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A City With Room for All

As busy-minded students pass through caf lane, they hardly notice what lies beneath each step they take. The alumni walk, which displays the names and graduation years of former Point Loma Nazarene University students on a single brick, serves as a reminder that these names were once students too, each on a journey to understand who they were called to be. Among their stories is Joel Day.

There was no way of knowing how closely his life as a professional in 2022 would mirror his life as a college student in 2004. As a political science major, Day was eager to be a part of real world politics. When the opportunity presented itself to be a volunteer for a District 2 candidate’s campaign for city council, he gladly accepted. What he didn’t know was that 18 years later, he’d be running for that same seat in office. 

Day has a vision to create “a city with room for all,” in which affordable housing and shelter for the homeless is prioritized. 

His thirst for social justice began at a young age. His dad went to prison for 30 years when he was 6 years old for being one of the largest narcotic dealers in America. His mom had a host of mental and physical health issues. Solace was found in his local library, where he learned to read and discovered the importance of community. 

Day’s roots in District 2 run deep. He met his wife, Lauren, in college at PLNU. Their two sons, Bobby and Wesley, are the fourth generation of their family to call Clairemont home. 

To prepare for the primary election, which will take place on June 7th, Day has found himself knocking on the doors of residents that span the areas of Clairemont, Midway, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and Point Loma to announce his candidacy for District 2. There are 5 other candidates running for this seat, including incumbent council member Jennifer Campbell, community volunteer Mandy Havlik, dentist and professor Linda Lukacs, retired business technology professor Lori Saldaña and real estate salesperson Daniel Smiechowski. 

“We’ve worked hard every day to communicate the message to voters that we need a city that works for working families and not special interests. We must return power back to the residents” Day said.

At a recent meet and greet hosted in a neighborhood home in Point Loma, Day invited the residents within the district to voice their opinions on San Diego’s biggest needs. He took the living room floor as if it was his stage, and spoke with a distinctness that assured the masses of his seriousness about this campaign.

As the questions rolled in, one man tucked away in the corner voiced a question that was on everyone’s mind.

“So, this homelessness crisis…can there really be an end?”

Day wrote an action plan that was published in the Voice of San Diego that directly answers this question. As a professor in public policy with a PhD in comparative government and international politics, he recognizes that not all of the solutions are found here locally, and the best way to form a plan is by looking at cities around the world that are succeeding with functional zero homelessness, such as it is in Bakersfield, CA. 

“What gets the wheels in motion is not reinventing the wheel over and over again. You have to ask, what are they doing that we’re not,” said Day.

There are three things. As a short-term plan, he proposes creating safe campsites in centralized locations where people can have access to mental health care. The second is a medium-term plan that has worked in Bakersfield, which is a master-leasing program that utilizes vacant units that are no longer being used where the city acts as an intermediary that can directly house people into these units. That eliminates having to do a credit check or a security deposit in order to get your own place. The long-term plan is to build more housing. To meet demand equilibrium within the next 10 years, state housing figures say San Diego will need 100,000 new units. To prevent huge price spikes in the future, there must be more production. 

“We need to build deeply affordable units and I’ve developed a plan for that,” Day said.

As a professor of public policy at UCSD, Day is well-informed on what it takes to make a city thrive. Scott McGowan, Director of Community at Point Loma Nazarene University and a friend of Day’s from their college days, knows all too well Day’s classroom presence.

“I was hilariously Joel’s student last year,” said McGowan. 

McGowan explained that the class was a course on global cities with the theme, “who is the city for?” Day would make the argument that the city should be for residents rather than corporations and political interests. 

“We’ve become two cities. One that works for the wealthy and one that is failing working families,” said Day. 

The way to ensure economic equality is by creating affordable housing for all. If the housing crisis does not get under control, San Diego will be a city in 5 years that is inaccessible for anyone who is not on track to become a millionaire. 

With San Diego being a city that draws so many college students, Day wants this to be a city where people can start families and invest in this community. 

“Whether you’re at UCSD or Point Loma or USD, it just feels like this is not a city where you can live long term. And if we’re going to be a city that is a knowledge capital where we can use student resources here to grow our economy, we have to have housing,” Day said. 

The fight for affordability starts with building places that are accessible to young families and professionals. It starts with college students investing time and concern into the future of this city, which has a direct impact on the quality of their life.

Angelo Ramos, president of the College Democrats Club, which happens to be founded by Joel Day himself, believes it is important for students to be informed and aware of what is going on in our city.

“Most students are not that informed about local politics, however it is important because it affects everything,” said Ramos. 

Day wants San Diego to be a place for the next generation. He cares about the longevity of this city, and that can only happen if affordable housing is prioritized. 

“We need students investing in that now so that the next generation has a place where they can find meaning and belonging in this community,” Day said.

By: Camden Painton