Some Market Thoughts on Short-Term Rentals in San Diego

The topic of short-term rentals in San Diego continues to be debated and potential rules / changes to rules will be a hot topic in 2016.  After ending 2015 with a well attended Planning Commission meeting in December it looks like the next official meeting / hearing will be in late February or March at the City Council.  It is sure to be a long hearing, with hundreds of San Diegans attending and providing commentary both for and against short-term accommodations in San Diego neighborhoods.

In the meantime, I wanted to jot down some thoughts about short-term rentals in San Diego from a market economy perspective, which follow.

Serving unmet demand – Short-term rentals in San Diego (and many places globally) have grown briskly in the past 5 years.  Airbnb was founded in August 2008 and is the largest short-term rental platform today although it was preceeded by Craigslist, Vacation Rental by Owner, and many other “more traditional” short-term rental uses like bed and breakfasts, room-letting, and others.  Today Airbnb has more than 2 million listings worldwide in more than 190 countries and 34,000 cities.  On New Year’s Eve 2015 the site was expected to host more than 1 million guests in a single night, up from 550,000 a year previous – nearly 100% growth in a year.

In San Diego the total number of short-term rental units in the city was estimated at 6,116 in a National University System Institute for Policy Research (NUSIPR) study released in October 2015.  This report was paid for by Airbnb and the San Diego Vacation Rental Managers Alliance which has lead some to believe it is biased. (The Union-Tribune article linked to states that the Short-Term Rental Alliance of San Diego (STRASD) paid for the study as well – I am part of STRASD and our organization paid for a not a cent of the study, just to clarify.)  With vested parties paying for the study this may be true although NUSIPR does studies on a number of topics in San Diego and is a credible research organiation.  Regardless of intent or paying party, this study remains the most comprehensive, and I believe only, one on the subject in San Diego.

In the study a few figures stick out:

  • Hotels have increased their occupancy rate and nightly room rate consistently over the past 5 years despite the growth in short-term rentals.  Occupancy increased from 68.4% in 2010 to 76.7% in 2015. Over the same period revenue per available room, a figure that measures both occupancy rates and average room rates, increased from $84.72 in 2010 to $103.52 in 2014.  It would seem short-term rentals are not hurting hotel business and are a complementary offering, at least to date.

    airbnb - hotel rates in sd
    Image from NUSIPR study, click for link.
  • Total short-term rentals now comprise a maximum of approx. 1.1% of total housing stock in San Diego.  This is based on a total of 6,116 short-term rentals per the NUSIPR study and a total housing stock of 518,300 per the American Community Survey 5-year estimate (2010-2014) for housing information, Table DP04.  This estimate treats all short-term rentals as whole unit rentals although many are a room in a unit or the use of a primary home on a part-time basis.  I’ m using the total number to be conservative and over-estimate the total impact on housing stock.  6,000 units is not a small number, although it is much smaller than the number of vacant units in San Diego.  Per the same ACS study there are 39,221 vacant units in San Diego – approx. 1.6% of homeowner occupied units and 4.2% of rental units.  A similar question could be posed regarding vacation homes or second homes owned in San Diego, I do not know the figure for such property holdings here.
  • Short-term rentals are blunting the ability of hotels to increase room rates during high-demand special events.  The Economist recently wrote about the impact of increased short-term rental supply around large special events like the Olympics or the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting.  Traditionally, hotels have been able to greatly increase rates during high-demand events but more recently the higher prices have incentivized property owners to add to the existing short-term rental stock.  In San Diego this can be seen in the increase of short-term rentals around Comic-Con.  Interestingly, as reported by Voice of San Diego, “It turns out getting Comic-Con to stay in town for 2017 and 2018 is more about discounted hotel rooms than the size of San Diego’s Convention Center.”  Spending millions of dollars to expand or renovate the Convention Center gets much press and attention when perhaps we could secure the future of Comic-Con by simply encouraging local homeowners to house attendees or take a full paid vacation to Hawaii for the weekend.
An Airbnb listing in Barrio Logan.
An Airbnb listing in Barrio Logan.
  • Short-term rentals keep more money in local pockets. Per the same Economist article, “more room rentals should also mean that more money flows directly to residents every time small cities stage a tourist-magnet event. (Airbnb passes on around 85% of guests’ total payments to hosts, whereas hotels spend just 30-35% on labour.)”  The NUSIPR study put the total rental revenue to property owners at $110M and the total economic impact, including government tax receipts, restaurant spending, etc. at $285M.  If spread evenly across the total number of short-term rentals that means an economic impact of $46,599 per short-term rental property in San Diego, with $17,985 going to the property owner in direct rental payments.
  • San Diego is an expensive place to live. This is due to many factors and not a new phenomenon.  For example, in the Morena Boulevard area a recent plan to add units (read: increase population density in a manner consistent with housing patterns in an urban portion of a major city rather than suburban land use) would have added 4,800 units to a blighted area near I-5.  It was widely panned by local residents and scrapped.  San Diego does not have to build more housing at all, but if we do not it is not logical or reasonable to think that housing prices will not increase.  San Diego is a very desirable place to live and priced at a discount to other California hubs like San Francisco.  Static housing stock and increased demand and/or population will yield increasing housing prices and rent costs.  Short-term rentals with a total of 6,116 units in the city pale in comparison to the anti-build / anti-growth / anti-height / anti-density sentiment common in many areas of the city.
  • Relative to income levels, the costs of rent in San Diego have fluctuated both up and down in recent years.  Per an October 2015 article in the Union-Tribune 55% of San Diego renters are “cost-burdened”, spending a third or more of income on rent.  As shown in the image below, this ratio is about the same as in 2007 – before Airbnb existed and prior to the rapid growth in the number of short-term rentals. The ratio has been both higher and lower than the 2015 figure in recent years.  Interesting sidenote from the article: “In Miami, 66 percent of residents are paying a third or more on rent. In Detroit, because of low incomes, more than 65 percent of renters are cost-burdened”.  Both low income levels and high housing prices can result in a high percentage of income going to rent.
    Data and image from Union-Tribune (click for full article)
    Data and image from Union-Tribune (click for full article)

    There is a finite demand for short-term rentals.  Although short-term rentals are not new in San Diego and have existed for many decades in some areas of the city – particularly beach areas like Mission Beach – the recent growth has been fueled by new techonology and trends.  Ubiquitous smart phones, social media and the internet connecting the world market, and increasing global travel are all major causes.  At the onset of a new trend growth can be explosive but will decline over time.  At some point the supply will meet, or exceed, demand.  It is hard to predict what the total demand for short-term rentals is.  Per the NUSIPR study, short-term rental room nights totaled 456,000 in 2014-15 compared to 11,300,000 total room nights for hotels and motels.  Short-term rentals were an estimated 4% of the hotel total night stays.  Perhaps this ratio could reach 10%, maybe even 25% – it’s hard to predict but seems unlikely that short-term rentals would entirely replace hotels, or even rise to an equivalent level.  My best estimate is we are relatively close to meeting demand – 5% or perhaps 10% of total hotel nights would be my estimate.  This is based on discussions with other short-term rental owners / hosts and I have not found a study or formal estimate of this.  Especially over the past few months I’ve spoken to many hosts / owners that have seen a large drop in occupancy and/or reduced nightly rates.  This is partly due to the slower winter season but likely also due to increased competition as the number of short-term rental units have increased.  Given the low vacancy rate and rising rent levels for rental units in San Diego and the reduced labor hours, taxes, and hassle to operate a long-term rental vs. a short-term rental I would not be surprised to see some short-term rentals being converted to long-term rentals.  It may not be a trend today, but whenever the demand is met (or approached) each unit entering the short-term rental pool will reduce the revenue per unit for the short-term rental market.

The future for short-term rentals in San Diego is cloudy and could go any number of ways – we’ll have to wait and see.  To date, short-term rentals have provided a meaningful economic opportunity for many property owners in San Diego.  For the reasons above and many others, I hope to see this opportunity continued.

At the same time, non-economic factors remain important and seem the cause of the bulk of the disagreements between those supporting and opposing short-term rentals.  The OB Rag has written most about this topic and I think best presents the major issue dividing people – that of community character.  Community character is hard to define and it is difficult to measure social impacts or make comparative examples.  That doesn’t make it unimportant – the “feel”, personality, or culture of a place is often the most enduring and compelling attribute it can possess.  I’m sure that qualitative factors will continue to play an important role and I hope the prominent one.  Economically and quantitively I see short-term rentals as very much to the good of individuals (hosts and guests / owners and customers) and the region at large.  The impact of short-term rentals on our communities is less clear and should be well considered.

Temescal Creek – 374 Acres Of Beautiful San Diego Back Country

I was very happy to be included in an invitation to view and explore a new acquisition by the San Diego River Park Foundation just outside of Julian, California on Saturday, December 5.  Below are a number of photos of the 374 acres that the Foundation is in the process of buying from the current owners.  This acreage surrounds Temescal Creek, a coldwater creek that is part of the San Diego River watershed.  This acquisition will ensure the land is preserved for future generations and remains a wildlife corridor preserve for mountain lions, deer, turkey, hawks, and many other animals.  Executive Director Rob Hutsel noted that the vision is for this space to be open to the public and to host youth for overnight trips to explore and participate in science-focused lessons in nature.

Each September I organize a weekend bicycle ride, Ride For The River Park, from Ocean Beach to Julian and back to promote and support the idea of a continuous path for the entirety of the San Diego River.  2016 will be the 5th year for the event and if you’d like to join we’d love to have you.  My goal is to see this path be a reality by the 10th year of the event – by September of 2021.  The idea and the work is not mine, it is that of the River Park Foundation, I simply want to support and spur on the work they are doing.  At the event on Saturday, a mile marker post was debuted showing the start / end of the San Diego River Trail.  What a beautiful sight to see.

2015-12-05 11.52.16
Much work to be done, but a goal to strive towards.

In the same vein of supporting the vision of a full River Trail, 2015 is the first year for which I am donating 1% of my Airbnb income to charitable causes.  For this year that money is going to the San Diego River Park Foundation.  I got the idea from the 1% For the Planet movement, in which “Members donate at least 1% of sales to nonprofit partners we’ve vetted for participation in the 1% for the Planet network.”  I’m just a single person so after further research it doesn’t seem the 1% For the Planet program is a good fit for my giving.

Instead, I’m working with Airbnb for a roll-out to San Diego of their Charity Donation Tool which currently allows hosts in Portland to opt-in to donate a portion of their revenue to a local charity.  I’m hopeful that this will soon be an option for hosts in San Diego to automatically and regularly support great local charities like the River Park Foundation.  If you’re a host in San Diego and would like to help make this a reality please contact me.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll consider a voluntarily donation to the charity of your choice from your Airbnb (or VRBO or other platform) earnings.

The acreage surrounding Temescal Creek features many mature oaks, ravines, and all sorts of native plants thriving.  A beautiful, peaceful place to enjoy and savor the natural splendor of San Diego and a reminder that without support it will not endure.  It takes the efforts of many to protect and preserve our natural bounty.

[The Temescal Creek property is located at 5030 Eagle Peak Road, Julian, CA 92036 but is not currently open to the public.]

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San Diego – Embracing Refugees in Past, Present, and Future

San Diego County has been a home to refugees from all over the globe for many years.  In recent years the region has likely taken in more refugees than any other region in the United States. 


Refugee – a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.


Per the San Diego Union-Tribune, “this region gets approximately 3,000 new refugees each year, with a striking majority hailing from restive Iraq.”  In fiscal year 2009 the county took in 4,168 which has declined to 1,610 in fiscal year 2015 – I believe the 3,000 in the article is the average for the period 2009-2015.  Per the same article the refugees that have settled in San Diego and formed a community here over the past 45 years have included those from:

  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Sudan
  • Ethiopia
  • Eritrea
  • Syria
  • Iraq

Per the American Immigration Council since fiscal year 2007 the following states have taken in the highest number of refugees:

  1. California – 25,716
  2. Michigan – 18,047
  3. Texas – 12,956
  4. Arizona – 7,447

Based on these sources San Diego has taken in more refugees than any other region in California and California has taken in more refugees than any other state in recent years.  I can’t find a breakdown by county or region but based on this it seems very likely that San Diego has taken in more refugees than any other area.

If you visit City Heights in San Diego you’ll find a wide variety of refugee communities, and in other areas of the city as well.  It says something about an area that takes in so many, and in which many decide to settle long-term and welcome later arrivals.  I feel pride that San Diego is a place that is desirable to live in for those fleeing persecution.

There is a heated debate currently regarding refugees from Syria and who will or will not welcome them in the United States.  I trust that San Diego, officially and socially, will continue to welcome refugees from all over the world.  San Diego is a very safe place to live – large amounts of refugees settling here for many decades have not compromised our safety.  What newly arrived refugees will do is strengthen our regional community and reaffirm that San Diego is a welcoming place to people from the world over whether refugees, visitors, investors, children, professionals, or otherwise.  In time they’ll offer a helping hand to those that follow and start families, companies, non-profits, and community organizations that reinvigorate our neighborhoods.  It’s ever been the story of the United States and one that San Diego will continue to follow.

That’s something that all San Diegans can be proud of. #SDlove

However you look at it, one world.
San Diego – open to the world.

Balboa Park Plaza de Panama – More Shade, More Seats, More People

Plaza de Panama is the central plaza in San Diego’s Balboa Park and a great place for meeting friends, reading, and enjoying children running around.  Until recently it was an ugly parking lot.  Converting parking spaces to park space was a great improvement to this area but we can do more.

sdma_and_fountain_2010_r900x493 - previous plaza - ut sandiego
Previously a parking lot, now a public plaza for people. #winning (Photo: San Diego Union-Tribune)

In the center of the plaza there is a gorgeous fountain (currently running intermittently due to drought concerns in California).  The small earth area surrounding the fountain has been replanted many, many times over the past year.  The plantings have primarily been small flowers – not drought tolerant, not native.  The planting area also precludes visitors from sitting near or on the fountain which would be a natural setting to relax, especially if the fountain was tree shaded.  I propose to improve the fountain area and Plaza de Panama in general by adding trees to surround the fountain to provide shade for people sitting and a focal point for the plaza.

sd flag
San Diego flag
spain flag
Spain flag

 

 

 

 

 

Surrounding the fountain eight beautiful trees would shade those enjoying the plaza and echo the colors of San Diego and Spain – red and yellow.  This shows civic pride and affirms the Spanish heritage of the park and many of the building structures which were built in Spanish-Renaissance style and feature Spanish names.

At each of the cardinal directions, Autralian Flame Trees would be planted.  These trees would grow up to 60 feet tall but have a root structure that is well suited for street curbs or other small spaces.  Flame trees also require little to moderate water once established and love full sun and heat which is present at Plaza de Paname.

flame tree

Between the cardinal point Flame trees Tipu trees will provide the yellow prominent in both flags.  Tipu trees grow 25-40 feet tall so would be a lower level canopy beneath the taller Flame trees.  Tipu trees also have a root structure that would be appropriate for a small space planting as is the case here.

tipu tree

How does this vision become reality?

  1. Feedback from landscape architects regarding size, type, coloration, cost, and other considerations
  2. Approval from Balboa Park / City of San Diego Parks & Recreation to donate trees and labor to Balboa Park for beautification of Plaza de Panama
  3. Funding for purchases and volunteers for planting from community. Total cost is estimated at $5,000.  I selected 36 inch box trees, which would likely be the largest planting size advisable.  Flame trees would be $500 each and Tipu trees run $425 each at that size.  This estimate includes some money for mulch, soil, and nutrients but does not include labor which is hoped to be provided by volunteers.  If labor is hired the cost would likely rise to around $10,000.
  4. Select date for delivery of trees and planting.
  5. Install trees, water, enjoy shade which will increase with each year to come

Thoughts on this idea? Let me know in the comments or via email.  Cheers!

San Diego County Spends $36M To Give Employees Free Parking

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors recently cut the ribbon to officially open a new $36,000,000 parking garage at Cedar and Kettner in Little Italy.  The garage has 640 spaces, built at a cost of $56,250 per space.  The garage will primarily be used for free parking for county employees and will also be available for paid public parking use on nights and weekends.

Here’s a laudatory video from the ribbon-cutting:

Supervisor Diane Jacobs noted “this truly is the best looking parking garage in the entire region and the most needed parking garage”.  The “stalls are a little wider than you’ll find in most commercial parking structures”.

The Little Italy neighborhood is home to many of San Diego’s most highly regarded restaurants including Bracero, Buon Appetito, Monello, Ironside, Davanti Enoteca, Juniper and Ivy, and many others.  Most of the restaurants have little, or zero, private parking provided.  The area has also seen tremendous growth in the number of residential units in recent years.  The result has been a thriving neighborhood that is among the most vibrant places in the entire county.  A large part of the enjoyment of Little Italy stems from the many people and attractive buildings present – I doubt India Street would be improved by the addition of a massive parking garage.  In recent years the need for parking of unused vehicles has been further reduced due to the explosive growth of taxi-hailing apps like Lyft and Uber.

The new county parking garage is the second portion of the “Waterfront Park project” that created a 12-acre park across Harbor Drive from San Diego Bay, replacing 8 acres of surface level parking lots adjacent the County Administration Building.  That project cost $49.4 million dollars after an initial project cost estimate of $44.2M with $19.7M for building the park, $18.5M for building underground parking, and $6M for design and administration costs.

In total, between the two projects $54.5M was spent on moving parking spaces and $18.5M was spent on the actual park that people enjoy.  This is excluding the $5.2M of difference from the original estimate to the actual construction costs and the $6M of design and administration costs.  Those cost breakdowns yield a result of 75% of funds used to move spots for empty cars and 25% of funds used to build a park.  For purposes of this article let’s assume the admin and cost over-run figures split on the same lines.  The vast majority of the funds used for these joint projects was for moving parking spaces, not for building a park.

locations
This is how far the parking spots moved, for more than $50 million.
before pic
Here is the before photo – this is how San Diego uses prime bayfront real estate. Shake your head.

This project was sold as a project to build a great park – it would seem fitting if most of the funds were actually used to build a great park.  Instead we spent 75% of the funds to relocate parking spaces, not creating new spaces but moving existing parking spaces.  251 spaces moved approximately 15 feet, they were undergrounded in the same location as the previous surface level lots.

To boot, the county demolished an historic building in Little Italy to make room for the large new parking garage.  The Star Builders Supply Company building was built in 1911 and added to the county list of historic buildings in 1991.  County supervisors unanimously voted to demolish the building.  It’s now gone but you can enjoy the below video of the beautiful piece of San Diego history that has now been erased like so many others.

From the total 891 parking spots that were moved, 71.8% were moved about 1-2 blocks east from their previous location.  28.2% were moved about 15 feet underground.  To accomplish this feat, county taxpayers spent $54.5 million dollars.  As enjoyable as the the new park is and a huge improvement to the ugly surface parking lots perhaps it would have been better to save that money or spend it on a better use.  To move so many parked cars such a small distance seems a pyrrhic victory.  A small consolation might be that the total number of parking spots went from 1,200 in the surface lots to 891 in the new underground and multi-level parking garages, a net reduction of 25.75%.  We could have spent even more money if we moved all of them!  A legitimate question would be if the previous 1,200 spots or the new 891 spots are actually needed or not. But as so often happens when it comes to accommodating automobiles, too much is never enough and no cost is too high.  More lanes on I-5 for $6 billion? Of course!  More parking lots in Balboa Park? Of course!  Analysis of the actual demand and cost comes far behind the populist appeal of free goodies for motor vehicles.  The environmental impacts of our car culture is even further down the priority list than our dollars.

Enjoy the Waterfront Park (aka Parking Lot Relocation Park); it’s a great place.  Building beautiful things is something a great city does.  I’m proud that San Diego built it.  In total, though, this project was a massive use of taxpayer dollars to move parking spots a small distance – not to build a great public park.  They are distinct items and taxpayers did not need to spend tens of millions to provide a tax-free employment perk that most employees, government-employed or not, do not enjoy.  We also did not need to use prime real estate to do so.  Taxpayers must demand better stewardship of public funds and assets.

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Many thanks to Streetsblog, San Diego Free Press, Bike San Diego, and Voice of San Diego Morning Report for sharing this article!

Letter to Editor – Short-Term Rentals

Below is a letter to the editor I wrote to the San Diego Union-Tribune that was published on October 14, 2015.  The short-term rental debate continues in San Diego and the 125 word limit forces one to choose a specific point to make.  The one I address below is that short-term rentals are bringing many millions of dollars into San Diego and those monies are broadly distributed to property owners across the city (and to businesses across the city as well).  I do not doubt that there are some issues caused by short-term rental tenants, as there are issues caused by tenants of all sorts – long-term renters, short-term renters, property owners, vagrants, etc.

We should not lose sight of the enormous economic opportunity that short-term rentals present for San Diego, and San Diegans, while discussing how to address problems created and other factors.


 

Short-Term Rentals Present Opportunity for San Diegans

Regarding “Short-term rentals pay $16.4M in taxes” (Oct. 8): The expanding tourism sector of short-term rental properties creates more than a quarter of a billion dollars of economic impact in the City of San Diego – $285 million – per a study released last week by the National University System Institute for Policy Research.  The study’s author, Erik Bruvold also notes this is a conservative estimate and that additional growth is expected in future.  This large, positive economic impact in a city well-known for tourism should not be banned, as some are calling for, in response to complaints of noise, trash, and other negative impacts.  Millions of dollars for San Diegans is a good thing, and provides funds for code enforcement and public benefits like parks.

John Anderson

North Park

Rip Current Brewing is one of the many local businesses my guests frequent. Congrats to Rip Current on recent award of "Best Very Small Brewery"!
Rip Current Brewing is one of the many local businesses my guests frequent. Congrats to Rip Current on recent award of “Best Very Small Brewery”! at the Great American Beer Festival!

Thinking About Housing Affordability

San Diego real estate is pretty expensive – the median home price in September 2015 was $460,000.  There are many places where real estate is more expensive – New York and San Francisco are prominent examples. Close to San Diego, in September 2015 neighboring Orange County had a median price of $615,000 (33.7% higher) and Los Angeles had a median price of $490,000 (6.5% higher).  The cost of housing in San Diego is a common topic of conversation.  I’ve been thinking about housing affordability and just wanted to jot down my thoughts on the basic causes as I think and read more about the subject.

There are two primary factors at play in pricing an item – supply and demand.  For housing this basically means:

  1. Supply – number of housing units
  2. Demand – number of people (and dollars they have)

To lower the price / value for housing either supply needs to increase or demand (population and dollars) needs to decrease.  There are a variety of ways to impact either of these

Increase supply

  • Increase number of units – build more housing (homes, condos, apartments, etc.)
  • Increase number of people per unit – Increasing the amount of persons per unit (more per room or more per total unit) makes more units available
  • Small units – Replace large units with smaller units to increase overall supply.  Example would be to replace one 3 bedroom home with 4 townhomes.
  • Build higher – At surface level, the square footage can be used only once.  Building upwards allows the same amount of land to support more units.
  • Build farther out (sprawl) – Expand the footprint of the developed area of the town / county to increase the amount of units.
  • Convert land to residential use – Repurpose commercial land, roadways, agricultural land, etc. to residential use.  Increasing the land available for residential use supports creation of more units.
  • Add units not on land – Utilize water (bay, ocean) to add housing units.

Decrease demand

  • Decrease desirability – Reduction in safety, outdoor amenities, pollution levels, etc. decreases demand as people will be less likely to elect to live in unsafe or undesirable location.
  • Decrease purchasing power – A downturn in the economy or weakness in job market will reduce the amount of money available for property purchases or rent, bringing down the price level.
  • Decrease population – Probably not feasible in a variety of ways but could indirectly be impacted by stopping creation of new units (which would counteract impact by reducing supply)
  • Increase other costs – An increase in the cost of other items – electricity, food, taxes, etc. – would leave less money available for housing, potentially reducing demand
  • Reduce buyer pool – Limit pool of parties that can purchase property.  Could add surcharges or taxes to non-owner occupied properties or potentially exclude buyers unless they plan to occupy.

I’ll likely add to this but before getting into the more intricate issues involved with housing and property cost I wanted to lay out thoughts on the underlying basics.  Have some thoughts to add? I’d love to hear them.

Many people desire to live by the ocean. Get rid of the ocean, reduce demand.
Many people desire to live by the ocean. Get rid of the ocean, reduce demand.

San Diego is a Fantastic Place to Live – 10 Reasons Why

This weekend I saw a query on Twitter from Farhad Manjoo, a technology farhad querywriter for the New York Times.

So I decided to put together a rough list of 10 great things about San Diego.  Here it is.  Have other reasons why San Diego is a great place to live? Shout it out in the comments.  #SDlove

1. San Diego is a beautiful place.  There are beaches, ocean cliffs, mountains, deserts, and hiking trails throughout the city and county.  Per the USDA, which used criteria like “mild, sunny winters, temperate summers, low humidity, topographic variation, and access to a body of water” to evaluate the natural beauty of every county in the continental U.S. San Diego County ranked 8th.  The only other county with a major city in the top 10 was Los Angeles, at 7th.

natural beauty counties map

Pretty map.

2. San Diego-Tijuana is the biggest border metro area in the United States.  The border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana is the busiest land crossing in the world, with an estimated 300,000 crossings per day – over 100 million per year.  Tijuana has a population of about 2 million, creating a cross-border metro area of 5 million.  The impact of Mexican influence be be found strongly throughout San Diego, from the population and family ties to food and language influences.

3. Traffic is very easy and so is parking.  A recent study put San Diego last among the 15 biggest U.S. metro areas for traffic congestion, as measured by hours spent in traffic.  If you’re looking for a spot to park your car the parking spots are likely to be ample and free, whether you’re going to the beach, Balboa Park, one of the many great neighborhoods, or pretty much anywhere.  With the gorgeous weather you should really be biking or walking, but if you are in a car you needn’t worry about traffic.

4. You probably won’t get murdered.  San Diego has the lowest murder rate of the 10 largest U.S. cities, for the fourth consecutive year.  Compared to the most murderous U.S. large city, Philadelphia, San Diego has 15% the rate of murders.

top 10 murder rate

San Diego Union-Tribune graphic (click for link)

5. San Diego has great weather.  You’ve heard it before, you’ll hear it again, and it’s true.  Not much else to say about the weather other than temperate days with light breezes do not get old over time.  Kelly Norton’s sweet map breaks down weather in the U.S. by mean temperature and precipitation and SD is slightly edged out by LA for the top spot.  We’ll take it.

6. The best beer scene in the world. There are currently 115 breweries in San Diego County putting out award-winning beers.  Among them are standouts like Lost Abbey, Stone, Alpine, Modern Times, Port Brewing, Alesmith and many others.  At last week’s Great American Beer Festival San Diego brewers took home 19 medals, about 7% of the total awarded.  There’s a lot of personal opinion involved in naming a “best” city for beer – Portland, Munich, Seattle, and many others could lay claim to the name also.  We don’t want to argue and will happily raise a pint and share the title with other great beer cities. San Diego is certainly in the conversation for the top spot and it’s fun to check out the great stuff on tap around town.

sanders tap keg
Former Mayor Jerry Sanders taps a keg of Karl Strauss beer. #rawk

7. Excellent surfing.  The entire coastline of San Diego is free and open to the public (as it is in the whole of California).  You’ll find a wide range of surfing breaks and good swell exposure.

ocean experience surfing

Ocean Experience offers surfing lessons in Ocean Beach

8. San Diego is sexy.  According to Victoria’s Secret polling, San Diego is the sexiest city in the U.S.  Doesn’t sound like a bad thing.

9. There are an amazing amounts of plants and animals in San Diego.  Per the Nature Conservancy, San Diego is “the most biologically rich county in the continental U.S.”  The county also is home to “approximately 200 imperiled plants and animals—more than in any other county in the nation”.

Enjoy the hike, enjoy the view, preserve it for the future. (planmygetaway.com)

Don’t buy it? No problem.  Just don’t say you weren’t informed that San Diego is a great place to live.

[Where’s number 10? I’m leaving that up to everyone else.  Drop suggestions in comments and I’ll add the best one to the post in the final spot.]

Misty (Cowles) Mountain Climb

Note: I’m adding some old posts from other sites here over time. This post is from April 24, 2015. Enjoy!

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Cowles Mountain is a classic San Diego hike.  It’s the highest point in the city limits at 1,594 feet, and is popular every day (and many nights) of the year.  Near to San Diego State University and a number of neighborhoods as well as within close distance to much of the city it’s a great, moderate difficulty hike.  The hiking trails are surrounded by native scrub and there is little shade so it’s typically a hot and somewhat dusty climb with views from the Pacific Ocean to Mexico and into the East County reaches of San Diego County.

Today was a much different story.  Heavy cloud cover and fog along with a light drizzle accompanied our upward hike before clearing once we reached the top.  From the summit there was no view to be had, just a ghostly white backdrop.  We had a couple of visitors from Seattle with us, so perhaps for them it wasn’t so atypical but for the San Diegans on the trip it was a unique experience.

Have a great weekend and cross your fingers for more mist – and rain!

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Neighbors Lying About Neighbors – The STR Debate Continues

Below is a Facebook post from an Airbnb host that was shared last night after the Community Planners Committee meeting on the issue of short-term rentals.  I plan to meet with the commenter to get additional details but see little reason to doubt the story below given the amount of details included and don’t see a reason for that person to lie.

I wanted to share this today because it seems that in the debate in San Diego there is much scorn being placed on those hosting via platforms like Airbnb and VRBO.  Few are questioning the validity of complaints about noise, trash, and parties – they are taken at word.  The few times I’ve had to call the police or a towing company they have arrived and addressed the issue promptly and completely.  I find it hard to believe that in the wealthier parts of town (where many of the complaints and anti-STR groups are centered) this would not be the case.

In the below instance you can see the power that this default trust gives to complainants.  I’ve removed specific names from the below post but everything else is verbatim from the host being accused of bad behavior.

I need to know who to write to in order to speak my voice. Three of the speakers lied. I have proof because I’m the big corporation with a water park in my back yard. I’m a mom of 3 whose son has brain cancer so make a wish gave him his wish to have a small waterslide added to the pool already there and I’m called a water park. I rented it out for the summer to pay bills and they knew that but adopted the “not in my neighborhood” signs, harassed me and my family (yes I was the one who broke down in tears talking about it at the PB mtg). All before a single guest arrived. C. harassed every renter and at 2pm in the afternoon when a family came out back and she saw they were not white she left voicemails which I kept with her displeasure. I could go on and on about her C. C. who said he is native and moved here from Texas a few years ago and doesn’t live on the street,etc. Their complaints that they put in writing was a baby cried and one renter dared to have food delivered. I have proof all my renters were families and not parties. I drove by day and night just to make sure. Sorry I had to get that out.

There remains much to be discussed in the STR debate in San Diego but hopefully we can step away from name calling and outright falsities to impugn those we disagree with.