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Patricia Dillard, La Mesa City Council candidate

Patricia Dillard, 64 is running for La Mesa city council. The saleswoman would like to simplify city processes to facilitate affordable housing development, work in collaboration with neighboring municipalities to reduce homelessness, and encourage individuals to be conscientious about using public transportation.

Reducing homelessness requires an “organic effort” she said and the cycle of homelessness needs to be addressed in collaboration with other East county neighborhoods like Lemon Grove, Encanto, Santee and El Cajon. Local organizations like Community Action, Service and Advocacy, locally known as CASA are well established in homeless outreach, she said, “specialists in their field” with a mental health component.

“We have people using the trolley who may not stay in one place. They’re just kind of traveling throughout the Eastern region of San Diego. I would like to have a collaborative effort so we’re helping each other with people who come from one city to another,” Dillard said.

La Mesa’s Homeless Outreach Mobile Engagement program could also be a larger part of the solution, Dillard said, if they partner with San Diego County government to procure nonprofit funding.

Pulling a solution together between cities would be helpful “so everyone knows what everybody’s doing” in the region. Placing people in a hotel or “throwing hot food at them for the day” is helpful, she said, but not enough. “What are they going to do tomorrow?”

She would like to see homeless residents who are employment-ready connected with unions so they could immediately start working for a living wage.

“We have a lot of unions here in different fields that allow you to earn enough money to put food on the table and pay your rent, maybe even buy a car. They could get training and a certification while having health care, vision and dental care, even a pension which is rarely offered by corporations these days,” Dillard said.
Not everyone is meant to go to college, she said. There is a need for people in sustainable blue-collar jobs. Those jobs, she said, promote a feeling of self-worth along with financial freedom.

“We can offer services to people and try to get them help but when we do so, they need to understand they have to be accountable from the beginning to the end so when they come out of any program they’re coming out as a fully productive citizen who can contribute back and can take care of themselves,” Dillard said and a full solution requires designing affordable housing.

The west side of El Cajon Boulevard has vacant lots and dilapidated buildings that could be developed into affordable housing, Dillard said, while also improving the look of the city.

“We love the village, but I would like to see other selections for our residents. I think we could take some of those properties and put apartment buildings or condos, which I would highly prefer, or townhomes so that first time home buyers have options, but don’t necessarily have to pay a million dollars just to get a place,” Dillard said.

Those new builds would ideally include “more walkable and bikeable areas” with just one parking place allotted per unit to encourage trolley ridership while still providing accessibility.

“We can’t stop people from moving to La Mesa and if they want to be here, we need to make sure we have affordable housing for them to stay,” Dillard said.

She would like to streamline city policy to facilitate a faster, smoother permitting process and is “willing to work with anyone in the city who will work with me” to simplify the process for residents looking to build Accessory Dwelling Units.

“We need to make sure the process is easier, and that people aren’t having to step into a big wad of bubble gum,” to build an ADU, Dillard said.

“ADUs are also a solution for keeping rent realistic… When an owner rents out an ADU, they usually are looking to cover their costs and maybe utilities but they’re less likely to raise that rent,” Dillard said, unlike property managers who raise rents on a regular basis simply because they want to make more profit.

Another change she’d like to see in La Mesa: less commuting in general. Many residents who stopped working in offices during the pandemic are now working in a hybrid setup, she said, which has cut back on gas expenses and, perhaps, delayed an electric car purchase.

“That’s going to be an evolution over time because people are going to hold on to a car that is paid off. It’s cheaper for them to drive that car without a car payment,” she said, even if they do have to put gas in it.

She doubts La Mesa will get to the point where residents can sustain a daily commute on public transportation to some parts of the county because building out those lines is cost prohibitive.

However, she is also optimistic that residents can “find ways to be individually conscientious about when we can really, truly just take that walk instead of jumping in the car and driving for one minute” as citizens become more aware of opportunities to walk, bike or use the trolley.

“We’re kind of developing young adults’ lifestyle— I think it’s all about education and should be included in our conversations with our kids,” Dillard said, remembering her embarrassment at having to take the bus as a teenager and, later, gratitude at having learned to navigate the county on her own.

Encouraging young people to share rides and set up carpools is one good idea, she said, but more significantly those young people need to “ask those questions” to negotiate work from home or hybrid positions as they move into the workforce.

“I actually believe in working in an office; there should be people present when you’re able to meet with your colleagues at work. I think that’s a positive thing, probably more of a mental health positive thing to be able to mingle with your colleagues and get promoted and show you know your work ethic,” Dillard said, but employees must be strategic about balancing working from home and in the office.

Going back and forth two or three days each week keeps some cars off the road, she said.

Additionally, as car owners’ phase in electric cars, the city needs to encourage that approach to meeting Climate Action Plan goals by putting in more charging stations.

“We want to have more businesses in the city because more businesses mean more income for La Mesa,” Dillard said but as people come to the city for lunch or shopping, they’re more likely to stay and get a massage or get their hair done if they know they can charge their electric car in the meantime.

Potentially, she would like to implement bond measures “so our community can invest in our community” and her general approach to business development would be to build out the city so people feel they can entertain their family, walk their dog and take their children out in strollers in walkable spaces.

“Trust me. I’ve been in sales for so long. It’s just about talking to the right people who see a vision and say ‘Okay, I see what you’re trying to do here’ and I think we can start to make things happen,” Dillard said.

Patricia Dillard, La Mesa City Council candidate

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Source: East County Californian

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