Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this

By Jessyka Heredia

Watch full interview 

February 25, 2023 (East County) – Lemon Grove Mayor Racquel Vasquez is running for the 79th State Assembly seat--one of three candidates, all Democrats, vying for the open seat.

ECM interviewed her to find out what her views are on the issues that matter most and what she plans to do in Sacramento if elected. 

Vasquez is no stranger to running for office. She has served for neraly two decades, including on the Lemon Grove Planning Commission and City Council before becoming Mayor. Vasquez says she has a passion for public service.


ECM asked Vasquez what were some of her biggest accomplishments that got her to this point? 

Vasquez stated, “One of mt biggest accomplishments is that the city of Lemon Grove is the only city in the entire county of San Diego that is recognized as meeting the affordable housing requirements--the state mandated affordable housing requirements that said we need counties, we need cities to build housing, affordable housing. We did just that. We took a look at our zoning, and we made changes, and then we streamlined our development process for developers. That allowed us to not only meet that requirement but also exceed it.”  

Vasquez said that the city of Lemon Grove has paved more roads than ever before and is making sure “parks are clean and safe and that we are bringing quality of life forward for residents to enjoy.” 

Storm Drain Infrastructure 

We asked Vasquez: what will she do if she was elected to State Assembly to acquire more funding for storm drain maintenance and improvements to mitigate a repeat of the flooding San Diego experienced just a few weeks before 

Vasquez explained, “We recently experienced a 1,000-year storm. What that means is that kind of storm rolls around San Diego County in a thousand years. In this county, the storm drains system is set up in a way it’s designed based on the topography, meaning all water runs downhill. We received four inches of rain here in Lemon Grove and all parts of the county did as well. The water from the east areas, such as El Cajon and Spring Valley, ran towards Lemon Grove and La Mesa. What that means is their four inches of water flow to Lemon Grove. We had our own four inches of water which created eight inches of water, which did not stay because our system is set up in a way where the water will continue to flow towards the ocean outfall.” 

Vasquez stated that the system “performed just the way it was supposed to” and that staff in Lemon Grove went to work immediately to make sure that the places and people impacted were mitigated. Vasquez also said that staff made sure there were resources in place for residents, such as providing dumpsters at City Hall to clear debris from their homes and sand for sandbags to prepare for more storms ahead.  

At the state level Vasquez explained, “There are thresholds that you have to meet based on the data and the numbers” to get state funding. There was a direct effort in place on behalf of the County of San Diego to collect that data via a survey. What that survey was for was so that we could show the amount of damaged that occurred within our area to justify FEMA resources.”  

Vasquez told ECM that the threshold to justify FEMA funding in Lemon Grove alone was $16 million dollars in uninsured damage. Vasquez said that the data has not yet been released to know if Lemon Grove met that threshold.  

Affordable Housing 

ECM asked Vasquez how to bridge the gaps between building luxury apartments and a need for more moderate to middle income as well as low-income housing so that all of district 79 has housing available to them. 

Vasquez responded, “There is something called RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation) numbers that are established by the state of California based on what the state thinks the area can accommodate in regard to newly built housing. There are categories, everything from low, low income to low income, middle income, and the high-end luxury income housing.” Vasquez explained that they also break it down from apartments, condos and single-family homes.  

Vasquez said, “There is a difference between the numbers that are assigned and the ability to actually build. Government is not in the business of building, which is private enterprise, however government is required to show there is capacity to build those specified categories of housing and that process takes place every ten years.”  

Vasquez clarified, “In a community you have to have a mix, because in a community you have a little bit of everyone. So, yes, we need low-income housing, but we want to encourage and inspire others to live within a specific jurisdiction as well. We want to make sure that we have a space for those working-class people to live.”  

Goals for the 79th District 

ECM asked Vasquez about her goals for bringing funding to the 79th district. Dr. Akilah Weber, who holds the seat now and is running for State Senate, has been gracious with funding for parks and recreation as well as community events that focused around education and support to families. ECM wanted to know what projects were near and dear to Vasquez if she were elected to the State Assembly.  

Vasquez stated, “What’s really important to ensure that we have a thriving 79th district, is that we pay attention to the budget. We make sure that funding is allocated for the district including community specific funding for infrastructure improvements, for park improvements and make sure every single dollar that this district deserves is allocated so that we can not only maintain our quality of life but improve our quality of life. Also keeping our eye on the policies that are coming forward from the Assembly and the Senate, making sure that we are supporting policies to sustain our environment and that we have a sound budget, good education system, and a very good system in place for transportation.” 


ECM asked Vasquez about homelessness in district 79 and the increases seen in most areas. Are there ways to get more funding for district 79 if she is elected and are there programs or legislation that Vasquez may have ideas in creating? 

There are 80 Assembly districts in California. Vasquez noted, “There are 79 other people that you’ve got to get on board with change. It can be done, absolutely! What really matters is the money. So my goal would be to ultimately land on the budget committee to see how the state funding is being allocated and to be part of the discussion to determine how that money will maintain the operation of what I hear now is the fourth largest economy in the entire world. That is huge and it’s not going to happen overnight, but that is my goal to eventually be on that budget committee.” 

Vasquez expressed that she wants to be a “part of the housing and homeless committee because that is a true need, not just for San Diego area but for the entire state of California.” 

Vasquez spoke about the Care Court proposition that passed last year and says that now is the time to get more facilities and money to support it. 

 According to Vasquez she has been working on a program for two years and that soon the public will learn what the plans are. She spoke about how the state gives one-time monies for homelessness but since this problem is ongoing, “California should set up a permanent funding mechanism to manage homelessness. I would be willing to champion that effort.” Vasquez expressed that we need to “put some long-term permanent money behind supporting the homeless issue.” 


ECM asked about college tuition being hard for some families to obtain. What can she do as a state Assembly member to help residents get more access to education and find ways to provide more affordable education? 

Vasquez talked about her goals in wanting to be sure to have adequate staff in place “that will on a quarterly basis touch every single part of the district. Having information about the programs especially education and all of the things that make our community function as a society are available, but also an opportunity for people to ask questions and also provide recommendations.  

When it comes to loan forgiveness,that is something that I can support,” said Vasquez. Vasquez posed the question does that happen at the state or federal level and if at the state level, what kind of funding mechanism can be in place to ensure that the money is there to forgive the loans.” 

Vasquez stated, “I think at this point in time, perhaps there should be an exploratory committee put in place to see what the state of California can do as it relates to loan forgiveness.” Vasquez says she would be willing to be a part of that committee.  

Vasquez also said that in regard to grades pre-K through 12th grade that “there is a need in our education system for some TLC. We have got to make sure that there is equity involved and that all kids are learning the same things. Kids are able to learn about the true history of our state but also of our nation. We need to make sure that resources are in place so that our kids are not behind.” 


During Covid, the state did a big push to make sure people had healthcare by expanding medical coverage to more people. ECM asked Vasquez what she could do as a state Assembly member to get more healthcare and more affordable healthcare to the people in district 79? 

Vasquez said she personally thinks “that single payer healthcare should be available to everyone here in the state. That would help to ensure we would all have access to good quality healthcare.  

Vasquez said she wants to hear from the people in the district in terms of what they see as a realistic viable source of healthcare that can roll forward, that can be embraced at the state level and voted for so that we can actually implement that kind of program.” 

What separates you from your opponents? 

When it came to what separates Vasquez from her two opponents, La Mesa Councilmember Colin Parent and Dr. LaShae Sharp-Collins, both fellow Democrats, Vasquez responded, “ What separates me from my opponents is this. Number one, I have experience and I’ve been working in government and creating policy since 2006 as a planning commissioner, ultimately being elected to the City Council as a Councilmember and then serving two times as Mayor. I have a laundry list of achievements, such as being able to meet that affordable housing requirement, creating an economic stimulus plan for our city and getting people to support it.” 

Vasquez also cited “being able to ensure that we can apply the funding that we get for this small city in a way that nets the biggest benefit for everyone. You can actually see the results. I’m fiscally responsible regarding funding and making sure that every single dime is counted for and as a result we were actually recognized by GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association).. It’s an organization that recognizes government agencies for good financial management”.  

Vasquez concluded,” In addition to that, I’m someone who cares. I have a heart for service and for people. This is an opportunity to expand leadership in such a way that will benefit the entire 79th Assembly district.” 


Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.