Municipal elections in California are officially non-partisan, although most candidates do identify a party preference. A two-round system was used for the election, starting with a primary in June followed by a runoff in November between the top-two candidates if no candidate received a majority of the votes in the first round.
Three of the council seats filled in this election became vacant prior to the completion of the 2006 term end date. This led to three special elections to choose council members to complete these terms.
The 2002 election was the first to use the eight district boundaries created by the 2000 Redistricting Commission. Seats in districts 2, 4, 6, and 8 were up for election.
Donna Frye and Ralph Inzunza both were incumbents serving partial terms after winning special elections to fill the seats vacated by the resignations of Valerie Stallings and Juan Vargas respectively.
District 2 consisted of the communities of Bankers Hill/Park West, Downtown San Diego, La Jolla/Mount Soledad, Little Italy, Midway/North Bay, Mission Beach, Mission Hills, Ocean Beach, Old Town, Pacific Beach, and Point Loma. Michael Zucchet and Kevin Faulconer received the most votes in the primary and advanced to the general election. Zucchet was elected to city council with the majority of votes in November.