Originally posted at the OB Rag
As Councilmember Lorie Zapf does her victory laps through the coastal neighborhoods of District 2 for her successful stand against unrestricted short-term vacation rentals, locals need to remember Zapf is also a partisan candidate running to keep her seat on the Council (and hoping for an unusual third term).
While her STVR coalition with Councilmember Barbara Bry ultimately and admirably won the day for restrictions on STVRs and for saving communities from the deluge of mini-hotels plaguing the beaches, one need only peek at some of the other issues Lorie has taken positions on to have your eyebrow raised.
A more serious look into her record over the past 8 years on Council does more than raise eyebrows – it raises the blood pressure.
From her stance on recreational cannabis to her positions on such things as Section 8 vouchers, project labor agreements to the minimum-wage issue, Lorie Zapf consistently follows the Republican line. It turns out she is quite the partisan – all which certainly ought to be troubling for the blue communities of District 2.
And her recent behavior during the June Primary is quite upsetting and clearly not very transparent – she avoided every campaign forum held by local town councils. Plus her mighty war chests and key supporters also reflect the role the GOP establishment expects her to play.
Lorie Zapf is very affable, especially when she’s with folks she knows are friendly, like the other night at the OB Town Council 50th anniversary celebration. And on a personable level, she’s quite pleasant and can party down with folks.
Yet, once her track record and behavior is traced, questions are raised on her abilities to continue to be a policy maker. And that’s the point, right?
So, just who, briefly, is Lorie Zapf? Where did she come from?
Zapf lives in the Bay Ho neighborhood of Clairemont where she’s resided for 18 years now with her hubby Eric. They have two daughters Tana, 19, and Myla, 17. Before she ran for office, she developed a small business with Eric into a mini-empire – and she brings that perspective to government.
Over a decade ago, when Lorie held a seat on the San Diego County Republican Central Committee, the San Diego Republican establishment liked what they saw in her. An attractive, personable, PR-savvy partisan woman with business acumen who could possibly take over Donna Frye’s seat – which she was vacating due to term limits.
Born in Los Angeles to a mother who was a first-generation Mexican-American and to a father who was a musician, once she grew up, Lorie entered the world of broadcast journalism and public relations. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Cal State University Northridge and a Master’s Degree in Marketing Communication from the University of Denver.
She ended up as a news reporter in theReno/Tahoe area, and then a video producer and public relations manager in Colorado. She told a Union-Tribune reporter she’s always been a news junkie.
It was in Colorado where she met her husband-to-be. Once they became married, Lorie’s career took a completely different direction.
She and her husband founded Boulder Bar Endurance, a line of food bars sold through Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and other mega-stores. After a few years expanding the all-encompassing business, Lorie wanted something else; she and her husband found a buyer and sold the business. San Diego Union-Tribune
Sometime after raising her daughter and before she became a politician, Lorie became the director of a non-profit called Californians Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) – which she touted as one of her main credentials in 2010 when ran for Frye’s seat. But as SD CityBeat pointed out:
Her position with Californians Against Lawsuit Abuse … also isn’t without political baggage. The organization says it wants to protect businesses and the public from an “ever-circling” plaintiff’s bar in the “most litigious” state in the nation. CALA claims to be a citizen-led uprising against greedy lawyers out to make fast money, though questions routinely arise about the true nature of its financing and whether it’s more Astroturf than grassroots.
Zapf told CityBeat that’s not true.
She claimed the group obtained its money through fundraisers and events.
First Campaign in 2010
Lorie Zapf ran her first campaign for public office in 2010. Somewhere along the line, Lorie had to be literally plucked out of obscurity, anointed by the GOP establishment to try for Donna Frye’s District 6 City Council seat. Termed out, Frye had held the seat since 2001. Lorie agreed and filed papers to run in the Primary.
District 6 then included Kearny Mesa, Linda Vista, Mission Valley, Serra Mesa and parts of Mission Bay.
She was up against Howard Wayne, a Democratic Party stalwart – with his own quirks – and Steve Hadley, Frye’s chief of staff, plus some lesser knowns.
Eight years ago, it was a time of cutbacks under then-Mayor Jerry Sanders. During the campaign, Zapf touted her credentials as a small-business owner –remember her mini-empire of power bars – and in a revealing interview with CityBeat, said people are interested in “more private-sector principles” in government.
She discussed how she wanted to cut costs and balance the city budget during those lean years and how she wanted to balance the budget by training volunteers to fill gaps in staffing at libraries and parks, which would, in her mind, enable the city to funnel more money into public safety.
Did anyone mention to her that government cannot be run like a small business? Training volunteers to help manage the 8th largest city in the country appeared to be a nosedive in how municipalities are supposed to serve the public.
Yet, when the Primary results came in, Zapf was the clear frontrunner with 35.5% of the vote to Howard Wayne’s 26.5 percent and Hadley’s 16.4%. KPBS
For the November run-off, Lorie got down to business and found support from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) which endorsed Zapf for her stance against Project Labor Agreements.
Calling PLAs “a racket”, the ABC stated:
How can this racket be stopped? The November 2010 election to the San Diego City Council of candidates such as Lorie Zapf (known for her work with Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse) could restore a process that for 30 years effectively focused on the merits of the project and the legitimate impact of the project on the environment.
Their support paid off. Come November Lorie Zapf beat Howard Wayne by a little over 2,100 votes, receiving 52.35 per cent (22,869) to Wayne’s 47.36 percent (20,692).
Having briefly outlined her first successful campaign, we need to backtrack a few months – to March of 2010, when San Diego CityBeat interviewed Lorie.
Then writer Justin McLachlan brought up a 4-year-old email exchange between Zapf and an anti-gay activist by the name of James Hartline which the newspaper had obtained. During the exchange, Zapf had written:
“I absolutely want to keep homosexuals out of public office and not be allowed to influence our schools, textbooks, altering marriage, children, and on and on.”
She was responding to Hartline, who had asked her why she hadn’t filled out a survey from the Christian Coalition Voter Guide when she was running for a seat on the Republican Central Committee. She told him she hadn’t received it, but still she told him she supported his cause. She wrote:
“I like that you are trying to keep homosexuals and homosexual activists out of public office because we both know what the long-term agenda is.”
“I do believe homosexuality is a sin. I have three homosexual first cousins. I love them all and would ‘be seen’ in a photo with them. I believe they all live in sin and frankly, all are very unhappy people and had horrible childhoods as well.”
Hartline was giving Zapf grief for her support and work for a candidate for city council that year, Judy Riddle – who in turn supported Mayor Sanders. Hartline eyed Sanders as unworthy because the Mayor “repeatedly marched in gay pride parades and [had] recently hired two homosexual activists.”
McLachlan of SD CityBeat wrote:
In response, Zapf defended Riddle and took a swipe at [Donna] Frye.
“Judy is a STAUNCH supporter of the Cross and the Scouts, Pro-Life, pro-family values… she is very conservative. We can only vote for the choices we have, and Donna Frye is an A.C.L.U. LIBERAL who is leading this city down the wrong path.”
When confronted with these anti-gay comments in her email, Zapf replied the statements to Hartline –
“do not accurately reflect my views or actions then or now. For many years prior and after this e-mail, I’ve hired gays in my business and have endorsed gays for elected office. But, I recognize my words may still be hurtful, and I apologize for them sincerely.”
CityBeat asked Lorie if she believed gay men and women should be kept out of public office. She responded in an e-mail:
“That’s absurd. I strongly supported City Councilmember Carl DeMaio and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in their respective races. I believe you should judge individuals based on their positions on the issues that matter to our city and to our neighborhoods.”
Now, of course, people and politicians do change. National attitudes towards gay people and gay marriage have turned upside down in recent years, and to saddle Lorie with her anti-gay attitudes of 12 years ago is unfair. We just must note them. Here.
It wasn’t until December 2011 that the OB Rag first noticed Zapf. It was at the tail end of the Occupy Wallstreet movement in San Diego – which we supported. You may recall Occupy San Diego had a tenuous tent-city presence at the Civic Center Plaza. Near Christmas, Dave Maass, then writing for CityBeat, reported:
An aide to San Diego City Councilmember Lorie Zapf was spotted coordinating a video shoot making fun of the Occupy Wall Street movement at the Civic Center Plaza … Matt Donnellan, who currently serves as Zapf’s senior policy advisor, was seen organizing a band of students who donned elf costumes and marched around a pile of wrapped presents carrying Occupy-style signs while a video crew documented the spectacle. Donnellan identified the group as College Republicans …
—Before, after and throughout the stunt, the participants repeatedly looked to Donnellan for instruction, with Donnellan at one point leading the group into City Hall and past security so they could change into their elf costumes. Donnellan maintains that he was off the clock.
TJ Zane, president of the Lincoln Club of San Diego County, a conservative booster group, was also standing on the sidelines. The club is hosting an “Occupy Christmas”-themed fundraiser ….
The OB Rag then commented:
We wanted to show how this clear mockery of the occupy movement … is simply soaked in elitist hypocrisy, and not only makes fun of the movement that has highlighted the disparity in income between the very, very rich and the rest of us, it disparages protest and dissent in general.
For one, …the elected officials … plainly do not support the Occupy Movement either in general or here in San Diego. Their Republican mayor, Jerry Sanders, has rode roughshod over the demonstrators, refusing to negotiate with them, has had them roughed up, arrested, pepper-sprayed, removed, and has done everything in his power to get rid of them.
Not only that, other prominent GOP elected officials (Zapf, Dumanis, DeMaio) that the Club supports have been particularly un-supportive or downright nasty towards the demonstrators.
Of course, there’s no way that Lorie didn’t know her senior policy advisor was directing this mockery of dissent.
But, of course, people and politicians change.
Ostensibly an unfortunate for Zapf, city council districts changed in 2011, and the Redistricting Commission placed her residence in District 2. Yet, undeterred, in early May of 2013, she filed her papers with the City Clerk to run for the District 2 seat.
By August of that year – with the 2014 Primary many moons away – Zapf had already collected $130,000 for her war chest, much of it from the building and hotel industries. The San Diego Reader.
A good chunk, $36,000, came from fundraisers hosted by Sudberry Properties, the developer of the 4,780-unit Civita mixed-use development in Mission Valley. Executives from Sudberry were then lobbying the city on a number of issues facing their mega-project – at that point, unbuilt.
Zapf also had other friends in the building and hotel sectors of San Diego, receiving campaign donations from executives of Rick Engineering, Sunroad, and the Bartell hotelier family.
By the time the 2014 Primary rolled around, the only viable candidate she faced was Democratic Party-supported, but totally new-comer, Sarah Boot, a federal prosecutor. Boot, full of progressive ideals, just was not known throughout the district – having no prior elected office experience nor strong community roots.
Then, a week before the Primary, Zapf employed something that she’d learned from fellow Republican Kevin Faulconer. Lorie, still sitting in the District 6 chair and campaigning for District 2 against Sarah Boot, joined Faulconer at the OB Skateboard Park to announce, “Tony Hawk Day”, both glowing in the presence of the famous skateboarder.
But Ed Harris – then the current Councilmember for District 2 (he had been appointed by council to fill out Faulconer’s term) was not invited to this event in his district. Neither was Sarah Boot invited.
Lesson learned? Politicize every and any event – especially if it’s right before an election. At the time, we called it disgraceful, politicizing a skateboard park. But Zapf did something very similar regarding the ribbon-cutting for OB’s Entryway Project, as she coordinated with Faulconer to exclude Harris once again for a PR event. And she did it again with the public unveiling of OB’s new lifeguard statute.
Zapf ended up slamming Boot in the Primary with 53 percent of the vote to Boot’s 38.5%, winning the seat outright, not having to go to the General Election that fall. Two minor candidates split 9% between them.
So, now Lorie represented the beach communities, notoriously liberal and environmentally-conscious.
Due to the differences with her new constituents, Lorie needed a make-over. She needed to become an environmentalist, to match the green of her district, with an eye always on the next election. Because one thing Zapf knows: no one can get elected in District 2 who is not an avid environmentalist. As one who spent her sabbatical year “backpacking around the world,” including hiking the Himalayas and scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, she began to burnish those credentials.
But as one observer asked, “You take a vacation, scuba dive, and hike and that makes you a goddam environmentalist?”
The changes must have worn Lorie down. In 2016, she was interviewed by Voice of San Diego, whose editors felt she “sure has given lots of signals that she isn’t a big fan of being a city councilwoman.” Zapf joked that she complains to Chris Cate – her District 6 successor – about how things are different in her new neighborhoods. “Sometimes I long for the peace and quiet of District 6,” Zapf said. VOSD
Lorie has described herself as “a nerd at heart” and a “policy wonk” yet, when confronted with dicey policy questions, such as pension reforms and her support for that year’s Prop B, as she was by an OB Rag writer in 2014, she became confused and puzzled. He wrote:
When it was pointed out that city employees have already endured a five-year wage freeze, and that Prop B was demanding an additional five years, she replied “We haven’t had a pay raise either.” City Council members currently earn $75,386 per year. “Do you know how much a firefighter earns?” she asked.
Depending on their level, San Diego firefighters then earned between $39,166 to $66,539.
When asked whether, with such a dangerous job, she didn’t think firefighters deserved to be paid well, she cited a study … that surveyed the most dangerous jobs. Firefighter did not make the list, she said.
[N]ot all city employees are paid even as well as the firefighters are… And it was Zapf’s implication that there were simply thousands of city workers earning exorbitant salaries. Her use of firefighters as an example pretty clearly demonstrates the falsehood of that assertion.
Zapf is an elected city official. As such, she should have a higher level of expertise on any proposed ballot measure or issue that comes before the city council. Certainly, she should have a greater knowledge than the average citizen. Our exchange demonstrated a distinct lack of knowledge, which should be concerning to all San Diego residents. She later complained… that she had had a glass of wine and wasn’t prepared to answer such tough questions.
Zapf voted against San Diego minimum wage ordinance in July 2014
In late July of 2014, the city council took up the issue of passing a minimum wage ordinance. In addition to raising the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 by Jan. 2017, the ordinance also mandated up to 5 days of paid sick leave for employees. The City Council approved the ordinance in a 6-3 vote with Council Members Zapf, Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman casting the “no” votes. But then, as he had threatened, Mayor Faulconer vetoed the measure claiming small businesses and their workers would have to carry the burden of the new wage law, pushing jobs out of the city. California City News
The council again took up the measure and in mid-August overrode the mayor’s veto, with a vote of 6 to 2 – Lorie Zapf who had voted against the higher minimum wage twice, apparently could count, so she didn’t make the hearing. News8
Then council-president, Todd Gloria said:
“This City Council is standing up and demonstrating that we value honest work and fair pay. With 38 percent of the people in this city who work … not earn(ing) enough to make ends meet, something must be done.”
In Part 2, we’ll examine Zapf’s zigzagging stance on the 30-foot height limit as well as her more recent policy moves.