bry [00:04:58] So, first of all, I think we need more social workers reaching out to people, not police officers. It's such a misuse of our police officers. We're understaffed. They're overworked. I want to use them for neighborhood policing. We need more trained social workers out on the street talking to people and matching them with the resources they need. And second, the city did open the navigation center. It's still in the early phases, so we'll see if it's how successful it is in matching homeless people with the services they need. The county has to step up big time. It's their responsibility for mental health and substance abuse issues. They get money every year from the state and the federal government. I'm pleased to hear that they, in cooperation with the city, are going to open a new bridge shelter that will be focused on individuals with mental health issues so that we can get them the help that they need.

Barbara-Lee Edwards [00:05:51] Mayor Faulconer has touted his road repair program as a significant infrastructure achievement. Dealing with all the potholes and various other things the "Get it Done" app has been a big success. Some people have sort of complained about it, but that really has been something that has sort of identified that part of his mayorship. When it comes to infrastructure, what do you see as the biggest problem right now and what is your plan going forward with that?

Barbara Bry [00:06:14] [00:06:14]As I go all over the city and meet with residents in every neighborhood, they complain about the condition of the streets. Now, I know we've paved a lot of streets, but I'm not sure we've done it in a way that's going to last. So we use concrete. We use slurry and we use asphalt. Slurry is the cheapest way of doing things. And I think many people see that we put on a coat of slurry and it looks good for a few months and then we're getting potholes again. So first, I want to look at what new technologies are available that can help us repave streets so that they last. Second, I want to do a better job of bringing in apprentices in the building trades where we where there's a shortage of people in the building trades. And we can be using more individuals who are apprentices under proper supervision to do a lot of the work on city property. And I mostly want to be honest with people about here's the amount of money we have. Here's how many miles of streets we can do. And I want to make sure we do it in a way that's going to last so that you won't see it falling apart a few months, a few months later. [65.1s]

Barbara-Lee Edwards [00:07:20] So you're looking beyond a Band-Aid issue as sort of you're describing here. Also, we have infrastructure issues with beneath our city streets, pipes bursting at times when we're being asked to conserve water. Is that something you would address as well?

Barbara Bry [00:07:32] Yes. And what's interesting about pipes, it's nice. I'm glad you brought that up. You don't see the pipes, you see the pothole. You experience the pothole. You don't understand that the pipe is broken until it bursts. And that is an area that's going to need improvement. I am supporting measure C, which is on the March ballot. It would increase the hotel tax. This is a tax on tourists and it would provide money for infrastructure, for homeless programs and services, and of course, funding to pay for an expansion of the convention center, which benefits the San Diego economy. By providing money for infrastructure and homeless programs, it takes pressure off the general fund and we would then have more money for even more infrastructure, more road repairs, more sidewalk repairs and other kinds of amenities in our parks and libraries.

Barbara-Lee Edwards [00:08:26] Another issue that's very, very big for southern Californians, certainly here in San Diego is the environment, preserving the environment, taking steps to be more environmentally friendly, whether it's bans on Styrofoam, plastic bags or things like that. Do you have any specific plans for going further than what we've done already? Where do you see San Diego falling short?

Barbara Bry [00:08:50] [00:08:50]So San Diego has a binding Climate Action Plan, which is very aggressive. And San Diego has been a leader in this area. And I was a leader in advocating for community choice energy, which is now underway. And eventually, we will all have a choice of where we buy our electricity. You know, San Diego Gas and Electric has the highest rates in the state. Our beautiful environment, our beaches, bays,and canyons are one of our competitive advantages in attracting and retaining talent as well as, you know, important in terms of the lifestyle we all love. So that will be a priority of mine. One of the things that will be coming up is rewilding Mission Bay. And I have in my current budget priorities, asked that we look at the wildest version of our option for rewilding Mission Bay. [50.5s]

Barbara-Lee Edwards [00:09:43] As a border city and as a conservative mayor himself, Mayor Faulconer has had a complicated relationship with the White House when it comes to immigration. That leaves kind of a tricky situation for the incoming there. How would you navigate those waters?

Barbara Bry [00:10:00] [00:10:00]We are truly a bi-national city, Barbara. Families live and work on both sides of the border. Commerce flows on both sides of the border. Our Chamber of Commerce is a bi-national chamber. When the chamber goes on trips, the mayors of Tijuana, Ensenada, and Rosarito usually go, and I want to continue to foster that relationship. It's very important to us economically and on so many personal levels. This is an important part of San Diego. And I will work with the congressional delegation and whoever is in the White House. And it's really great that recently our congressional delegation was key in getting, a large amount of funding to deal with the sewage issues in the Tijuana River Valley. [43.5s]

Barbara-Lee Edwards [00:10:45] I'm going to let you finish by giving us your pitch. Why would San Diegans and why should San Diego vote for you?

Barbara Bry [00:10:52] So I've had a diverse career. I've been a journalist. I've been an entrepreneur and businesswoman in the technology world. I've started two organizations that empower women. Athena San Diego for women in the tech and life sciences and run women run to elect more women to office. And I got to City Hall in 2016, first time I'd ever run for public office. I was astounded to find a culture of no accountability and no transparency. And the way it first manifested itself was Soccer City. So the Chargers announced they were leaving San Diego and I assumed the mayor would do an RFP, a request for proposal, for the land in Mission Valley. Instead, we found out he'd been meeting behind closed doors with Soccer City for over a year. And I was the first elected official to oppose Soccer City. I actually read the complete ballot measure and understood it was a scam for the city, for the taxpayers, for our children, for our grandchildren. And I could go down a list of things like that where decisions were made behind closed doors with no accountability and no transparency. [00:12:00]We have to change this "politics as usual" culture. If we're going to be able to deal with our environment, with homelessness, with housing. And I believe the diversity of my life experiences qualifies me more than any of the other candidates to be our next mayor. I've also been a mom. I'm a grandma now. I have three grandchildren growing up here in San Diego. And they are my I would say my North Star and they are what I think about when I make decisions because I'm thinking, "what kind of city do I want them to grow up in?" I want them to be able to live here, to thrive in San Diego, to have a place to live, to have a good job, to be able to enjoy our beautiful outdoors, but I think mostly it's that I am not politics as usual. [46.9s] My two opponents have each been endorsed by various special interests, and [00:12:53]I am truly the only candidate with the independents and the leadership experience to make decisions that are in the best interests of our city. [8.4s]

Barbara-Lee Edwards [00:13:03] Well, we appreciate you coming in this evening and sharing that list with us. Barbara Bry, thank you very much for your time. We've been speaking with mayoral candidate and current city council member Barbara Bry.

To see the interviews with the six other candidates, click here

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