Lemon Grove has two seats open in the upcoming November election, with Council member Jennifer Mendoza running as an incumbent, and an open seat being vacated by Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Jones.
Alysson Snow is running for Lemon Grove City Council. The 48-year-old Democrat, runs the housing project at the USD Law School, spent 13 years as director and lead attorney on the Consumer Protection Division Legal Aid Society of San Diego. Snow is an attorney and a professor at USD. She runs a legal clinic at the school and supervises students as they learn to become attorneys by representing clients in court.
“I have done a lot to help working families,” she said. “I created San Diego’s Bankruptcy Self-Help Clinic. I got the funding for that. I coordinated the federal bench, the private bar, the clerks of the courts, the community, and we were able to take funding and it has been up and running since 2016. That has been a great service to the community. We have seen well over a thousand people come through that program.”
Snow said she created two debt defense clinics that helps people with medical debts, student loan debt, car repossession debt, and credit card debt, and also stood against predatory lenders, financial fraud, identity theft, to help people get those types of problems solved.
“That families could have a fair shake at being able to make it in this tough economy,” she said.
Snow said much of what she has done in the last six years at Legal Aid was helping people with housing related issues.
“An opportunity came up to run the brand new Housing Rights Project at USD Law School,” she said. “It is going to allow me to create a program from scratch and really help San Diegans be able to do what they can to retain their house and to help combat homelessness. It is a great program that gives us freedom to come up with creative solutions. Both for the courtroom, policy-wise, and outreach and education to our community.”
Snow said she had difficulty getting people passionate enough to help pass legislation to protect families from bank levies, predatory loans, and that is what made her decide to run for office.
“If you cannot find somebody, it is time to step up,” she said.
Snow said her top three priorities for Lemon Grove are streets and infrastructure, housing, and supporting businesses.
“We have a lot of crumbling streets. I have been going door-to-door talking to families and asking for the opportunity to listen to what is important for them,” she said.
“And the consensus in Lemon Grove is that we really need to invest in our infrastructure. We need to fix broken streets, put in sidewalks, and we need streetlights. That will help us with our public safety issues, make it a better community to drive around in, to walk in, and to enjoy one another in.”
Snow said in order to improve infrastructure, sales tax revenue is needed.
“I want to focus on attracting businesses that have good value added to our community,” she said. “Lemon Grove, for example, does not have an urgent care clinic. I have five kids. I have to drive to Fletcher Hills Parkway to get them to an urgent care. I would love to have something locally that I could take my children to.”
Snow said in addition to attracting businesses, it is important to advertise that Lemon Grove is a good place to spend your money. She said with the sales tax not passing, it means that it is less expensive than its neighboring cities to shop, so with large expenses, like buying a car, you can save money by buying in Lemon Grove.
Snow said she went to every business in downtown and asked what could be done to make it better, more hospitable community for them, and she said with all of them, homelessness was their top issue.
“In addition to homelessness being tragic and super difficult on these families, it is an economic issue,” she said. “I talked to the firefighters, and the five to seven calls they get a day, two to three of those calls are related to homelessness issues. It is taxing our businesses, it is taxing our public safety resources, but most of all, it is taxing our hearts.”
Snow said it is extremely difficult to see people on the streets with nowhere to go and that homelessness is not just people on the streets with tents. It is families. She said with her work, she sees two parents, both work, sometimes two jobs, with four kids, and they cannot afford $3,500-$4,000 a month to rent their house. They cannot afford $300 a week in gas to get to work. They cannot afford the costs to get food on their tables.
“It is a new form of homelessness. A new group of people forced out that is really tragic,” she said. “But there are things we can do. Policies that we can pass, that we can help stem the tide homelessness. Turn off the faucet and try to do what we can to prevent homelessness before it starts on the courthouse desk, and also address the needs of the homeless in our community and help them get to the shelter that they need.”
Snow said with the city’s budget, many of the services, if they cannot bring in the money, there is grant money available.
“I have a really good track record of doing just that,” she said. “The bankruptcy project that I worked five years on before it actually came to fruition, in organizing, collaborating, building, reaching out and identifying grants, opportunities came. Having the connections to make sure our grants were considered and approved, once we got started, we were able to consistently keep it funded.”
Snow said she wants to bring those same talents and skillsets to City Council. She said Lemon Grove needs more affordable housing, and housing is a homeless issue.
“We just do not have enough of it. It is a scarcity issue,” she said. “The best place to put it is close to those transit centers. I agree with SANDAG there. That is the best location in our city. It will help preserve the flavor of our community that we have. Lemon Grove enjoys a nice, broad spectrum of housing types. Single family homes do not want a huge apartment complex next door to them. It makes more sense to have it close to the transit centers because that will help reduce traffic congestion and parking issues.”
Snow said she is a bigger proponent in getting it easier to have accessory dwelling units, help facilitate the process in permitting, and looking at ways to make the permits cheaper.
“Elders and senior citizens who are trying to make ends meet on a Social Security check, they make just enough for their bills. But with inflation, now it is not enough,” she said. “One of the ways that they can age in place, is to put in an ADU, then they will have an additional source of monthly income. Lemon Grove has relatively large lots. Most people live on a postage stamp, but Lemon Grove does have the space to put those ADUs in. And that is money and income for the people who actually live here.”
Snow said the city needs to measure big developments by also placing in walking areas, playgrounds, open space, safe walking routes to and from school, making it as family friendly as possible.
“I like having daycare on site as a requirement, just to make sure we are consolidating services there,” she said. “If they want to be truly affordable, make it as easy as possible for people to live in that community without huge parking, car expenses.”
Snow said the current city council is listening, and that the role of a public servant is to go out and listen to their community and hear what their community needs are.
“City Council, right now, has demonstrated a good understanding of the issues that exist in our community,” she said. “They understand that we need better streets, safe ways to and from school. They just applied for a $3.5 million grant to fix the area around San Miguel Elementary School. To make it a corridor that will make you feel good about your kids walking to and from school. It was at the direction of the City Council and the school board. The two groups worked together, which is unusual in the political realm.”
Snow said Council has also been good at reaching out into the community with nonprofits trying to get services for everybody from pre-k to high school for activities. She said it invited Urban League San Diego and is already providing resources to teens to help prepare them for college, get academic assistance, to “propel students forward and prepare them for their future.”
Snow said one thing Council is not doing well, is communicating its achievements to the community at large.
“A lot of people do not know the great things that are happening in the city,” she said. “They know a couple of years ago the city was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. They do not know that even during the pandemic, we saw a 14% increase in our sales tax revenues. They do not know that it is looking up, that we have paved more roads in the last few years, more than the 10 years preceding that. It is a lack of communication.”
Snow said city council needs to work better together.
“It has been a difficult season,” she said. “I bring a fresh face, fresh perspective. I am a good collaborator. I am good at bringing … groups together to get things done. I think we need to keep our eye on the prize which is a beautiful community for our children to grow up in. For us to grow old in. In a safe and beautiful environment.”
Snow said the $26 million school bond is extremely important.
“If I am going to invest any money in anything, I want to invest it in our kids,” she said. “The school board has been an impressive steward with funds. I went to the school board/city council joint meeting, and the school board reviewed what they had done with the last school bond. It was pretty incredible. And it is visible in our school system.”
Snow has lived in Lemon Grove for 10 years and raised her children in Lemon Grove.