Democratic Councilmember declares his candidacy for Mayor of San Diego.
By Andy Cohen
City Councilman David Alvarez officially entered the special election for the vacated San Diego mayoral office yesterday with a press conference in Presidio Park adjacent to Old Town. Alvarez joins 30 other potential candidates as listed by the City Clerk’s office, but becomes only the third “major” candidate, joining City Councilman Kevin Faulconer and former State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher as top contenders for a runoff. A potential candidate is someone who has filed a “Candidate Intention Statement” with the San Diego City Clerk’s office.
The special election is scheduled for November 19. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two candidates will take place within 49 days of the primary. The winner will complete the term of departed former mayor Bob Filner.
“The City has neglected the needs of neighborhoods and vital infrastructure, and has focused instead on giving taxpayer subsidies to well connected special interests. The City has been beset by corruption, conflict and scandal,” Alvarez said in a prepared statement.
“I’m running for mayor because I believe that San Diego is bigger than the special interests. That by coming together around our shared values we can solve our problems. That working families, not well connected businesses, are the heart of San Diego.”
If elected, Alvarez would become San Diego’s first Mexican-American mayor.
Critics have long lamented City Hall’s deference to wealthy business interests and the local government’s willingness to bend to the will of big business and its laser focus on Downtown development. Developers and the big hotel interests have long been the primary beneficiaries of perceived preferential treatment, sometimes for the betterment of San Diego, but more often to the detriment of ordinary taxpayers.
In 2006, the City of San Diego issued approvals for a 12 story building constructed by Sunroad Enterprises adjacent to Montgomery Field airport in defiance of Federal Aviation Administration regulations and admonitions. Former mayor Jerry Sanders was accused of complicity in the illegal and openly defiant Sunroad deal.
The company was eventually forced to remove the top two floors of its Centrum building to meet FAA regulations.
More recently, Sunroad asked for and received an easement of public property that was granted by the City Council. $200,000 worth of public property was given away to the developer for nothing.
In North Park, local residents are seething about a Jack-In-the-Box restaurant, where the fast food chain has allegedly blatantly disregarded an agreed upon renovation for its 30th and Upas location to build a new structure from the ground up in violation of city ordinances. Permits were issued by the City for a renovation, providing that the original exterior walls remain in place. The company agreed, but disregarded the permits and completely tore down the old structure with the City turning a blind eye until Mayor Bob Filner took up the issue personally. City zoning ordinances prohibit a drive-thru at that location, or any location so close to residential areas.
There was also the alleged secret agreement between developer and media mogul Doug Manchester and Republican former mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio to move San Diego’s City Hall to Manchester’s proposed Navy Broadway Complex development project, where the city would lease office space from Manchester in a relocation agreement should DeMaio have won the 2012 mayoral election. The list goes on and on.
Bob Filner was elected on a promise to change that culture of deference to big business and place a greater emphasis on neighborhood development, a vision that Alvarez says he shares. “We need to focus on giving back to neighborhoods and not subsidizing with taxpayer dollars the special interests,” said Alvarez.
“I think my policies will be very progressive. Maybe a lot of people haven’t been paying attention for the last two-and-a-half years, but I’ve been pretty progressive in pushing an agenda forward that really benefits communities that really need that type of investment and attention. I’ve been doing that since I’ve been on the City Council.”
Alvarez said that he will proactively seek funding from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in the form of Community Development and Block Grants to invest in outlying neighborhoods that he says have been neglected, such as his own Barrio Logan neighborhood. He also promoted the use of new market tax credits to encourage investment and development.
Asked about the differences between himself and his main Democratic rival Nathan Fletcher, who is also presumed to be Alvarez’ main obstacle for earning a spot in a runoff election, Alvarez noted Fletcher’s switch of party affiliation as his main hurdle. “People know who I am. Nathan, when he ran for mayor last year, I think he had a different set of values that he is trying to persuade voters that he has now. That’s going to be his hurdle. My hurdle is going to be being able to compete with all the money that’s going to be spinning out from a lot of the big corporations.”
“I’ve got a room full of people who are willing to give up their next two months to really be supportive, and we’re going to build an election that way, because that’s the way I won my last election, by getting people involved when nobody thought I could become a councilmember,” he said, adopting the underdog role.