City Councilmember Joe LaCava discusses priorities, issues in Pacific Beach
Pacific Beach’s new City Council member, Joe LaCava, is reaching out to his new constituents whom he knows did not elect him.
“I’m your councilmember that you never voted for,” he said during the Jan. 18 Pacific Beach Town Council meeting in reference to becoming their representative due to redistricting.
“One of the things that I really love that happened with redistricting was that all the local and state districts are now aligned along the coastline,” he said. “The fact that we’re all coastal districts will make us a much more powerful force to be able to address some of the issues that we find that are unique to the coastal communities.”
The son of Italian immigrants, LaCava is a native San Diegan who attended San Diego State University. After earning a degree in civil engineering, LaCava pursued a career in public infrastructure, housing and public policy.
According to LaCava, it was because of his involvement in local and citywide volunteer groups — 30 by his count — that he was urged to run for the District 1 City Council seat when it was vacated by Barbara Bry.
“I’ve now been in office for two years,” LaCava said. “This is probably the last job I’m ever going to have. And I will tell you; this is the best job I’ve ever had. It really brings everything that I’m interested in into a nice neat package in terms of my technical expertise, the things I like to solve and serving as an elected official. And the best part is I have a staff.”
Noting that his home in La Jolla’s Bird Rock neighborhood is a mere 30 feet from the boundary with Pacific Beach, LaCava said he is a frequent PB visitor.
“Don’t tell my colleagues and constituents in La Jolla, but I drive through Pacific Beach,” he said “We shop at Trader Joe’s. We probably spend more time in Pacific Beach than we do in La Jolla.”
Audience questions focused on long-standing problems that have gone nowhere even after solutions were identified.
When LaCava declared the construction of a north PB lifeguard station as one of his top priorities, former council board member Scott Chipman said a station design had cleared the PB Planning Group a decade earlier only to land in limbo.
“I’m not sure how familiar you are with the actual plan, but it was fully approved over a year-and-a-half process,” Chipman said.
LaCava said the plans have not changed, but other issues with the project have arisen that his office is trying to tackle.
“It kind of sat there for a couple of years,” LaCava said. “The work that you did is locked in. ... There are other challenges that we have. Funding is certainly one of them that we need to work on pursuing.”
Dangerously speeding vehicles racing down Foothill Boulevard at twice the posted 25 mph speed limit was raised by resident Tom Coats.
A plan to build a roundabout at the Loring Street intersection has been at a standstill since it was first approved and funded under City Councilmember Lorie Zapf, when she represented PB until 2018.
“It’s been six or seven years,” Coats said. “And we’ve had delays after delay after delay in getting the construction started. ... I want to ask for your help. If we can help you in any way to get that construction started this spring, (it would) be the first step in slowing that traffic down on Foothill Boulevard.”
LaCava said that he drives on Foothill Boulevard regularly and understands the hazard, adding he will search for a solution, whether an explanation for the delays or the actual construction.
“It is a priority, I know, of Pacific Beach,” he said. “It made a lot of progress. So we want to make sure that we get that over the finish line.”
LaCava mentioned issues he is aware of, such as needed repairs to Ingraham Street that were postponed due to water and sewer work. He said they will be further delayed by plans to lay utility cables under the street.
“It’s just crazy that you all have put up with this for so many years,” LaCava said. “I’m going to try. I don’t know that I’m going to be successful because of the utility undergrounding.”
LaCava promised the 60 Pacific Beach residents in attendance that he will keep them informed on issues and not promise more than he can accomplish.
“I’m ... a very big believer in telling you what you need to know and not what you want to hear. Your time is valuable. ... I don’t want to waste your time making promises that I can’t keep; that will never be delivered,” LaCava said.
Attendees also learned about the launch of a two-year Pacific Beach Shuttle Service Pilot Program in early summer. It will provide free rides to and from the Balboa Street Transit Station of the UCSD trolley blue line by using low-speed neighborhood electric vehicles. They are similar to those used in the downtown FRED shuttle operating since 2011.
The program is a collaborative venture by the City of San Diego and San Diego Association of Governments.
Operating hours and whether the service runs on a fixed route or on demand, will be developed over the spring, according to Krystal Ayala, program manager of Parking and Curb in the city’s Sustainability and Mobility Department. The features will be based on community feedback during in-person presentations and an online survey at sandiego.gov/PBshuttle.
“Within the two years that the pilot is operating, we will continue to survey to understand how users are liking it; really adjusting (the service) and iterating as we learn more; making sure that it’s really responding to how the community would like to use it and that we are creating those connections to and from the trolley,” Ayala said. “Having your input both from the start and then continuing through the service is going to be really important to us.”
Aside from serving residents who use the trolley, the shuttle will likely bring in visitors to Pacific Beach who will not need a private vehicle. This will reduce traffic and parking congestion, said April Dejesus, senior planner for SANDAG’s Mobility Department.
“One of the goals of this pilot project is to increase connectivity throughout the region,” Dejesus said. “Because of that, our goals are more regionally focused as well as circulating throughout the Pacific Beach community. So there are different audiences that we’re trying to plan for as part of the shuttle service.”
The shuttle will be funded by the installation of parking meters along Garnet Avenue from Fanuel Avenue to Crystal Pier, plus the adjacent business districts on Cass and Bayard streets and Mission Boulevard.
Its success will have implications for establishment of similar mobility hubs across the county, Dejesus said.
“We’re hoping that the pilot can teach us a lot of ways that the community will respond to the shuttle service so we can replicate this throughout the rest of the San Diego region,” she said.
The council will hold its Feb. 15 meeting at a different venue, the Crown Point Junior Music Academy at 4033 Ingraham Street. For details, visit pbtowncouncil.org.