Last week a group of residents in southwest Chula Vista held a press conference to call on city officials to enforce residency requirements for candidates running for City Council, an issue that has been brought to the forefront with District 4 candidate Eduardo Reyes allegedly moving from his Eastlake home to southwest Chula Vista to run for office.
The City Council has not addressed the issue but in June will decide on a resolution that could determine residency requirements for the city attorney. The council will then decide if they want to proceed with a ballot measure in November that will set a residency requirement for the city attorney.
According to the city’s charter, the only residency requirement for the city attorney is that they reside in the state of California. That means anyone who resides in the Golden State can seek the position of city attorney in Chula Vista, whether they live in the city or in the county or in Northern California.
The city’s Charter Review Commission voted in April to try to close that loophole and make the city attorney come from the county’s second largest city.
“Right now the city attorney can be elected from anywhere,” said chairman of the Charter Review Commission Randy Bellamy. “It is like the only elected position in the city where the office holder does not have to be a resident of the city. So there is some interest in looking into that.”
In exploring residency requirements, the commission formed a subcommittee to research what the residency policy is for other cities when a candidate for city attorney seeks office.
Bellamy said it makes sense that a person who is representing the citizens of Chula Vista should be a resident of the city, just like a council member.
In National City, the city attorney is not elected but appointed by the City Council. There is no residency requirement for that office. In fact, current City Attorney Claudia Silva does not live in National City.
National City City Clerk Mike Dalla said with a population just under 60,000 it would be difficult to find qualified candidates for city attorney, so they have to broaden the scope.
Dalla added that there is no difference whether or not a city attorney comes from the same city as the people they are representing because they do not vote on issues, their job is strictly to interpret law.
“You hire a (city) attorney to tell you what the laws are,” he said. “There is not any perspective that is needed.”
In the city of San Diego, the city attorney is elected and must be a registered voter of the city for at least 30 days prior to filing their nomination papers. The city attorney must be a resident of the city of San Diego prior to assuming office.
In the 2008 election the residency of the city attorney was a focal point when Chula Vista resident Glen Googins defeated his opponent, Lakeside resident Robert Faigin.
That was the first year the city attorney became an elected position as voters passed Prop. Q to make the city attorney elected.