It’s been a long 10 weeks since San Diego Mayor Bob Filner resigned. Four main candidates have emerged in the Nov. 19 special election to replace him. In the week before the big day, we’ll tell you what you need to know about them. Here, we look at Councilman David Alvarez.
Seen and Heard
Here’s a video introduction to Alvarez:
And here’s his appearance on VOSD Radio:
The Pitch to Voters
Alvarez is a Barrio Logan native whose life experience shaped his politics and his commitment to fight for neighborhood needs over downtown interests.
Alvarez’s political career has hinged on his upbringing in Barrio Logan and its mishmash of industry and homes. Alvarez, who has asthma, learned about the hazards associated with living so close to manufacturers during a youth summer program. He soon began attending community meetings about the issue.
Other elements of Alvarez’s early life shaped him too. His parents Jose, a janitor, and Maria, a fast-food worker, were originally from a small town in southwestern Mexico. Alvarez was the only family member born in the United States. A young Alvarez also looked on as his brothers got caught up in a Logan Heights gang. Alvarez says watching their struggles inspired him to follow a different path, though he partly blames their problems on the city’s lack of investment in his neighborhood.
Despite these dynamics, Alvarez went on to become the first in his family to graduate from high school and college. He later went to work as state Sen. Denise Ducheny’s district representative.
In the time since, Alvarez, 33, has established a reputation as a Democrat who consistently advocated for investments in neighborhoods but has few high-profile achievements to point to during his time on the City Council.
Alvarez also championed an ordinance to create a registry of foreclosed homes in the city, though its impact is largely unclear nearly a year after its City Council approval.
Three Big Issues
Alvarez says he’ll focus on neighborhood priorities after years of budget cutbacks and downtown-centric development. His campaign has been driven by this approach.
Fellow mayoral contenders Kevin Faulconer and Nathan Fletcher have seized on neighborhood concerns during their latest campaigns but Alvarez has concentrated on those issues and voted against downtown interests throughout his political career.
Here are three prime areas he’s focused on during the campaign.
• Neighborhood Infrastructure Improvements
Alvarez wants to invest more cash in neighborhood needs and he’s upfront that the city may need to seek new revenue to do that.
He supports a large infrastructure bond that voters would need to approve to more quickly repair the city’s crumbling streets and sidewalks. He also backs public-private partnerships to support development in low-income neighborhoods.
And Alvarez has promised to set aside money to improve emergency response times. On the campaign trail, he’s cited his work on a five-year funding plan to build fire stations and committed to a few investments early in his mayoral term.
• Increased Livability
Alvarez has emphasized the need for more park space in the city and suggests that if the city prioritizes funding over three years, it could add more than 60 acres of park space.
He’s also touted his plans to create a proactive code enforcement program to regularly inspect apartments and condominiums, and hold landlords accountable for any code violations.
And he’d like to review funding streams that support affordable housing and regulations that hamper the city’s ability to build such facilities.
• A More Sustainable City
Alvarez, who chairs the City Council’s Natural Resources and Culture subcommittee, devoted significant ink to the environment in his mayoral blueprint.
He pledged to make a sustainability director one of his first mayoral hires and to create a working group to work on environmental policies. He’s also promised to enact a Climate Action Plan with specific targets, an effort the City Council committee he chairs is already overseeing.
He also wants to work to incentivize conservation through a new water-rate structure and green investments such as solar panels.
Where He’s Weak
Alvarez has spent only three years in office.
Voters have had far more time to get to know rivals Faulconer, Fletcher and Mike Aguirre.
Alvarez and his team have worked furiously to get his name out with door-knocking campaigns and biographical ad buys, but they face an uphill battle. The quick turnaround and low turnout associated with special elections present significant challenges.
Alvarez secured the support of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, the umbrella group for the region’s unions, and the San Diego County Democratic Party. Both have resulted in significant campaign resources for the one-term councilman. Alvarez has also received the backing of key Democrats including former Councilwoman Donna Frye, State Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins and former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña. You can see all of Alvarez’s endorsements here.
How He Wins
Alvarez’s most serious challenger is Fletcher, a former assemblyman who joined the Democratic Party earlier this year. The two men are essentially battling for a likely second-place finish to Faulconer, the sole major Republican in the race.
To secure the No. 2 spot and make it to a runoff election, Alvarez must not only ensure voters know who he is but persuade them he’s the more reliably liberal leader. He’ll also need to draw out the voters south of Interstate 8 and State Route 94 who catapulted Filner into office, as well Democratic supporters throughout the city.