Lorie Zapf Isn't Having Much Fun as a Councilwoman

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Being on the City Council Doesn’t Look Like Much Fun

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf has a hard job. It shows.

Lorie Zapf sure has given lots of signals that she isn’t a big fan of being a city councilwoman.

Zapf has made it through two hard-fought elections, first for an open seat in 2010 and then for another technically open seat four years later. The city’s district lines changed around her home so she went from representing District 6, the neighborhoods surrounding Clairemont, to District 2, San Diego’s beach and bay communities.

Scott Lewis and Andy Keatts had Zapf on our podcast a few weeks ago, and she joked that she laments to her District 6 successor Chris Cate about how things are different in her new neighborhoods.

“Sometimes I long for the peace and quiet of District 6,” Zapf said.

Zapf’s current district is one of the most active in the city and with some problems and idiosyncrasies that make it hard to manage. Ocean Beach is its own world. Point Lomans went to war a few years back over rogue stop signs.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer understood the delicate District 2 dance well. The 30-foot height limit is seen as a sacred barrier along the coast. When we brought up the fact that it might be driving up housing prices, Faulconer said in no uncertain circumstances that it should never, ever change.

For Zapf, the issue du jour has been the rise of Airbnb and other vacation rentals, which has created a regulatory sticky wicket and a fierce fight between people who want to rent their homes and neighbors who don’t want rentals.

“I get hammered from both sides,” Zapf said during the podcast.

Zapf’s first attempt to write new regulations failed last year. She said she’s going to try again in the spring.

Because Zapf’s current term is in a new district, city rules allow her to run for re-election even though she will have served eight years by that point. But in talking on the podcast about her priorities – improving opportunities for foster kids being a big one – she didn’t sound all that enthused about sticking around for a while:

Zapf: I want to make the last three years, the next three years that I have here, really count.

Lewis: Oh, that’s interesting. Did you just break news? You’re not running again?

Zapf: You know what, I never take anything for granted. For what I was elected, I have three years.

Lewis: Because of the switch of district you’re allowed to pursue another term, right?

Zapf: Technically, yeah I guess I am. But I guess we’ll see what the people want. There were term limits. I don’t know. Like I said, I’m not taking anything for granted.

Keatts: I wouldn’t blame you. It doesn’t seem like a fun job.

Zapf: For the next three years. I would really like to make it count with the kids. I love my job. I love my job.

Lewis: I’m sure. It radiates.

Zapf’s chief of staff Kelly Batten, who gamely played along for this post, told me that Zapf was caught off guard by Lewis’ response to her statement about only being around for another three years. Zapf, truly, Batten said, is only thinking one term at a time. And Zapf really does love being a councilwoman, Batten said.

“If you didn’t love it,” Batten said, “you couldn’t do it.”

Zapf is hardly the first San Diego politician to seem sometimes less than enamored with her job. Former Mayor Jerry Sanders was famously grumpy. Indeed, the only time Sanders seemed happy as mayor was when he was drinking a beer.

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