At the Masonic: Report on District 2 Candidate Forum

by on June 2, 2022 · 6 comments

in Election, Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

A District 2 city council candidate community forum was held Tuesday, May 31 at the Masonic Hall in Ocean Beach. One notable no-show was the incumbent Jennifer Campbell. The other no-show was Joel Day.

Campbell never responded to the invitation. Day said he would be there, but, so far, no reason has been offered as to why Day did not show up.

Mandy Havlik, Lori Saldaña, and Linda Lukacs did participate. The event lasted for an hour and a half and consisted of questions put to the candidates by a moderator, former Mighty690 radio host Linda Welby. The questions came from the community. People filled out cards at the door and Welby asked ten of those questions. Each candidate responded to each question.

Question #1 – Solutions for homelessness

Linda Lukacs, the lone Republican running for the seat, said she supported temporary shelters with the ultimate goal of permanent housing. She said she was in favor of the current effort to re-invigorate the conservatorship tool for those who clearly need help but are not capable of making rational decisions. She also said she supported MAAC, a service organization founded by leaders in the Latino community.

Lori Saldaña offered a plan of action that appeared to be unique. She said she would declare a state of emergency because this was a humanitarian crisis. This would allow a faster response to the problem and access to resources beyond the city and the state, as happens in national emergencies like hurricanes.

Mandy Havlik also offered a unique plan. She said she would remove the responsibility from the city and have the county take over handling the issue. But, then she also said to give the money to non-governmental organizations or NGOs with few, if any strings attached allowing the NGOs to move more efficiently. Havlik said the police are harassing the homeless and not offering services, which is actually incorrect.

Question #2 – Vendor ordinance

Saldaña answered first. She said the vendors need to be looked upon as budding entrepreneurs. She said we could teach them the skills to run an actual business so they could become self-sufficient. Her idea was to house them in a consignment-style building where they could run their business and learn at the same time.

Havlik focused more on the problem of the vendors taking away public space for private enterprise. She said safety was a big issue, such as vendors selling food on the street with no apparent regulation.  She said the big concern is enforcement of the new vendor rules because enforcement has been severely lacking so far.

Lukacs did not have much to add. She said she believed the ordinance was at the Coastal Commission and that it was “a good start.” She also said it would only work if enforced.

Question #3 – Vehicle habitation

Havlik said a large number of those camping in vans are not homeless. She said people in Sprinter camper vans are living in the vans at Sunset Cliffs. She said they disturb the peace, don’t put their trash in the trash receptacles, pour raw sewage down the storm drains, and block bike lanes. It was difficult to reconcile the cost of a Mercedes Sprinter van with the described behavior. She said enforcement is needed along with approved RV lots.

Lukacs’ comments were similar to Havlik’s. She said the problem was the police are understaffed. She said people should be directed to approved lots and mentioned WalMart parking lots.

Saldaña said the police have admitted they are not enforcing the vehicle habitation ordinance. A current legal challenge to the law has put enforcement temporarily on hold. She said many older and disabled citizens have taken to living in RVs they once took their kids camping in because of financial difficulties. She also said finding safe places for people to live like this is a priority and should not be a crime.

Question #4 – Newport Avenue palms

Lukacs said there was no evidence that the palms represented a real safety hazard. She said it was a travesty to cut down trees using police officers to protect the workers from concerned residents.

Saldaña said there was probably a document somewhere that would show one person was responsible for this. She said the city needed a person like her who has had experience working at the state and federal level to solve problems like this. In fact, to have a District 2 councilperson who did anything at all would be an improvement over the current incumbent who has been silent on the issue. Saldaña said palms are good trees, the parrots love them and we needed to plant trees — not cut them down.

Havlik took credit for doing something about the palm tree situation. She did send an email to Scott Peters office last fall that generated a reply after many months. The reply quoted an FAA letter that said the FAA had nothing to do with the tree removal. Havlik sits on the Peninsula Community Planning Board where she got the board to approve a letter to the city about the palms.

Question #5 – Crime, safety, how to help the police.

Havlik said she would take responsibility for the homeless off the shoulders of the police department so those resources could be used to concentrate on crime and safety. She said that the police in San Diego are very much underpaid and said that need to be corrected.

Lukacs said that she has talked with the Police Officer’s Association and the feeling she got was that the police department does not feel supported by the current administration. She said 20 to 40 officers leave the force every month.

Saldaña said that she had worked with police cadets and learned that the last hurdle a recruit must pass is “keyboarding.” They have to be able to type 30 words per minute, if they want to be a dispatcher, 50 words a minute. According to Saldaña, this is a big hurdle that the city needs to help with in order to get more officers on the street. Saldaña said new technology would also help. Live 911 is one where the 911 calls go to police cars at the same time as the 911 dispatcher. Use of drones was another. Chula Vista is using both.

Question #6 – 30-foot height limit, STVRs,

Lukacs did not state if she was for or against removing the 30-foot height limit. She said it never should have been voted on because there was not enough information on the effect of the change. Basically, no environmental impact report, in different words. Lukacs said we needed housing but we need infrastructure first.

On STVRs, Lukacs said there were four on her block in Ocean Beach, two were fine and two were disasters. She said the new ordinance is a good start but the problem will come down to enforcement. This has always been the problem.

Saldaña said she opposed removing the height limit. She said she was not a fan of ballot measures in general. She also said that Midway needed infrastructure improvements before any development takes place.

On STVRs, Saldaña said she opposed them. She said that she opposed running businesses in residential neighborhoods. Until the city passed the current ordinance, it was illegal to have a short-term vacation rental business in a residential neighborhood.

Havlik also said she opposed removing the height limit. She said Midway could be revitalized with the existing height limit. She pointed out that the development that will take place at the old SPAWAR hangers on Pacific Highway will have no height limit as it is federal land. Havlik said Midway needed some open space and needed affordable housing. She said the I-5 and I-8 interchange mess needed to be redone as part of the plans.

On STVRs, Havlik said the ordinance legitimized thousands of units that were not legal before and will removing needed housing stock from the community.

Question #7 – Yes or No, out-of-state funding

When asked if they had accepted any out-of-state funding for their campaigns, all three said no.

Question #8 – Paid parking, closing lots

Saldaña said she was in favor of parking permits for residents and charging for everyone else, meaning tourists. She suggested free shuttles like ones downtown and paid for by getting a fee from the short term vacation rentals.

Havlik also agreed with the idea of permit parking for residents but also said no to paid parking. She said the parking lots should be closed overnight because crime occurs under the cover of darkness.

Lukacs said the parking lots should be closed from dusk to dawn. She also agreed with the idea of parking permits for residents and charging tourists for parking.

Question #9 – Increase community involvement in city hall

Havlik concentrated her answer on the fate of planning boards. The city is intent on seriously limiting planning boards, which are a great place for community input. This did not answer the question as planning boards are not part of city hall.

Lukacs’ only comment seemed to be that she has been an advocate all during her career and that she would advocate for the community.

Saldaña talked about her time in the state assembly working on constituent needs. She said she listened to people statewide and worked to help people with their issues. The implied answer was that she had experience staying involved with her constituency and would bring that experience to the council office.

Question #10 – How to address bluff erosion, sea level rise, and the Bermuda stairs

Lukacs said we needed to build better buffers, such as the granite boulders, as a temporary solution. The permanent solution would be to build seawalls. She admitted that she did not know enough about the Bermuda stairs to reply.

Saldaña said the lifeguard tower needs renovation. She advocated for “managed retreat” from the bluffs.

Havlik talked a lot about the Sunset Cliffs Park. She said she was not sure about seawalls. One solution Havlik offered was to take traffic off of the bluffs. She said she was for a new lifeguard tower. When it came to the Bermuda stairs, Havlik said a sustainable design was necessary considering what the ocean might do in the future as it rises.

At the conclusion of the meeting, each candidate made a closing statement.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie June 2, 2022 at 11:22 am

Was this the 3rd or 4th D2 candidate forum? And Campbell has missed 2 of them?


Judy Collier June 4, 2022 at 11:13 am

There was a library expansion meeting at the Episcopal Center at the same time as this forum. Joel Day was there when we arrived arrived 6:30. Lori Saldaña came in later. Both asked pertinent, informed questions. There may have been other candidates there who I did not recognize.


Frank Gormlie June 5, 2022 at 11:23 am
Frank Gormlie June 5, 2022 at 11:24 am

So, candidate Joel Day went to the Library meeting but missed the candidate forum.


Geoff Page June 6, 2022 at 12:56 pm

I emailed him to see if he had a reason for skipping the forum but got no answer. I’d say that is a bit of a comment on his character. He committed to attending a forum only blocks away, where a crowd of community members were waiting to hear from him. But, he decided to sit in on a presentation as an audience member. Day has already expressed his fondness for public libraries, he didn’t need to disappoint a room full of people, concerned enough about local politics to come to the Masonic Temple, to demonstrate that fondness yet again.


kh June 6, 2022 at 4:42 pm

If he went to the candidate forum instead, one might say he’s more interested in salesmanship than in learning about our long-standing library needs.
Maybe he can just ask Jen what he missed. Oh wait… she didn’t show up for either.


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