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By Jessyka Heredia

Watch full interview here 

February 25, 2024 (East County) – La Mesa Councilmember Colin Parent is one of three candidates running for the 79th State Assembly seat that represents areas as far west as parts of North Park and as far east as El Cajon. ECM met up with Parent to discuss his qualifications and goals if elected. 

Parent grew up in East County and has served as a Councilmember in La Mesa since 2016, so he is no stranger to the district’s history and needs. This race has three candidates, all Democrats, vying for this seat currently held by Dr. Akilah Weber, who is now running for State Senate.  


Parent views his success getting new housing built in La Mesa as his most significant achievement. He pointed to new construction being built on the old police department lot in the heart of La Mesa’s downtown, at 8181 Allison Avenue, as an example. View info on housing projects recently built or approved in La Mesa.

Parent stated, “It’s the first 100% affordable development in La Mesa in decades. Sixty percent of the units are going to be affordable for people with moderate income, people who are making average incomes and 40% are going to be for people who are making different levels of income below that.” 

Parent highlighted that people will get to enjoy the great neighborhood of La Mesa and have access to the trolley line right outside their door as well as give “new customers for our local businesses.” 

Parent told ECM that interested future residents of this development can go to the La Mesa Website to be placed on the interest list for consideration. 

Storm Drain Infrastructure 

ECM asked Parent if he was elected to State Assembly, what would he do to get funding here to maintain and improve the storm drain infrastructure 

Parent said, “California has a variety of programs for funding storm water infrastructure and we need to make sure that we are getting our fair share in the 79th Assembly District. We don’t just need money in the district, we need to make sure its going to parts of the district that are the most at risk, and that’s not always happening.”  

Parent stated that we have seen “historic disinvestment and underfunding in lower income communities and communities of color and we need to make sure that we’re providing fair equitable amounts of funding to those communities.”  

Affordable Housing 

Affordable housing is a top concern for many residents. Often we see luxury apartments being built when there is a need for more affordable to moderate income housing needs. ECM asked Parent about how these luxury apartments sometimes raise the rents in older complex’s that were often charging more affordable rents and what can be done to help bridge the gap to create more affordable housing to different incomes while still providing luxury apartment living for those who desire it? 

Parent expressed, “I think you have the order of causation wrong. When you see these new apartments that are coming up that are more expensive, those are going to be more affluent people who live in them; that doesn’t raise the rents of the nearby folks. In fact, the people who are more wealthy, they’re going to live wherever they want. If you don’t build something for them, they are going to price out the rest of us.” 

Parent stressed, “We absolutely need more homes overall. It’s really important to make sure that we are producing units that are affordable to low-income people as well as moderate income people.” 

Parent mentioned programs that he has had a role in getting the state legislature to adopt “that really provides some meaningful incentives for new developers to include some permanently affordable units in exchange for some more development certainty. We need to keep building on those kinds of models.“ 

Many projects around La Mesa have higher rents but also have units included that for renters of “modest means” according to Parent. Parents said, “That’s the good kind of marriage of issues that we should be able to advance in these new projects.” 

Parent confirmed that there are several programs at the state level including one that Parent worked on getting signed by Governor Newsome last year and that his non-profit, Circulate San Diego sponsored, and it is required that all cities follow that says, “If someone wants to build a new apartment or a new condo building, and they’re willing to set aside some of their units as affordable to low and moderate income families then they get some development certainty on the back end to make sure their project can move forward,” said Parent. 

Goals for the 79th District 

ECM asked Parent what types of projects he was hoping to accomplish if elected to the 79th State Assembly. Parent responded, “The top things I’ve been hearing about from voters is homelessness and housing affordability, so I want to keep those things very much top in mind.” Parent talked about his work during Jerry Brown’s term as Governor, in the State Department of Housing. Parent stated, “We need more priority from the state. We’ve got homelessness in La Mesa, San Diego, we’ve got it all over the place. It’s a problem throughout California and were going to need real statewide solutions.” 


Parent was asked what he could do at the state level to make college more accessible and affordable. Parent stated, “We have to tell the UC system, our CSU and community college system that they can’t solve their problems by just jacking up the rates for students. We need to realize there are real financial limits to what the state is able to do. We need to make sure that we’re prioritizing accessibility and affordability for students.  


When asked what he could do at the state level to give more access to good healthcare in the 79th district, Parent explained that the funding that pays for healthcare for low-income families comes from federal funds but also state funds through reimbursement rates to providers. Parent said, “That is something that is actually decided at the state level. We need to make sure we are paying appropriately for that, so we attract more people into those services and be willing to provide healthcare to the families that need it.” 

What separates you from your opponents? 

We asked Parent, what separates you from the two other opponents, also Democrats? Parent quickly responded, “Experience! I’m a local elected official who served the City Council for almost two full terms now but beyond that I also served in the Jerry Brown administration at the State Department of Housing. I’ve worked in Sacramento, I’ve worked with the state executive and the Legislature making real public policy. Changes and improvements. I used to be the director of policy at the San Diego Housing Commission, which is the public housing authority for the city of San Diego. I currently serve as the executive director and general counsel in a non-profit called Circulate San Diego that does a lot of research and advocacy around affordable housing, safe routes to schools, crosswalks, and street safety. All of these things plus the accomplishments in the city of La Mesa show that I’m going to be ready to hit the ground running to make a real impact for the 79th district.” 




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