The San Diego mayor’s race has just been upended.
With the entrance of lawyer Cory Briggs, voters will have an opportunity to choose a disruptor able to tap into the backlash in almost every San Diego neighborhood unhappy over myriad issues.
Briggs shares many of these concerns, from infill development, shrinking open space, AirBnB rentals, vanishing parking, water overcharges, sinkholes and dockless scooter to a lack of trust in elected officials.
He believes San Diego’s power establishment and the city’s bureaucracy are structured to protect politicians and the “donor class” that helps elect them. Hence unions and developers win instead of old stock neighborhood preservationists.
Briggs’ history as a litigator on behalf of non-profits and in support of environmentalists is both an asset and a liability.
He counts it a big plus: “You have to know how the gears work to know where to put the monkey wrench.”
To burnish his outsider credentials, Briggs also promises to self-fund to a maximum of $176,000. So presumably no pay-for-play IOUs if he wins.
What is unmistakable is that Briggs could be a serious contender.
He speaks in pithy, memorable phrases—for example, calling a proposed hotel/motel tax increase to fund the convention center expansion “a twitching corpse.”
He knows city government and is unafraid of controversy—arguing that incumbents, unions, developers, and the donor class are in lockstep. The latest move by the Mayor Kevin Faulconer to increase density and decrease mandated parking in older neighborhoods sparked Briggs’ desire to run.
The backlash among neighborhood preservationists is all for Briggs’ taking. The neighborhoods are seething and possibly ready for an outsider.
Here is a sample commercial that could tap that furor:
Who called for Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation—for serial sexual harassment—before the #MeToo movement took hold? Cory Briggs.
Who stood up against the high-rise parking lot planned for Balboa Park? Cory Briggs.
Who has sued the City and won over environmental quality protections and greater transparency? Cory Briggs.
And who now opposes neighborhood debasement from over-development, AirBnB, dockless scooters, and [insert more complaints]? Corey Briggs.
As mayor, Cory Briggs will stand up for you. How do you know? He already has.
The newest member on the City Council, Democrat Jennifer Campbell, understands the sour mood among voters, rejecting Faculconer’s proposal to eliminate parking requirements for new developments.
“I think this is an idea whose time has not come,” she says, noting that nearly 94 percent of San Diego adults own a car.
“In my district, there are no parking spaces left on streets in the evenings or on weekends,” she says. “Putting in zero parking, while adding residential density without infrastructure for mass transit being already present, will lead to chaos in neighborhoods.”
Welcome to the real impetus for a Briggs’ candidacy: the resentment voters already feel.
Gadfly or godsend?
The answer is more gnarly than a Rubik’s cube.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.