Pacific Beach Town Council expresses concerns with joining La Jolla in city’s District 1

(Richelle /

The likelihood that Pacific Beach will be moved into another San Diego City Council was the dominant topic among PB Town Council members.

The redistricting scenario being proposed moves Pacific Beach from District 2 into District 1. The latter includes La Jolla.

With the adoption of a final preliminary map by the nine-member Redistricting Commission (one member from each city district), a lively discussion during the PB Town Council’s Nov. 17 meeting revolved around the implications of the move and what actions the community could take before the commission’s Dec. 15 deadline for submitting a definitive map demarcating the nine City Council districts.

Although the final preliminary map is the result of a campaign to unite the Clairemont neighborhood into a single district, a recent push by a La Jolla-based group named “D1 United” to split Pacific Beach into two council districts produced fervent reactions from the audience.

“I’ve described this process as kind of a Whack-A-Mole,” said Karl Rand, PBTC vice president and chair of the PB Planning Group. “It’s like something pops up and then they deal with it, but then it causes something else to pop up and da-da-da. We’re very, very near the end of the process.”

Pacific Beach currently sits in District 2, along with Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, Point Loma and parts of Clairemont, and is represented by City Council President Jennifer Campbell. Although the district’s population increased by 3.3 percent in the 2020 census, it fell short of the target 154,000 residents per district by 4.5 percent.

Five criteria guide the redistricting process: the districts must be contiguous, geographically compact, share common interests, use physical boundaries such as canyons or interstate highways, and have equal population within a 2 percent margin.

The commission considered six previous maps before voting 7-2 to approve the final preliminary map that consolidates the approximately 80,000 residents of Clairemont into District 2, thereby sending the 45,000 Pacific Beach residents into District 1.

“The Clairemont people want to have District 2, and they kind of want to separate from Pacific Beach and then have the Peninsula and all that,” Rand said. “So this is kind of their map.”

The probable transfer into District 1 was not fully embraced by all. Council member Eve Anderson expressed worries that issues such as homelessness, which PB shares with the other beach communities in District 2, will get short shrift in a district dominated by the more affluent and influential La Jolla community, where such problems aren’t prevalent.

“La Jolla is going to rule,” Anderson said. “We’re going to be the orphans. We’re the people who have ‘those’ kinds of problems, like lots of homeless and all the other things. ... So we’re going to be kind of the poor folks at the end of the line.”

Plenty of debate centered on ways to remain in District 2 as well as keeping Mission Beach, which shares similar issues as well as a common beach and bay, in the same district with PB. The neighboring community was joined with PB in all the previously proposed maps except the final one that was adopted.

However, Rand noted the redistricting process was too far advanced, and the deadline fast approaching, for the commission to reconsider its final preliminary map.

“There might be prior maps or other maps that we would have preferred, but we’re past that stage,” Rand said. “You can’t go back to a whole completely different map. ... The current map is acceptable. It’s not ideal because we’re split from Mission Beach. But it’s acceptable because it keeps us whole.”

The last concept — the cohesion of Pacific Beach — is being challenged by D1 United. In her presentation on the status of the current redistricting, PB Town Council President Marcella Bothwell read from a Nov. 16 La Jolla Light article in which the group proposed “tweaking” the adopted preliminary map by adding the territory north of Grand Avenue to District 1, thereby keeping La Jolla in tact by dividing Pacific Beach.

“These minor tweaks, they affect us a lot; completely divides our community,” Bothwell said. “The whole idea was to unite Clairemont, unite Linda Vista, unite; and then to just divide us in half. I can’t imagine.”

Council member Jim Marshall expressed outrage, suggesting the concept was akin to turning PB into an accessory for La Jolla.

“What they’re looking to do is have a Baja La Jolla included in La Jolla,” he said. “It’s absurd.”

“I still think with La Jollans in charge, we’re going to lose and I don’t see a way out of that one,” added Anderson. “But we’ll lose big time if we’re divided in half. I’m not looking forward to being part of them. That may sound awful, but I’m trying to be practical. ... Having observed La Jollans, I don’t want to get stepped on.”

Rand tried to tamp down the incendiary indignation by saying that he checked the Redistricting Commission website before the meeting and no map had been submitted by D1 United.

“To a certain extent, right now we have their words but we don’t have their map yet,” Rand said. “It does make it difficult for us to get ahead because really, what we’re doing is we’re opposing something that somebody hasn’t fully proposed. ... At this point, there is an official tentative map. Unless somebody can convince the commissioners to change it, then that’s what the map is going to be.”

Before deciding a course of action in the limited time left, the group first determined its goals. Although the top priority was that Pacific Beach remain unified, other stipulations included keeping Mission Beach in the same district and ensuring that Mission Bay remain in PB’s district.

“We have to include Mission Bay,” said council Treasurer Denise Friedman. “We’re talking about land. We’re not talking about population. Mission Bay is us, not Clairemont.”

The council agreed to blitz the commission with emails and phone calls in order to make the members’ position clear. Most importantly, residents were encouraged to attend the remaining public meetings in droves.

“We need to speak up with lots of people doing two-minute comments, not trying to do a group presentation,” Friedman said. “It’s far more powerful if you have 20, 30, 40 people say you can’t divide our community.”

Bothwell said she would write a template letter that residents could cut and paste into their messages to the commission. The template will be available on the town council’s Facebook page.

“We could all just bounce that same message off the same people over and over again and repeat it endlessly,” said council member Iain Richardson. “I think that may be helpful if that’s where we want to end up, which is to keep PB together, support the current tentative map and resist anyone’s attempt to subdivide PB.”

In other business:

• In the president’s report, Bothwell announced the Parks and Recreation Department planned to place portable restrooms in certain locations across the city to help combat the shigellosis outbreak, particularly among the homeless.

In PB, the washroom will be located at the northwest corner of the library and include 24-hour security guards. Bothwell asked the audience to observe the plan’s effectiveness and report to the council.

“If people over the next couple of months can send in some comments to me, that way I can take it and build a case for saying a security presence at the library may be helpful to the community,” she said.

• During his report, Fire Capt. Rich Marcello was asked whether his department would suffer workforce losses if the proposed COVID-19 vaccine mandate is enacted.

“I see in the news that they talk about hundreds and hundreds,” Marcello said. “I don’t know that to be true at all, if any. I’m sure there are a few that are going to refuse and possibly end up leaving. ... But as far as I know, it’s maybe a handful or so. There’s definitely not hundreds, I can tell you that.”

• With no public meeting in December, Bothwell announced the Jan. 19 meeting will be held in-person at St. Brigid Parish in addition to a Zoom streaming component. However, that ambition will depend on the continuing decline of the pandemic.

“They’re saying that the COVID cases are going back up again, so I reserve the right to bring us back just to Zoom,” Bothwell said. “But I would really like to see everybody in person again. So fingers crossed, we meet together Jan. 19.”