San Diego City Council

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Coordinates: 32°43′01″N 117°09′47″W / 32.71691°N 117.16297°W / 32.71691; -117.16297

San Diego City Council
Coat of arms or logo
Sherri Lightner, Democratic
Since December 2014
President Pro Tempore
Marti Emerald, Democratic
Since December 2014
Seats 9
San Diego City Council.svg
Political groups
Democratic (5)
Republican (4)
Meeting place
San Diego City Council chambers.jpg

San Diego City Hall

202 C St # 10, San Diego, CA
Official Website

The San Diego City Council is the legislative branch of government for the city of San Diego, California. The city council was first established in San Diego in 1850. The council uses a strong mayor system with a separately elected mayor who acts as the executive. There are currently nine members of the council. City council members serve a four-year term and are limited to two successive terms.


San Diego was first incorporated as a city government with a common council on March 27, 1850. However, the city went bankrupt in 1852 and the council was replaced by a board of trustees. A new charter was adopted in 1889 reestablishing a common council under the strong mayor form of government. The common council consisted of two houses, a nine-member board of aldermen and an eighteen-member board of delegates. The council was consolidated into one nine-member house in 1905 and reduced to a five-member commission in 1909.[1]

In 1931 a new charter established a council-manager government. This charter is still in effect today with modifications. The new charter included a seven-member council. Six council members were nominated in districts and voted on citywide. The mayor was the leader of the council and elected citywide. This form of government was modified over time by the electorate. Notable changes include expanding the council to eight districts in 1963, making the council a full-time job in 1974, electing council members by district in 1988, and establishing term limits in 1992.[1]

In 2006 the city's form of government changed back to a strong mayor system. The change was made for a 5-year trial period by a citywide vote in 2004 and was made permanent by another vote of the electorate in June 2010.[2] The Mayor of San Diego is, in effect, the chief executive officer of the city, while the council is the legislative body.[3] Since December 2012 there have been nine members of the council, expanded from eight under the terms of a city ballot measure passed in June 2010.[4]

Duties and powers[edit]

As members of the legislative branch of the City of San Diego, the city council has the authority to introduce and pass the ordinances and resolutions that make up the city's ruling documents. Each council member has the right to vote on all questions brought before the city council. All council actions require an affirmative vote of five council members to pass unless a greater number is required by other superseding law. With some exceptions, the mayor has the right to veto legislation passed by the council. This veto can be overridden by an affirmative vote of six members of the city council.[5]

The city council has the right to determine its own rules and order of business for council meetings. This includes the right to establish and modify council committees, advisory boards, and citizen committees.[5] Under current rules, a council president and president pro tempore are elected each year to serve as the presiding officers of the city council.

Council members earn an annual salary of $75,386. In March 2012, the city's Salary Setting Commission proposed that council members be paid $175,000, but the city council unanimously rejected the recommendation.[6]


Each city council member is elected from a single-member district. Elections follow a two-round system. The first round of the election is called the primary election. If a candidate receives a majority of the vote in the primary, they are elected outright. If no candidate receives a majority, the top-two candidates advance to a runoff election, called the general election. Write-in candidates are only allowed to contest the primary election and are not allowed in the general election. Council members are elected to four-year terms, with a two-term limit.[7] City council seats are all officially non-partisan by state law, although most members identify a party preference.

The most recent general election was held in November 2012 for districts 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. The next elections for these seats will be held in 2016. General elections for districts 2, 4, 6, and 8 were last held in November 2014. The next election for these seats will be in 2018.

Current council[edit]

The members of the 2014-2016 City Council were sworn in December 10, 2014.[8] Although city council members are officially non-partisan, the stated party preferences of council members are listed.

Current Council Districts
District Name Elections   Party Notes
1 Sherri Lightner 2008, 2012 Democratic Council President[8]
2 Lorie Zapf 2010, 2014 Republican
3 Todd Gloria 2008, 2012 Democratic
4 Myrtle Cole 2013, 2014 Democratic
5 Mark Kersey 2012 Republican
6 Chris Cate 2014 Republican
7 Scott Sherman 2012 Republican
8 David Alvarez 2010, 2014 Democratic
9 Marti Emerald 2008, 2012 Democratic Council President Pro Tem[9]

† Special election


The City Council currently has seven committees.[10]

Audit Committee
Budget and Government Efficiency Committee
Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee
Environment Committee
Infrastructure Committee
Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee
Smart Growth and Land Use Committee

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "A History of San Diego Government". City of San Diego. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  2. ^ San Diego Union Tribune, February 19, 2010
  3. ^ "San Diego City website". Retrieved 14 December 2010. 
  4. ^ San Diego Union-Tribune, June 9, 2010
  5. ^ a b "ARTICLE XV Strong Mayor Form of Governance" (PDF). City of San Diego City Charter. City of San Diego. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  6. ^ "City Council Rejects Salary Hikes For Mayor, Council". 5 March 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2012. 
  7. ^ "How To Run For Office Details". City of San Diego. Retrieved 14 December 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Mento, Tarryn; Trageser, Claire (December 10, 2014). "Gloria Ousted As San Diego Council President; Fellow Democrat Lightner Elected". KPBS. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ City News Service (December 16, 2014). "Lightner Remains San Diego City Council President After Revote". KPBS. Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  10. ^ "City Council Committee Meetings". City of San Diego. Retrieved February 8, 2014. 

External links[edit]