continued "The town council urged Harry to support the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance and make it more pedestrian-friendly, but we were dismissed," says Joanne Pearson, who was president of the La Jolla Town Council in 1995 when the project came before it. "The problem that many people in La Jolla are having with Harry is that he is taking positions contrary to our community plan and adopted zoning ordinances. Everyone knew when Harry first ran that his major support was from the building and development industry. But we all thought, or hoped, he would be able to represent all interests in the district."
Mary Frances Smith again springs to Mathis's defense. "We don't have a nice modern supermarket in La Jolla," she says. "And we deserve that."
Prior to his 1993 election to the city council, Mathis was a highly paid lobbyist for the Classic Building Owners, which represents owners of the estimated 746 unreinforced masonry buildings, many of them downtown, in San Diego County. He successfully petitioned the city council to water down a proposed law that would have imposed tough structural retrofit requirements on these old brick buildings to make them safer in the event of an earthquake.
During his campaign for council, Mathis received hundreds of dollars in campaign contributions from his former clients and prominent land-use attorney Paul Peterson, who also lobbied on behalf of the Classic Building Owners. The summer after his election, Mathis fought a proposed state law that would have tightened the local ordinance. He asked the city attorney to investigate the law, designed to bring all local seismic safety ordinances in compliance with a much tougher state "model" code, and championed an 11th-hour amendment exempting San Diego from the tougher restrictions, which would have cost building owners thousands of dollars in structural reinforcements.
At the time, James Libby, a past president of the Structural Engineers Association who for seven years chaired the city manager's committee that developed San Diego's original ordinance, blasted Mathis for his continued involvement. "It seems to me that if he's a councilman," said Libby, "he should not be an advocate of some group."