42 Years To Live

The passing of another year and another birthday rumination post. (2016 was the last one, featuring Chris Rock.)

I was fortunate this summer to spend a lot of time with our family on a road trip across much of the United States, with lots of stops to visit friends and family.  It was great to mostly unplug and see some of the country that was new to us.  I celebrated a birthday during the trip which was appropriate given some recent thinking about my likely life duration.

Thanks to our friends at Social Security it’s easy to get an estimate of how long you have to live.  This simple table lets you look at your age and see how many years you likely have left.  I’m sitting at 36 so most likely have 42 years remaining – expiring around 78 years of age.  Not too bad.

If I’m lucky enough to have good health and my mental faculties for most of the remaining time, say until 70, that leaves 34 years of good health to enjoy friends, family, and time together like our road trip.  If work and financial circumstances work out we’ll have maybe a maximum of once a year to do a couple of week trip somewhere for an extended vacation.  (I should note that one doesn’t need to go on vacation to make memories or enjoy life.)

So with my time left, in a pretty rosy scenario, I’m looking at 34 chances to do something big or break out of the everyday for a little bit. Not too many.

Hopefully I’ll remember to embrace those opportunities and not shy away.

Where to may the road go

How Many Votes To Win? About 10% Of The Population

Today is a primary election day in California with a host of races from local level to state offices and some federal races as well. California is a large state, with about 37 million residents.  However, less than half of that number are registered voters and turnout – especially in primary elections without a presidential campaign – can be low.  Below is a quick summary calculation of the current population and expected turnout for this election.

As the above shows, to win a given office a candidate would likely be able to do so with around 10% of the population voting for them.  Of course this is dependent on the turnout in a given election, how many candidates are in a race, and a number of other variables.  It does seem a relatively useful benchmark for estimating how many votes are needed in a given race to likely win.

If you live in California and haven’t voted yet please consider taking a moment and doing so.  With the increasing amount of mail-in options there has never been an easier time to vote than we have today.

Vote Omar Passons – The Best Choice for Supervisor – Vote Omar Passons

Mail-in ballots for primary races in San Diego were mailed out today, May 7, so if you live here you can expect to see them arriving soon.  The election date is June 5.  Vote next week, or the following, or on June 5 – just remember to vote.

Who to vote for? In the County Supervisor race for District 4 it’s clear:

** VOTE OMAR PASSONS **

I’ve known Omar for a few years and met him IRL (in real life) after starting to use Twitter as a newly established stay-at-home dad and fairly recent arrival to San Diego.  He and others invited me to join them for pick-up basketball in Golden Hill.  I love playing basketball and it was nice to connect with a bunch of people I hadn’t met before.  Especially nice given that many of them were engaged in local issues and care about making this a better place to live.

If you’re engaged in San Diego issues you probably already know Omar (if not, find him on Twitter @omarpassons).  He’s long been involved in city issues with hands-on experience or in policy discussions from graffiti to neighborhood parks to the many stadium debates in San Diego and so much more.  The man is a dynamo of energy and gives frequently and deeply of his time and energy to support a broad range of causes that matter to him.

I’m not a Democrat or a Republican and broadly feel the strict two party system sets up a by-default “Us vs. Them” debate on nearly every issue, often unnecessarily.  I’m a policy and issue voter and if you’re looking for an intelligent and thoughtful person to consider issues and guide the region you’ll find such a person in Mr. Passons.

No other candidate in the race has put forward as detailed of positions and policy ideas as Omar and it’s no surprise – these aren’t “made-to-campaign” platforms put together for the 2018 elections.  They’re policies honed over decades of experience and personal action, wrought from real and deep-seated caring about our region and residents.

Take a look at Omar’s website for more details – www.omarpassons.com.  Or take my preferred route and check out his podcast series for an audio experience on a walk around town.  You’ll get a good sense for Omar as a person and why you should vote for him on June 5.

Omar is the preferred candidate of the Union-Tribune.

Omar is also the preferred candidate of the San Diego Free Press.

Vote for a San Diegan with heart and integrity.

** VOTE OMAR PASSONS **

15 Empty Cars or A Beautiful Public Plaza? Little Italy Opts for the Latter with Piazza della Famiglia

Little Italy continues to grow and become a better place to visit and live.  The most recent addition to the neighborhood is Piazza della Famiglia – a 10,000 square foot public plaza with apartments above and 16,000 feet of retail and restaurant space surrounding.  This plaza was formerly a short block of Date Street but per an agreement between the developer, H.G. Fenton, and the City of San Diego the street was vacated and a beautiful public space was created, paid for by private dollars.

The plaza isn’t fully open yet but a few of the businesses are and when I stopped by today on a sunny, gorgeous day around noon there were people chatting and having coffee, a family walking their baby in a stroller, and a number of passersby traversing the plaza on foot and bicycle.  There’s currently a small tent set up with leasing information for the two apartment buildings that H.G. Fenton built next to the plaza – Vici and Amo – which add 125 units to the area.

Here are a number of photos I took of the plaza.  The Little Italy Farmer’s Market (every Saturday and the best in the region if you ask me) will soon return to Date Street and the scene is going to be better than ever.

It’s awesome to see the neighborhood and the City choosing a public space over a handful of mostly free parking spaces (metered during part of the day) that previously occupied the plaza space.  For a comparison I checked out the two closest similr streets, which are similar size – Cedar and Fir.  When I stopped by Cedar had 10 total vehicles parked and Fir had 20, including one person moving from one meter to another and a parking enforcement vehicle looking for ticketing opportunities.  Needless to say, these streets that are devoted to cars and parking had zero persons enjoying the square footage occupied by the empty traffic lanes and parking spots.

Fir Street – 20 empty cars
Cedar Street – 10 empty cars

Which would you prefer for your neighborhood? 15 empty cars on a block, or a beautiful public plaza with shops, fountains, tables, and a place to sit and enjoy life? This sort of opportunity is available in spaces across San Diego, if we choose to embrace it.  More likely we’ll see massive amounts of additional free street parking across the city, as soon to come to North Park, due to the City making it easier than ever to quickly give over more public land to parking.  I’d prefer more plazas, trees, and life – hopefully you’ll join me in working for the same.  And don’t forget to check out the Little Italy Farmer’s Market – a great start to the weekend for locals and visitors alike.  I’d recommend taking a bike-share bike, hopefully by the time you visit the local business association will have stopped sabotaging those programs in Little Italy.

Want To Be An Airbnb Host in San Diego? Good Luck – You’re On Your Own

The City of San Diego continues to discuss options for regulations and rules around short-term rentals on sites like Airbnb.  Short-term rentals are rentals for less than a full calendar month and have been the topic of discussion at a number of City Council and committee hearings over the last few years.

I recently received an inquiry from a San Diego resident that would like to rent out one or two bedrooms in the home they live in – sharing a room or home with guests is often referred to as “home-sharing”.  Home-sharing is frequently brought up in the short-term rental debate with both sides typically saying there is no issue with this type of activity.  (However, home-sharing is the only type of short-term rental I’m aware of that the City of San Diego took to court, and ultimately the judge decided that this type of activity is not allowed under current rules and issued a fine to that host.)

The prospective host in this case was looking to do the right thing and get clarity from the City before hosting on Airbnb.  They contacted several City departments regarding how to fill out the right information for the Transient Occupancy Registration Certificate( “TORC”), if a Business Tax Certificate is required, what taxes they need to pay, and if there are other regulations they need to follow for lawfully renting out rooms via platforms such as Airbnb. 

 

On the response to the prospective host, the city was clear and straight-forward in providing the process to register for the TORC, what kind of taxes the host would need to pay, etc.  The Transient Occupancy Tax (i.e. hotel tax) is not part of the debate and proposed short-term rental rules – it is already in place and collected (and in the case of Airbnb remitted for all hosts on the platform each month by the platform itself).

However, in regard to other requirements for operating an Airbnb, the prospective host was directed to consult the Development Services Department (in charge of Land Use and Development). Surprisingly, when the host reached out to Development Services they were told  that since there are no official regulations or rules around short-term rentals, this kind of activity is currently not allowed in San Diego.  That’s when the host reached out to me, as part of my efforts with the Short-Term Rental Alliance of San Diego (STRASD) – seeking clarity the city couldn’t provide and how they should proceed.

The contradiction between the responses from different City departments is confusing but accurate.  Yes – you can register and pay the taxes for this sort of activity.  No – you can not engage in this type of activity in the first place.  This is the current status of short-term rentals in San Diego, at least for home-sharing situations.  It still seems that whole-home short-term rentals may be on firmer ground, although the current City Attorney has declared all short-term rentals illegal. [Note: the previous two City Attorneys held a different position, that short-term rentals were not illegal.]

This sort of lack of clarity is harmful to potential hosts like the one highlighted in this post – a San Diego resident seeking to improve their economic position and do so in a straight-forward and compliant manner in the type of short-term rental that is roundly approved of and supported.  We need clarity to support residents like this and should encourage this type of widespread entrepreneurial opportunity to give citizens more options and ability to chart their own desired course.  Hopefully in the months ahead we will see clarity that gives certainty to current and potential hosts and guests and that supports the opportunity that platforms like Airbnb and others gives to many thousands of San Diegans.

A screen shot of some home-sharing options currently available on Airbnb (taken 4-19-2018)

29th Street – North Park’s Newest (Free) Luxury Parking Lot

Thanks to a request from the Mid-City Parking District a number of streets in North Park will likely soon be converted from parallel on-street free parking to head-in on-street free parking.  The following list of requested changes will result in an increase of 254 parking spaces, using more of our public land to store empty automobiles.  The proposed changes were discussed at the March meeting of the North Park Planning Public Facilities and Transportation Subcommittee – minutes including discussion can be found here.  The proposed changes are on the agenda for the North Park Planning Committee consent agenda for Tuesday, April 17.

The proposed changes are spread across a large section of North Park, but the stretch of 29th Street is particularly interesting to me.  29th Street is the site of the North Park Parking Garage – a 100% taxpayer funded parking garage with low rates that rarely breaks even (and in the most recent year likely lost money due to popularity of biking, walking, and Uber / Lyft – financials aren’t yet out to verify performance).  Here’s a map of the blocks of 29th Street and cross streets proposed to be converted to head-in parking (identified in red).

There are a number of reasons to oppose these conversions:

  • Climate change and health – Increasing automobile parking runs counter to the city’s Climate Action Plan goals to move mode share away from automobiles.  Bringing (and parking) more cars in North Park brings more air and noise pollution to the neighborhood, in addition to the potential fatalities and injuries that are common from automobile use. Giving away even more of our public realm to parking is a bad idea.  Increasing and encouraging more automobiles in North Park also runs counter to the promotion of the area as a walkable neighborhood. At a time when bike-share, scooter-share, and ride-share options are plentiful and increasing we shouldn’t be increasing the amount of parking for private vehicles.
  • Aesthetics and safety – This stretch of 29th Street is full of beautiful Craftsman homes.  The average age of the homes on the block is around 90 years old.  Parallel parking creates a standard car edge so visibility down the street for pedestrians, drivers, and residents is clear.  Head-in parking creates large variances (think of an extended cab pick-up, which are for some reason incredibly popular in San Diego despite the urban environment lacking steers and I-beams to carry around, parked next to a small sedan).  Pulling in and out becomes more dangerous for those traversing the street.  Additionally, the headlights from the vehicles at night are aimed directly into homes which are mostly at street level. I can’t imagine most residents would enjoy the additional lighting from the street.
  • Unneeded and counter-productive – Most of the houses on these streets already have off-street parking, many have full length driveways and garages.  The housing density (number of residents per unit) is almost certainly less than it was 50 years ago, as the average American household size has fallen almost by half.  If the housing is nearly a century old and the households are smaller than they have been in the past it seems unlikely that residents are clamoring for more parking on the street to bring in more traffic and noise.

Here’s a photo gallery of each block of 29th Street to get a sense of the housing and parking.  The street is very wide but as you can see, there is hardly a lack of parking although this may vary according to time of day.

Perhaps the worst bit of all is residents have basically no say in this process.  The parking changes were requested by a parking agency and I don’t believe any residents of any of these streets were part of the application – apparently the mission of parking agencies are to maximize the amount of parking for vehicles.  Residents will have a chance to respond negatively to the proposals, a written notice will be sent out.  Who does the notice go to – property owners or residents? (Not sure.) Are the mailings certified delivery to ensure receipt by intended recipients? (Guessing no.)  Even if the letters are addressed properly, and received what are the odds they are read or understood? (Not likely.)  The standard to oppose is that a majority, more than 50%, of the notices sent out must be returned in opposition.  If you’ve ever done a survey or mail response campaign you probably understand there is essentially zero chance of ever seeing a 50% response rate to any issue.

If there is demand from the residents on the impacted streets then an Opt-In approach would pass with flying colors.  I suspect that there is not support from the residents given the above many reasons this is a bad idea.  In either case, I believe the North Park Planning Committee has discretion on this matter to evaluate as they deem most appropriate. I hope they’ll opt to consider the impacts of yet more automobile-focused use of our land in this urban environment and reject this proposal to bring yet more traffic and parking and associated ills to the area.  For reference, here’s the evaluation policy for this sort of proposal.

In addition to this conversion being a bad idea there are better options for the excess roadway that does exist.  Some of those better options are:

  • Reduce the road width and increase the size of the housing parcels (increase the public right-of-way usable by property owner) – this would increase home values and the tax base, bringing in funds via property taxes, and allow for planting of trees or other use.
  • Install a bike lane to enable more residents to bike to work or school.
  • Do nothing. The status quo, although mostly a vista of asphalt, has real potential and we shouldn’t discard it for more unneeded free parking. Not to mention that once granted it is very difficult to repurpose parking area to other uses, as recent debates in Hillcrest and elsewhere have underscored.
  • My favorite – Dreaming big I’d love to see Balboa Park connected to the new North Park Mini-Park, located at 29th Street and North Park Way via a beautiful greenscape.  My proposal would greatly reduce the street size of both 29th Street and Granada Avenue to something like below – going from 54 feet of street space to 16 feet (paired one-way streets, one North-bound and one South-bound with one side of parking) and adding 19 feet of green space to either side of the two streets.  That’s a lot of additional greenery, quieter roads, and an increase in parking on each lot of one space per driveway. (Although I would guess many residents would do as they currently do and opt for more productive uses of their land than parking vehicles and utilize for gardens, play areas, chicken coops, hop scotch, and other options.)

If you have an opinion on this proposal you can attend the North Park Planning Committee Hearing on 4/17 or contact the group via email at info@northparkplanning.org.  Additionally, on my street – Granada Avenue – I’ll be working with the other residents to proactively state our opposition to this sort of conversion.  You can consider doing the same as it seems likely the many over-sized roadways in San Diego will likely follow 29th Street in becoming a parker’s paradise.

Department of Justice Compels MTS to Improve Ticket Purchase Options

The press release at bottom is from the U.S. Attorney office in San Diego – apparently the Department of Justice took up a complaint that the mobile ticket purchasing option for MTS, Compass Cloud, did not allow for users to purchase senior, disabled, or Medicare tickets on the platform.  MTS has agreed to allow for these options.

It’s not surprising after MTS trailed other cities / regions in allowing for mobile or electronic tickets and still does not have a transfer system (effectively doubling the price for any trip that requires more than one bus line).  Hopefully this step will spur further moment on making it easy and convenient to use the public transport system in San Diego.

 

—————————————————-

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

San Diego, California

 

 

United States Attorney

Adam L. Braverman

 

For Further Information, Contact:

 

Assistant U. S. Attorney Dylan M. Aste (619) 546-7621    

For Immediate Release

 

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Agrees to Improve Accessibility

 

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARYApril 16, 2018

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the North County Transit District (NCTD) have agreed with the Department of Justice to address accessibility issues regarding the purchase of public transportation tickets on their mobile app named Compass Cloud.  Completion of these steps will provide equal accessibility to public transportation riders and bring MTS and NCTD into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

MTS and NCTD offer Senior/Disabled/Medicare (S/D/M) tickets at a variety of locations (e.g., ticket vending machines) to qualified riders at a reduced rate.  The Compass Cloud app allows users to purchase trolley, bus, and other transportation tickets.  The Department of Justice received a complaint alleging that Compass Cloud did not include the option to purchase S/D/M tickets.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California opened an investigation into whether Compass Cloud met the ADA accessibility requirements.  The United States Attorney’s Office determined that Compass Cloud provided an option to purchase standard tickets, but it did not provide an option to purchase corresponding S/D/M tickets that were otherwise offered.  MTS and NCTD fully cooperated during the investigation and agreed to update Compass Cloud by April 30, 2018, to provide equal accessibility to all passengers.

“All public transportation riders must be provided with equal opportunity and accessibility,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman.  “We are pleased that the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District fully cooperated and agreed to quickly update Compass Cloud to accommodate all riders.”

This matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dylan M. Aste of the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.

Additional information about the ADA can be found at www.ada.gov, or by calling the Department of Justice’s toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).

 

Kelly Thornton

Director of Media Relations

Office of the U.S. Attorney

Southern District of California

619.546.9726

Please Follow us on Twitter @SDCAnews

Video Game Building – My New Favorite Building in Downtown SD

Formally known as the Shift “Next Level Apartments” this recently erected building in the East Village portion of Downtown San Diego looks like it was designed for a video game.  The colors and the odd angles and shapes throughout feel so strongly like they stepped out of an early Halo game or something similar.

The building is bounded by 15th Street and 16th Street as well as J Street and K Street, a full city block.  Will be interesting to see it fully tenanted and up and running – the street scene in East Village continues to ramp up in a major way.  The units are priced from $1700 – $4500 although the available units ranged from $2795 for a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom to $3920 for a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom.

Creating a Passive Income Symbiote

dollar bills

One of my favorite websites is the fantastic Mr. Money Moustache (MMM).  This website and the book Early Retirement Extreme (ERE) by Jacob Lund Fisker caught my attention a few years ago and the concept of financial independence has been stuck in my head ever since.  There are a number of great podcasts, books, and articles, on the topic and the “FIRE” movement (financial independence / early retirement) has grown into a semi-mainstream concept.

The biggest lesson I took from MMM and ERE is the impact that a person’s savings rate has on the ability to grow wealth.  The flip side to the savings rate is the consumption rate – together they equal 100% of earnings.  The money you earn is either spent and disbursed to another party via consumption – the pizza place, daycare, car payments, etc. – or it is kept and accrued in your accounts – savings, investment account, real estate, etc.

The impact of the consumption / savings rate is laid out most excellently in this post from MMM:

The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement

I decided to take a stab at making a simple calculation along the same lines – using a few basic inputs to see the time required to create a “Passive Income Symbiote”.  The goal is to create a passive stream of income equivalent to gross earnings – to entirely replace wage earnings with passive income.  If you can live on what you currently earn then it’s easy to imagine living on that same amount, but with all of your time free to use as desired.  I chose the word symbiote with the idea that the goal is to have the Passive Income Symbiote be the “host” and the person becomes the “parasite”, living on the efforts of the host.

The basic elements for the calculation (spreadsheet attached, feel free to use and share if you like) are:

  • Income / earnings – how much you make
  • Consumption rate – how much of your earnings you spend
  • Return on investments – what you earn on your savings
  • Earnings increase – if you expect an annual raise, how much it is
  • Earnings increase spent – how much of any earnings increase you spend (also known as lifestyle inflation)

Many of these factors are hard to change or controlled by outside forces – bosses, annual evaluations, how the stock market performs – the spending / saving ratio is the factor easiest to quickly adjust.  It’s also the factor that has the most impact on the time required to fully fund a PI Symbiote.  I’ve included some suggested ranges for items like return on investments and annual earnings increase.  There’s a relative limit on some items and I’ve tried to based the suggested ranges on my perception of those general limits. (You might get a 100% raise at your job but it’s more likely to be a moderate increase of 3-5%, for example.)

Good luck on your journey and creating your own pet Symbiote. Cheers!

Screenshot of sample Symbiote calculation
a journey of a thousand miles starts with a shaky bridge

Download Excel Below:

Out and About – Recent Podcast Interviews on Short-Term Rentals

I was recently included on two podcast I regularly listen to, both on the topic of short-term rentals.  I have been using platforms like Airbnb for about 8 years to welcome people to San Diego and have had a great experience.  As with many other cities around the globe, San Diego has been debating the proper place for short-term rentals (rentals of less than 30 days or a calendar month) in recent years.  I’ve become involved in that political debate locally and follow the issue broadly as well.

The Voice of San Diego podcast is a great resource if you’re interested in local issues and longer interviews with people that make an impact here.  I was part of a four person panel discussing potential new rules for short-term rentals in San Diego.  The podcast was held shortly before a full City Council hearing on the topic which was expected to result in new rules for the city.  Instead, the all day hearing resulted in nothing new and the issue remains up in the air.

Check out the Voice of San Diego podcast on short-term rentals here:

https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/news/vosd-podcast-great-vacation-rental-debate/

I was also recently on Get Paid for Your Pad – a podcast focused on short-term rentals with news and interviews of hosts from around the world.  This show is a great resource if you are a current host, considering hosting, or just interested in the topic.  Host Jasper Ribbens, from The Netherlands, does a great job of including perspectives from hosts from different cities and nations and covering a wide variety of news items from technology to new rules that impact the short-term rental industry.

You can find my interview with Jasper here:

EP212: The Power of Under-Promising and Over-Delivering

Hope you enjoy the podcasts and if you’d like to connect about short-term rentals in San Diego or elsewhere please reach out anytime.  Cheers!

A photo from a recent bike ride along Sunset Cliffs. #SDlove