Saturday, January 28, 2023

Q & A with Pilialoha Estall, City Council Candidate

Ahead of election day on November 8, 2022, The Coronado Times has asked the four City Council candidates to answer the following questions in their own words to give the community insight on their background and views. The Q&As will be published in the order received.

Q. How did your Coronado story begin?

A. My Great Aunt, Pat Kittleson, was the owner of The Little Club and The Mill in the ’40s. The Little Club was a popular spot coming on and off the ferry. They had wonderful hamburgers, known for their delicious giant hamburger buns for families and kids. My grandfather, Andrew J. Bodnar, was a Commander/Pilot in the US Navy, from Racine, Wisconsin. He was stationed at North Island, when he walked into The Little Club and met Aunt Pat. She instantly called my grandmother Mary Louis Weghorst, who was in Hollywood at the time, and said, “I just met your future husband!” My grandmother, on a hunch, drove to Coronado (which took her the entire day on the PCH) and met my grandfather at The Little Club, where it was ‘love at first sight!’

They married and purchased their beautiful historic home in Coronado built in 1909. When my grandfather retired from the Navy he went into real estate. His dream was to have an office overlooking his wife in their beautiful rose garden, where she was daily (if she wasn’t taking care of the business bookkeeping, the kids, or playing bridge). Two years later, El Cordova Plaza was built, and his office on the 3rd floor overlooked his wife in their rose garden. Even though it was only a block away, it would take my grandfather two hours to get home for dinner, as he would stop and talk to community members along the way, always helping others!

Q. Share an overview of your professional experience.

A. I completed a BS in Environmental Studies from UCSB, and a Master’s Degree in Global Leadership from USD. I am currently working towards my doctorate in Public Policy. My professional career is dynamic, with a range of valuable experience. From vital environmental protection in Mexico with NRDC, to working on military contracts with SAIC (a liaison for Washington D.C.).  I was also the Public Policy Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association, which is where I fell in love with public policy. I then helped launched a full-service production and marketing company, Finest City Entertainment, which elevates organizations such as Southern Caregiver Resource Center (SCRC), and other organizations locally and nationwide. Serendipitously, this company was able to help keep Coronado afloat due to the pandemic, in various fundraising and visibility capacities including professional live broadcasts of the CSF Telethon, Coronado’s Talent, CUSD graduations, Crown Classic, Rady Children’s – Virtual Turkey Trot, Coronado Holiday Songs, and the Virtual – Who Dunnit Gala. Currently I have my own PR Agency and Think Tank, City in Design, where I work on local, state, and national campaigns for: public health, environmental protection, youth development/policy, mental health, and adult aging services, which includes working on invaluable legislation.

Q. What are some highlights of your community involvement?

  • Coronado Schools Foundation – Board Member & Volunteer of the Year
  • Rady Children’s Hospital, Coronado Auxiliary – Board Member & Turkey Trot Chair
  • Coronado Band & Choir Boosters (Coronado Artisans Alley) – Board Member
  • Coronado Flower Association / Coronado Flower Show – Board Member
  • Crown Classic Golf Tournament – Founder (Benefits Safe Harbor Coronado & Coronado Schools Foundation)
  • Coronado Holiday Songs – Founder (Benefits Coronado Schools Foundation)
  • Coronado’s Talent – Volunteer – (Event Production)
  • John D. Spreckels Center – Senior Committee Nomination
  • United Districts of San Diego – Coronado Unified School District, National School District and Sweetwater School District
  • Coronado Times Newspaper – Writer

Q. What motivated you to run for City Council?

A. I love this community and its people. As a 4th generation ‘Coronadian,’ I love the history of the island and what generations have built over time. My goal is to help preserve that. I have also witnessed a lack of ‘sense of urgency and due diligence’ on certain issues. I firmly believe because of my applicable professional experience and love of Coronado, I can provide the bandwidth, dedication, and critical research capabilities the community needs while helping our city move forward in constantly changing times. From public utilities to environmental protection, all the way to e-bikes! I know I can help with important collaborative goals and fulfill needed opportunities for improvement. I have the stamina, and sustainable policy knowledge to lead us in a positive direction for generations to come.

Q. Please give us your brief perspective on the following issues and indicate your top priorities ~ beach sewage solutions, e-bikes, and Infrastructure issues: including Satellite Watering Recycling Facility (SWRF) and utility undergrounding, Caltrans roadway relinquishment, ways to promote and maintain a balanced business district, and community grants.

A. My priorities are: public safety, traffic & congestion, preservation, parks & recreation, adult aging services, and youth development. We need to build strong coalitions and have a true sense of urgency. For our beaches to consistently be at risk of closing until 2024, due to new testing and protocols (and only implemented in Coronado and Imperial Beach) is not acceptable. It impacts our city and military. We have to push hard on this detrimental public catastrophe.

I have been endorsed by Mark J. Spalding, J.D., President of The Ocean Foundation in Washington D.C., who has worked over 30 plus years with international/environmental issues, particularly vast experience with Mexico. We have worked together on large environmental projects internationally and in Mexico. I have also been endorsed by Public Affairs Officer for the Navy, Amy Forsythe. I know these types of endorsements are vital to help ensure our city has the support it needs, especially when times are urgent.

E-bike safety is critical. When I sold the City of San Diego to organizations visiting our city, such as American Public Health Association (APHA) and LeadingAge, the SDCCC was very involved in pushing safety in downtown San Diego for everyone. By researching and modeling cities who have positively addressed this issue is essential. Creating safety programs and protocols quickly is mandatory, with such high risk of major accidents.

Working in public policy and campaigns, locally and nationally, I know how slow it can move. If you don’t know how to navigate around procedural hurdles and bureaucratic ineptitude a city will fall behind. I have worked on major policy issues, and I am passionate about helping Coronado move forward successfully and steadfastly for years to come. We must be in front of the curve for sustainable urban planning and thriving. The citizens are concerned about many issues, so we need to prioritize and plan with foresight. Issues like the Tijuana River Valley sewage crisis, when not in front of it, we will unfortunately bear the consequences. I want us to be seen as a role model city. We are a dynamic city, with dynamic citizens who can set examples for others. Our city senior center and the golf course debacles are examples of not doing due diligence and not listening to our citizens. Issues like SANDAG’s unjust housing allocation and Coronado Cays RV Resort have me very concerned. We can’t afford to miss critical holes to stop them both. When entrusting our city with decision making, we have to make sure we are in the trenches of regulation, knowing how to navigate top down policy.

An updated integrated water resource plan and changing our inter-sectoral water allocation is crucial. There are simple solutions cities often miss, and ones Coronado can implement. Reducing unaccounted water, recycling, reclamation and discouraging waste is crucial. My education was highly focused on water policy. We have to make sure we prioritize water resources, safety, accessibility, and use. If we are not diligent, it will be detrimental for years to come. If we are not paying attention to potable water as a city, we will face serious problems in the future. Without increased smart effective regulatory capacity and involvement in the private sector, we are going to have to backtrack in some areas which is a concern.

Local control can be vital for issues, when addressing city utilities and land use planning. Taking back local control, including the Caltrans Relinquishment package, helps ensure decision making power. Long-term effective planning and knowing when we can or should take control is important. Regional planning is constantly changing, including governance, rules, and regulations.

As a grant writer, I know assessments and surveying community needs is essential. We have to make sure we stay abreast and educated on the needs and indicators of the community. In addition, prioritizing the entire community knows about local grant opportunities. Local programs and services need to partner too, which is paramount. Most importantly we must work to build collaborations and bid on grants together inside and also outside the city. This can help us to provide programs and services we need for education, recreation, the arts, environmental protection, and mental health, including adult aging services (such as transportation and senior check-in programs) and more. In addition, I have been involved in and helped executive produce fundraising and community events locally in our city, and also large scale events in San Diego, such as the San Diego Music Awards, San Diego Film Awards, TEDxSanDiego and [email protected] I have vital network resources, as well as, I have been involved in community grant and fundraising programs for over 25 years, so I know what it takes!

Q. What is your favorite thing about Coronado?

A. My favorite thing about Coronado is the ‘people’ of this community. My interests include spending time with my daughter and golfing together at our beautiful golf course. I am also very passionate about supporting the arts and our local live music. Lastly, I advocate mental health, and it is vital to support Safe Harbor Coronado, for our youth and families.

“It Takes a Village!”  “It Takes a Community!”  “Representing Community!”

My goal is for Coronado to be a role model city in all aspects. From education to the arts, public health to sustainability, and smart urban planning, for generations to come! And we have the most talented, smart, and compassionate community members and citizens to make that happen!

Learn more about the candidate here:

Pilialoha and her husband Khalil and daughter Hitimahana.
Pilialoha and her daughter Hitimahana enjoy Coronado’s Fourth of July festivities.

Photo Credits: Orange Avenue Media Co. 


Jennifer Velez
Jennifer Velez
Jennifer fell in love with Coronado as a teenager while visiting a college friend. She vowed that someday she would make it her home, and that dream has recently become a reality. Fast forward through completing college with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations and Communications, she then went on to work with a variety of clients. She also taught Journalism and coordinated fundraising for her children’s school, and was a staff writer for San Diego Family Magazine and contributed to other parenting publications. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]