Lorie Zapf`s Path From Foster Care To San Diego City

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Lorie Zapf`s Path From Foster Care To San Diego City
4/3/2015
Lorie Zapf’s Path From Foster Care To San Diego City Council | KPBS
Lorie Zapf’s Path From Foster Care To San Diego City Council
Friday, April 3, 2015
By Claire Trageser
One evening last month, San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf was talking about personal topics that don’t usually come up at city meetings.
“We were moving all the time. My mother would beat the crap out of us. She’d get angry and go into these alcoholic fits, just be really, really abusive,” she told a
teenage boy as he nodded sympathetically.
Zapf was in City Heights talking to teens about her own background as part of an after-school nonprofit program called
Reality Changers. The 56-year-old opened up about her early years in hopes of inspiring the teens and showing them you
can overcome a rough start in life.
“When you get to my age, you look back on it and you go, did all that really happen?” she said. “How could people be
like that? How could your own parents do that to you?”
Zapf has been elected twice to the City Council in two different districts. The Republican first represented Clairemont
and Mission Valley, then after redistricting was elected to represent Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach and other coastal
neighborhoods. She said her work now is something she never would have imagined doing when she was growing up in
Los Angeles.
Special Feature Who's On San
Diego's City Council?
KPBS is profiling the nine people who
make up the San Diego City Council,
sharing details about their backgrounds
and their goals for 2015. They each
represent a different geographic area of the
city, but their actions affect all of the 1.3
million people who live in America's eighth
largest city.
Councilwoman Lorie Zapf
Represents: District 2, which includes
Point Loma, Ocean Beach and Pacific
Beach.
Age: 56
Family: Husband Eric, daughters Tana, 16,
and Myla, 14
College: Bachelor’s degree in broadcast
journalism from California State University,
Northridge, master’s degree in marketing
communications from the University of
Denver
Hometown: Los Angeles
Career: Started Boulder Bar Endurance,
an energy bar company, with Eric. They
sold it in 2002. Radio and television
reporter in Reno/Tahoe area.
Other interests: Outdoor activities,
including hiking, kayaking and trail riding.
Fun fact: Her daughter Tana just starred
as Annie in Clairemont High School’s
musical.
“I ended up eventually in a foster home. My brother, sister and I were separated and put into separate foster homes,” she
said. “Actually, that was the first time I had any stability. I think I attended about 13 different schools, and I wasn’t even
in the military.”
She said her foster parents put her on the path that eventually led her to politics.
“They were really role models and showed me a whole different life, and I really give them all the credit for who I am
today,” she said.
Zapf went to California State University, Northridge, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. She
then moved to Colorado and got a master’s degree at the University of Denver in marketing communications. After a
chance meeting there, her life changed.
“Along comes this tourist from San Diego, and we started talking on the Pearl Street mall in Boulder and next thing I
knew we were long-distance dating,” she said. “Not too long after that, I got engaged and moved to San Diego.”
She said when she first arrived she didn’t have a job, so she helped her husband Eric start Boulder Bar Endurance, an
energy bar company. Then in 2010 she was elected to the City Council. Her foster mother swore her in at that first
inauguration.
Her second swearing-in ceremony this past December did not go exactly as planned. A group protesting police brutality
following the deaths of African-American men at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City
demonstrated outside Golden Hall before the inauguration. The protesters then moved inside and silently demonstrated
while Zapf and others were sworn in.
Afterward, one of Zapf’s staffers was overheard by a KPBS reporter calling the protesters “f------ idiots with their hands
up.” The staffer also said, “I wanted to shoot them." Zapf suspended the woman without pay and wouldn’t comment
further when asked recently about the incident.
In a statement after it happened, Zapf called herself “the first Latina elected to the San Diego City Council.” That was
met with more criticism.
State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat, wrote on Twitter that she wanted to hear more about
Zapf’s interactions with the Latino community.
Zapf said people questioning her identity doesn’t phase her.
“My mom’s side came to this country from Mexico, so on my mom’s side I have a big Mexican family,” she said. Her
mom is now deceased. “I really grew up with a real ethnic Mexican upbringing.”
Asked specifically about Gonzalez’s tweet, she said, “What certain people say has no impact on me whatsoever, and that’s one of them. She’s on the opposite side.
It’s all political. It doesn’t affect me at all.”
Another challenge this year has been transitioning to a new district.
“We have coastal issues, tourism issues, very built-out older communities that we’re trying to retrofit, put in roads, walkability, bike paths,” Zapf said.
A recent project she's taken on is updating city laws about vacation rentals through websites like Airbnb.com.
She said the neighborhoods she now serves also come with more involved citizens.
“They want their communities to be better, they want to get things done,” the councilwoman said. “And I’m trying to work with all of them and be there to support
what their goals are and try to get things through the city, which is not the easiest thing to do sometimes.”
Zapf hopes this year to work with the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture and nonprofits to supplement arts programs that have been cut from schools. Her own
teenage daughters act, sing, and play the piano, clarinet, tenor saxophone and guitar.
As Zapf described their achievements to KPBS, she surprised herself by tearing up.
“There is absolutely nothing better in my life than coming home and having dinner and hearing this awesome music, and it’s my own children,” she said.
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Lorie Zapf’s Path From Foster Care To San Diego City Council | KPBS
“I sometimes get emotional because I think about the lives my children have versus how I grew up, and the opportunities that other people gave me, and how I’ve
been able to take that and now I have an opportunity by being a City Council member and using that as a platform to get out and hopefully inspire others that they
can be here, too. That they can do what I’m doing, and they can have families that now are like my children. They’re safe. They’re secure. They’re happy.”
Photo by Christopher Maue
Students at the San Diego nonprofit Reality Changers listen to City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf speak about her challenging childhood on March 18, 2015.
Zapf delivered this message at the Reality Changers meeting by asking students where they want to go to college and telling them they can make it.
“You felt that there was something inside of you that was different, that you want something different, right?” she asked a group of young women. They nodded.
Even though she wasn’t in her district, Zapf told the teens them that in some ways she feels more at home with them in City Heights.
“I think kids here can probably relate to me more than my own kids, because they don’t really know what I went through and they never really went through
anything bad. You know?” she asked.
But when the meeting ended, she got to return to her own home in Bay Ho, where her own daughters were likely filling the house with music and enjoying the life
that Zapf and her husband have made for them.
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Photo by Christopher Maue
San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf talks with students at a Reality Changers meeting in City Heights on March 18, 2015.
CLAIRE TRAGESER, Multimedia Enterprise Reporter | Contact claire-trageser | Follow @clairetrageser on Twitter
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Peking_Duck_sd
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4 hours ago
I don't like her politics, but I respect her life story and overcoming adversity.
She should have fired that advisor.
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thompson_richard
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5 hours ago
Did she fire her staffer?
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