San Diego City Councilmember Lorie Zapf is a Clairemont Republican, but she can get her O.B. on with the best of them. She enjoys Ocean Beach eateries and taking family and pets to Dog Beach, often sporting flip-flop earrings and a tie-dyed T-shirt. Far from being a lifelong politician, she says she didn’t even get the urge to run for political office until she reached her 50s.
But if Ocean Beach voters had their druthers, it would be Sarah Boot would be representing them and the rest of District 2 on the City Council, not Zapf.
Zapf, who held the District 6 seat until redrawn boundaries placed her residence in District 2, cruised to victory last year. She scored 52.96 percent of the vote district-wide in the June primary, eliminating the need for a November runoff.
But those results were in stark contrast to left-leaning Ocean Beach, where she took a bit of a shellacking. She was outvoted by Boot in all but two of the 12 precincts that make up O.B. With four candidates on the ballot, Boot gained an outright majority half of O.B. precincts; overall, O.B. voters preferred Boot by nearly eight percentage points.
“I expected those results,” said Zapf, whose presence was a big reason for a standing-room-only crowd on January 28 at the monthly public meeting of the Ocean Beach Town Council.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to get out here as much as I would have liked, and people are just kind of wary when they don’t know you,” she said. “But once I won, and put the campaign behind me, most people have been really nice.”
It was the largest turnout in years for a town council meeting, drawing more than 160 citizens, who snatched up every seat available at the Point Loma Masonic Lodge #620 and lined the walls and spilled into the rear exit area. Citizens were eager to hear an update from police concerning a recent string of burglaries and car prowls.
This was Zapf’s first appearance before the Town Council since succeeding Democrat Ed Harris on the San Diego City Council two months ago. Had she attended a candidate forum last March, it would have been her second time around at Town Council — but she was the only one of the candidates to bow out, citing a prior commitment to raise funds for high school programs at the Taste of Mira Mesa. A Zapf aide who attended in her stead departed immediately after issuing a statement that lasted less than a minute.
But if there was any lingering bitterness over a perceived snub, it didn’t register among those in attendance, who showed with their applause that Zapf is still in the honeymoon phase of her four-year term.
With budget preparations underway at city hall, Zapf’s priorities gave audience members no reason to jeer. She endorsed two popular community improvements: an expanded branch library and a new lifeguard tower.
Zapf underscored her general support for quality government functions — particularly ones available to the needy. She related growing up in a Los Angeles Mexican family that relied on public assistance, which taught her the importance of libraries, parks, beaches, and recreation centers, she said.
“Whatever was free, that’s what we did,” Zapf said. “I lived at the library. My life was books. It was my means to escape.”
But, in response to a question from town council president Gretchen Newsom, Zapf acknowledged the Ocean Beach projects don’t have funding. Asked how to find a path to progress, Zapf confirmed the possibility of a $2 billion bond measure that could be placed on the ballot.
She said she would only support such a measure if it contained line items for specific projects, which would require a two-thirds vote for passage.
“What I don’t like is a $2 billion bond with money allotted in lump sums…,” Zapf said. “Then it gets political. And there’s infighting.”
Lack of growth restricts the amount of developer-generated funds that flow into city coffers, making it harder to pay for capital improvements, she said. “When you have development come in, it provides funds for libraries and parks.” Without developer-generated funds, “you’re going to have to get that someplace else,” Zapf said.
“Trying to retrofit a built-out city to have the amenities and quality of life, it’s really tough, and it’s expensive,” she said. “ If you decide as citizens you want to pay for that, I support that.”