I love trees. I love huge free trees even more.

I love plants.  Trees, shrubs, and especially in San Diego native species like manzanita, oak, sage, and pine.  I am frequently in the yard trying to find more 2015-06-06 08.37.39space to add additional plants or replacing ones that have died.  (My approach to plants is mostly trial-and-error and learning as I go about what thrives in San Diego so there have been some poorly picked casualties along the way.)

However, plants cost money – especially big trees.  Recently I’ve recently reading a lot of books and articles about personal finance and philosophy like the Mr. Money Mustache website and the book Early Retirement Extreme.  These readings, and others like them, are focused on thinking about priorities and lifestyle, not penny-pinching though the names may suggest otherwise.  In regard to my quest for trees for my property it led me to think about other methods than buying trees at a nursery to get some nice specimens.

I started with calling a number of nurseries to comparison shop and get an idea of the price for 3 good-sized trees (24 inch planting box or larger).  After calling around the best price I could find was $680 for 2 Palo Verde trees and one New Zealand Christmas tree.  That’s a good amount of money but plants are something I feel ok spending money on since you can’t make up the years it takes to establish a tree.

I talked about making this purchase with my wife and we decided to wait a couple of months and think about it.  As with many purchases, delaying for a bit is a good way to step back and contemplate to see if it’s really a legitimate desire/need or just a short-term itch wanting to be scratched.

During the “waiting period” I decided to search on Craigslist for free trees since I had gotten some plants and trees on the site in the past.  In San Diego most of the free trees are palms which I wasn’t interested in but a quick search for “tree” or “trees” in the morning took less than two minutes and I thought worth doing for a week or two to see if something more attractive might appear.

Was I in luck!  In less than a week I had found some large, gorgeous trees – an Australian Flame tree and a few African Sumac trees that were 100% free and within 10 miles of my house.  Since I care for two young kids most days, I scheduled a Saturday morning to go get them.  I arrived to the first tree, in Coronado, with a spade and my mini-van.  It was advertised as 12-15 feet but was easily 20 feet tall.  Undeterred, I spent the next two hours digging out the root ball and calling for a UHaul truck and a friend to help me carry the tree.

I headed home after the tree was out of the ground for lunch, the UHaul, and a good and willing friend.  We returned and loaded up the tree in short order then dropped it off at my house before heading to East Village for the other two2015-06-06 14.31.43
trees which were thankfully already in boxes.  24 inch boxes were advertised but this ad overdelivered as well and we found three 36 inch boxes awaiting us, along with two 60 inch boxes.  The three remaining trees are in the Pocket Park at J Street and 13th behind Mission if anyone is interested.

We proceeded to use a dolly, which broke, to move the trees into the UHaul.  With the dolly broken we slowly shimmied the trees up the ramp and then headed home.

2015-06-06 17.23.09
Flame Tree planted in yard – beautiful

That evening and the next day I dug 3 large holes – 36 inches cubed – to fit the trees.  All told, I spent about 12 solid hours digging and moving plus about 6 hours of time from my friend and wife.  18 hours plus a total of $92 ($76 for the UHaul rental and $16 for celebration beers) for three amazing trees.  My original budget was $680 so this seemed like a great deal.  Then I priced the trees that I did get – $450 per for the Sumacs and $1150 or likely more for the Flame.  Awesome!  Not only had I saved 86% from my original budget but I’d received far larger and more valuable trees as well.  Based on the nursery prices, I’d paid 4.48% of the value of the trees I ended up with.  Better yet, I’d potentially saved 3 gorgeous trees that may have ended up in the trash.  Someone else may have taken the trees, but if not they likely would have been chopped down.

If you’re looking to add some trees to your yard, take a look at Craigslist and save some major money.  It’s also a fantastic place to get free or discounted furniture and other goods.  (And also a great way to get rid of items you don’t need anymore.)

If you live in San Diego you can even get free street trees that come planted for you!  It’s a great program and you can even apply online.  I received a Hong Kong Orchid tree under this program that has done great and has beautiful flowers.

Own Property in San Diego? Get a Free Street Tree!

 

The current drought in California (or possibly a reversion to the long-term mean of precipitation in the state) has lots of people removing grass, planting native or other low-water plants, and rethinking what a yard should look like.  Adding a tree to your yard can provide shade, lower overall water use, and provide food and shelter for birds, insects, and other animals.  The City of San Diego even has a program that provides free street trees in the public right of way (the first 10 feet from the curb) on your property.   Below is a re-post of my experience with this program and how you can get a free tree(s) too.  Green your neighborhood, save water, and improve our region.

A recent pathway planting of sages, milkweed, fuschia, and verbena.
A recent pathway planting of sages, milkweed, fuschia, and verbena.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Back in April 2013 I wrote about a program ran by the Urban Corps of San Diego that plants free trees in front yards for property owners in San Diego.  At the time I was living in an apartment and unable to partake of the green goodness but have since moved into a house – I can vote now! – and one of the first things I did upon moving in was contact the Urban Corps to get as many free trees as possible.

My yard already had a number of trees, all palms unfortunately, so although I applied for “as many as possible” on the application form I was only able to get one tree planted in my yard.  Yes, that is actually an option on the application form.  I applied for my tree on May 8th and it was planted, complete with support posts, on July 19th.  The Urban Corps team evaluated my yard, marked the appropriate spot for the tree, called to check for utilities, then brought the tree (approximately 7.5 feet tall), dug the hole, and planted it.  My cost: zero.  Work required on my part: none.  My responsibility: to water the tree occasionally.  Sounds like a good deal to me.

The tree added to my yard is a Hong Kong Orchid (Bauhinia purpurea).  Per the City of San Diego Street Tree Selection Guide this is a small canopy form tree that grows to a 15′ – 25′ spread.  It is deciduous and flowering as well.  They are relatively common along streets in San Diego and memorable for the large purple blooms they produce.  Although I would have preferred to have a native, drought-tolerant plant any tree is better than no tree.  If I had it over again I would make sure to note my preference for native trees on my application form when submitting since I didn’t have any contact with Urban Corps after submitting my application until the tree was in the ground.

Currently the Urban Forestry program of the Urban Corps is only open to City of San Diego residents so readers in La Mesa are out of luck for the time being.  But for anyone owning a property from Barrio Logan to Rancho Bernardo or Pacific Beach you most likely qualify.  The application is very simple and takes less than 2 minutes to complete.

Many thanks to the City of San Diego for sponsoring this wonderful program and to Urban Corps of San Diego for the effort and execution.  Two months after planting my tree is doing great and I’m looking forward to enjoying the shade and beauty for many, many years to come.  I invite other San Diegans to take advantage of this program and help to make our city better and healthier one tree at a time.  All it takes is two minutes of your time.

Link to application: http://www.urbancorpssd.org/FreeTree.pdf

Urban Corps on the scene!
Urban Corps on the scene!
Preparing the planting hole
Preparing the planting hole
A job well done!
A job well done!

SANDAG Bicycle Corridors – Finished Before They Even Started

Two and a half years ago SANDAG announced $200 million for bike projects to create a regional network.  The first of these projects is a $40 million project in Uptown.  It would create a critical connection both East to West and North to South in the heart of San Diego’s most densely populated neighborhoods.

University Avenue at Park Blvd. Clearly our streets are too small for bike lanes.
University Avenue at Park Blvd. Clearly our streets are too small for bike lanes. And how would bikes fit with so many cars?

Since the original announcement SANDAG has repeatedly trumpeted these funds as a sign of commitment to healthy transport in the form of bicycles.  During the time since Uptown was selected for the first SANDAG bicycle project what has changed in the area?    Population, businesses, traffic, and roadways all remain the same.  There remain only two real options for an East to West connection – University and Washington.

What has changed in that period is the will of SANDAG and the Transportation Committee to support and implement real bicycle infrastructure.  SANDAG is now taking unilateral action, walking back any commitment to bicycles for this corridor and setting a poor precedent for the future.  Worse yet is the toxic effect this will have on the many, many San Diegans that spent thousands of hours attending the public forums to give input and show support for this improvement in Uptown only to be trumped by back-room dealings hidden from the public eye that gutted the project in recent months.

We need safe streets today.  There are too many deaths, too many injuries, and too little justice (or even simple apologies) to those left dead or injured.

We are a real, vibrant, beautiful city – not a collection of suburbs.  We need to behave as such.

SANDAG is doubling down on the failed policies of 50 years of planning and building roadways in our region.  More and wider roads, more cars, more congestion.  Less open space, weaker communities, a weaker economy for both households and government, and more deaths and negative health impacts.  This is the most recent example of a car first-last-and-only approach to transportation.

San Diego has many natural advantages that blunt the effects of these poor policies.  These will not last forever.  Cities such as Vancouver, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Paris, London, Stockholm, and many others showcase the real, tangible benefits derived from creating a livable and safe streetscape and city.

We need a firm, meaningful commitment to healthy, safe, and responsible transport.  Cars and bicycles are not equivalent transport.  Bicycles are better for safety, health, wealth, and should be put at a higher priority than cars.  Chicago Department of Transportation does exactly this by using the following order of priority for transportation:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Public Transportation
  3. Bicycles
  4. Private Automobiles
ped - chi
Chicago gets it right.

San Diego and SANDAG should take a page from this leading example and do the same, backed up by the allocation of funding and policies.  The opposite is the reality.

The lion’s share of all money goes to cars and roadways for cars while all other modes are made to beg for scraps or sue to compel what should be the course being set by our own leaders.  We need to create a true network for bikes, starting with University Avenue.  It will be a major step forward to improve our city and the individual well-being of our citizens.

If SANDAG is unable to implement the Uptown bicycle corridor with real, safe bicycle infrastructure throughout this $40 million should be moved to a different neighborhood where such a project can be realized.  If you can’t walk the walk, stop talking the talk.  Greenwashing is not a substitute for responsible, forward-thinking action.

More than two and a half years have passed since $200 million was promised for bike projects by SANDAG.  77 miles of bikeways in 42 projects was promised to be finished within ten years.    Where do we stand today?  Without a single foot of paint striped and the first project gutted and providing a maximum of three blocks of protected bike lanes.  A poor omen for the future projects, unless the desire to see a bicycle network was not genuine in the first place.  Hopefully the remaining projects will see real, on-the-ground results in quick order.  I would not hold my breath.

Why I Donate Monthly to BikeSD

I am writing to you today to ask you to join me in the fight to make San Diego a world-class bicycling city by pledging to make a monthly donation BikeSD.  Give today.

anderson family photo - bay
My family and I at San Diego Bay

BikeSD is a bicycle advocacy organization with the vision to “transform San Diego into the world’s best city for bicycling”.  Although a young organization in its third year of existence this vision has already been pushed from complete fantasy to “probably not going to happen”.  Every day this push continues and the vision comes closer to reality.  This ongoing progress is due to the efforts of the organization and the many, many members, volunteers, friends, and supporters working together each day.

I first became familiar with BikeSD a few years ago when I began regularly attending meetings relating to SANDAG bike corridor projects.  I quickly became reliant on the BikeSD TwitterFacebook, and website for news of meetings I could not attend.  The sources, especially Twitter, were pretty much the only place to get a true picture of what was going on and being said for those not present.  At the meetings I was present for it was very clear to me who the voices in the room that I supported most belonged to – those of BikeSD volunteers and members.  This is the biggest reason I contribute monthly to BikeSD, to ensure my opinion has a voice at those meetings I can’t attend personally, and to increase the reach of the voice of the organization.  If you look around the city today and compare to five years ago the difference in the policies, infrastructure, and discussion around bicycling is starkly different.  The major change in that time period?  The arrival of BikeSD as a powerful force for the interest of bicycle riders of all experience and ability.

Until this year, BikeSD was solely a volunteer organization.  All the time and efforts put forth were done by people that care about San Diego and were willing to devote significant time to make this a better, safer place to live.  This year the organization is increasing the capacity to create positive change and that requires dollars.  Recently the first part-time hire for BikeSD was made – Kyle Carscaden receives a small monthly payment and is working to partner with businesses to provide secure, attractive bicycle parking for customers and employees.  Samantha Ollinger, Executive Director, is now receiving a small monthly stipend for her time.  We need to increase the ability to support these people, hire additional resources, and pay for physical materials and campaigns.  You can help and ensure that the ability of BikeSD to make San Diego great is amplified and safer streets become a reality.

BikeSD is doing great work in San Diego and though many have helped and supported the organization, that has largely been due to the efforts and sacrifices of one person – Samantha Ollinger.  Any city in the country would be lucky to have such a capable individual leading the push for safer streets and a healthier, happier city.  The impact that Sam has had on the city is hard to overstate and shows how important it is to support her voice, and add more voices, with enhanced resources for advocacy.  We need to support Sam and enable her to continue working full-time on these important issues.  Her leadership and rational, uncompromising approach to building a better city has pushed the entire conversation in San Diego in a meaningful way.  We need more of this, and more voices joining her.

I hope you’ll join me and support BikeSD Outreach* on a monthly basis.  Whether $5 or $500, you will help to make San Diego a better place to live for all.  Thank you.

[This post originally appeared on the BikeSD blog.]

bikeSD logo

* Contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law

A Ban on Short-Term Rentals Is Terrible for Homeowners, And Our City

Do you own a home in San Diego? The homeownership rate for the county is around 55% so there’s a good chance you do.  The proliferation of companies in recent years tailored to improve housing efficiency and financial opportunities for home owners has led to many ways in which property can be utilized that did not previously exist.  It is changing the entire idea of what homeownership means for many.  Instead of a 30-year liability that eats up 30 – 60% of take home pay, owners are increasingly able to reduce this liability and/or have more options and flexibility in their lives.

For some, these opportunities are to rent a spare bedroom in the home they occupy to earn money.  For others, it is the opportunity to rent their home while they are on vacation – in some cases paying for the entire trip while using what would be an empty house.  Instead of renting out their home while away, some use home-swapping to explore a new part of the world.  An older couple on my block uses home-swapping about once a year – last year for a month visit to family on the East Coast and this year for a month-long visit to Italy.  These are all great options for people that elect to utilize them, and that largely benefit individual homeowners.

All of these examples do not reduce housing stock for local residents.  They also are part of systems in which homeowners have a very significant stake in making sure guests are polite, quiet, and considerate.  No one wants their home trashed or to hurt the neighborhoods they live in.  I recognize that there are outliers in which homes have been destroyed by short-term tenants.  It’s worth noting that Airbnb alone books more than 100,000 rooms per night – the horror stories that make the news comprise a very small percentage, likely less then .01% of bookings.  In the rare instances in which such issues do occur, I have yet to see an example in which Airbnb does not fully remedy the situation for the homeowner.

Platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeExchange, and others are becoming more mainstream but we are still in the very early days of these tools.  The Wall Street Journal this week highlighted how large extended families are utilizing short-term rentals to connect with far-flung relatives.  The article noted that “nearly 1 in 4 travelers has switched in the past two years to vacation-rental homes from hotels or condos”.  This growth is significant and increasing.  It represents an incredible opportunity for local economies, in particular home owners and local businesses.  Visitors now have the opportunity to stay in real, dynamic, attractive neighborhoods.

2015-05-13 17.29.03
My most recent guest enjoyed playing with my kids and even gave them books she had illustrated.

Here in San Diego locals can host visitors from all over the world to experience North Park, Little Italy, Ocean Beach, and other fantastic neighborhoods.  It gives a far superior experience for many than staying in Hotel Circle or Downtown.  The ripple effects from this for the reputation and long-term prospects for San Diego are enormous.  We used to be known for beaches, Tijuana, SeaWorld, and the Zoo.  Look at us now – world-wide recognition for the beer industry, industry leading research in science and telecommunications, and thriving neighborhoods with great restaurants and cafes opening daily.  The latter is what our guests can now experience in a realistic way and the reason so many people want to move here.  It shouts: “We’re a real city!”  Beaches and a laid-back attitude will (hopefully) always be part of the San Diego identity.  But we’re not a tourist attraction cultural backwater.  We’re a fully fledged modern American city with the full range of amenities that entails and full of passionate, intelligent, fit residents working to better our region and world – and have a great time doing it.

We can build on this momentum and put San Diego on the top of everyone’s list for places to live or visit.  It will be difficult if our approach is to bar visitors from having an authentic experience of our best neighborhoods.  That’s a good enough reason for me to think a ban on short-term rentals is a terrible idea.

On top of handicapping our ability to attract great people and showcase all the good things happening here we would also be directly harming every property owner in San Diego.  Economic winds change, personal illnesses occur, and people get older with big, empty houses.  The ability to benefit San Diegans all across the city by utilizing unused space in their own homes is an absolute win for everyone.  It can mean the difference between a foreclosure and staying in your home.  It can mean social connections for empty nesters on a fixed income.  It can mean new friendships established and a chance for proud residents to personally show guests what a great city we have.

The types of opportunities are as large as they are varied but are not assured to remain.  Carlsbad just passed a law to ban any sort of short-term rentals in much of the city.  That is a severe reduction in property rights of homeowners.  If you have four bedrooms and three are empty you are explicitly barred from hosting a guest for fewer than 30 days.  Yes, you can get a long-term roommate who will then enjoy tenant rights.  I’d guess that many that might be willing to host a couple for a weekend likely aren’t looking for a long-term housemate.  This rule also prevents homeowners for utilizing their home while on vacation, explicitly preferring to see properties sit empty rather than be used.  An empty house is an inefficient use of space, a reduction of dollars in the local economy, and can be a safety issue as empty homes are sometimes targeted for theft.  Santa Monica recently passed rules that also eliminate the ability of homeowners to rent their home while away.  Good-bye home-swapping or a paid-for vacation for property owners in that town.

Will San Diego follow the lead of Santa Monica and Carlsbad and take away from our economy and the pockets of individual home owners?  I hope not, and hope that if these sort of rules are passed here the elected officials responsible will be held accountable.  We are talking about reducing the utility and freedom that residents enjoy in their own abode.  The largest asset and most private place that we enjoy would be negatively impacted.  This is not a trivial matter, and certainly not one in which drastic action should be taken across the entire city hastily.

If you support short-term rentals in San Diego please share your voice here.  This support will be presented to the City Council.

A Request for Airbnb Visitors to San Diego

The City of San Diego is currently considering new regulations on short-term vacation rentals like Airbnb.  These regulations could potentially ban this type of property use for the entire city.  Currently the city is pursuing a case against a retired school teacher for renting out rooms  in her home via Airbnb with potential fines of up to $250,000.  There are also groups organized to push for restrictions and a ban on short-term rentals.  Nearby cities like Carlsbad and Santa Monica have recently passed very restrictive rules regarding short-term rentals and there is a real possibility San Diego could be next.

If you have enjoyed visiting San Diego using Airbnb, VRBO, or other short-term accommodation please take a moment to share your story.  I am part of a group of San Diegans that are working to preserve this opportunity for visitors and residents alike, to benefit our city socially, culturally, and economically.  If you have friends or family that have visited San Diego using a short-term rental please pass along this request to them.

Please share your voice at: http://www.strasd.org/share-your-voice

We will present all of the support for short-term rentals to the City Council in our efforts to ensure this property use remains a possibility for homeowners in San Diego.  Thank you!

A sample Airbnb property in Pacific Beach.
A sample Airbnb property in Pacific Beach

Bike to Work Day – Postponed to Friday, 5/29 (Meet Me at 28th & B!)

NOTE: Edited due to postponement of Bike to Work Day to Friday, May 29th.


Friday, 5/29, is the postponed date for Bike to Work Day in San Diego and many other places across the U.S.  (Of course, there’s no reason that every day can’t be bike to work day but that’s largely reserved for the ultra-awesome.)  I’m going to be hosting a “pit stop” on behalf of BikeSD in Golden Hill at the corner of B Street and 28th Street.  The pit stop will be open from 6 AM to 9 AM.

2015-05-13 19.25.37
Up for grabs – official T-shirt, Clif Bars, Zico coconut water, Suja juice, magazine, bike lights, and more!
BikeToWorkDay_2015_-_SD_Bean_Bar
Stop by our pit stop, get 25% off at SD Bean Bar Downtown (next to Central Library). Sweet!

You should come by and enjoy free shirts, snacks, drinks, and other goodies.  There is potential for rain in the forecast so I’m also packing extra tents you can relax under while enjoying the cool morning with other fun people.  I’ll also be tallying everyone stopping by the pit stop so help me represent and top the attendance list.  (No, I don’t think there’s a prize for that but I’m crossing my fingers for official bragging rights.)

Check out these photos for a sampling of what’s waiting for you at 28th & B on May 29th.  Even if you’re not going to work, cruise on over and hang out for a bit!  May is also “Bike Month” in San Diego and BikeSD is hosting a Bike Month Bash party on May 30th to celebrate.  If you’re not already biking this month, start today and you’ll have something to celebrate on the 30th.  Register today!

2015-05-13 19.25.45
Some quality reading material you can read while pretending to work!
2015-05-13 19.27.35
I organize the annual Bikes & Beers SD event so you can score a free sticker and glass. Exclusive to 28th & B pit stop!

Share Your Support for Airbnb and Short-Term Rentals in San Diego

If you value the existence of short-term rentals in San Diego and platforms like HomeAway, VRBO, and Airbnb please share your thoughts to ensure they remain available here.  The San Diego City Council is currently considering new rules and regulations for this type of property use which includes a potential ban, strasd-logo-w375among other possibilities.  The Short-Term Rental Alliance of San Diego (STRASD) is a grass-roots group of San Diegans that has organized to give a voice to responsible hosts here and the benefits that short-term rentals provide to the city.

The City Council Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a hearing on April 22nd attended by hundreds of San Diegans on this issue and will have another hearing on May 29th.  For many, it is not possible or difficult to attend in person and voice an opinion.  STRASD has created an online submission option you can use to add your thoughts and why you support short-term rentals here.  Whether you are a property owner, a visitor to San Diego, a local business, or anyone else that supports platforms like Airbnb your voice is important and needs to be heard!  STRASD will compile the submissions and present them to the City Council.  Please take two minutes (or more) and add your perspective.  It really makes a difference.

You can make your submission via the “Share Your Voice” link at the top right of the STRASD website, or via this direct link.  Thank you for speaking up.

The following is my submission, as an example.  Yours can be shorter or longer – the important thing is that you make a submission.  If you’re not familiar with this issue or would like to discuss I’d be happy to talk with you, just drop me an email or phone call.


I am an Airbnb host in North Park and love the platform and the opportunities our family has due to it. We bought our home two years ago, and the presence of a second legal and permitted unit on the property was the primary consideration outside of neighborhood for us. We exclusively use Airbnb when we travel and wanted the opportunity to be a host in San Diego. We are a one-income family and planned on the income from the second property to allow us to spend quality time with our young children. A ban on renting our property on a short-term basis would be a major issue for us and may cause us to sell our home and potentially leave the region as well.

It’s not all about the money though. For us and for many hosts there are many factors at play in being hosts on Airbnb. We are able to accommodate friends and family in town (no return on investment) due to the flexibility provided. We are able to help move San Diego away from solely being a car-focused place by encouraging bike use (provided), bus, etc. Many guests do not bring a car, they walk around the neighborhood and improve the conditions around parking and traffic for all. We can show off our great neighborhood of North Park and the many businesses located here. I give all of our guests great San Diego beer to help promote one of our most recognized industries. We’re also able to host parents of friends that otherwise would be miles away instead of a short walk.

During the time we’ve owned this property we’ve made many improvements to the cottage we rent out, hiring local electricians, plumbers, construction workers, and other service providers. We also pay a neighbor to clean the cottage at an hourly rate that is more than double the existing minimum wage. The positive economic impact for San Diego provided by platforms like Airbnb and VRBO is significant and on top of indirect effects like restaurant purchases and zoo tickets the dollars paid for the lodging itself benefit our local community by staying with owners that live and spend here, not hotels that take the money out of our city.

Please keep ordinary San Diegans like us that are good hosts and care about and are involved in our community in mind when contemplating any regulations or rules on short-term rentals. This is a great opportunity for many people in the city that should not be eliminated due to a very few problem locations. Thank you.

Close Florida Drive Now. Right Now.

As I recently wrote about, Balboa Park is a city treasure, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.  It is also home to many high-speed roads which greatly diminish the quality of the park, use large amounts of high-value land, and pose health dangers immediate (being crushed by a car) and long-term (developing asthma and other disease due to very poor air quality in San Diego).  It is time to eliminate the most superfluous high-speed road in Balboa Park – Florida Drive.

This year is the 100th anniversary of Balboa Park and there would be no better way to celebrate that than by returning a significant portion of the park to it’s natural state.  (Or at least we can offset the deletion of another canyon in Balboa Park by the San Diego Zoo that is currently approaching completion.)  We can expand the size of the open park space, and the quality, by closing Florida Drive to automobile traffic.  To avoid inconvenience to cars – which must be the first consideration for a conversation to even start – this would only be a closure of Florida Drive from Morley Field Drive to Zoo Place.

Area of Florida Drive to close to autos immediately
Area of Florida Drive to close to autos immediately

San Diego’s canyons are a tremendous asset for the city and residents.  They are a tiny foothold for local flora and fauna in our beautiful and bio-diverse region.  They provide an opportunity for our youth to experience the outdoors in their backyards, across the city.  They show that we value nature, heritage, and the environment.  They are well worth protecting and in this case, worth restoring.

Florida Drive mirrors Park Boulevard and a closure of this portion of Florida would have little to no impact on vehicle traffic.  It certainly would not cause back-ups.  At the same time, it would provide a peaceful setting for those enjoying the canyon and an expanded sanctuary for the snakes, lizards, birds, and other animals that call this area home.  A park should be a park, not an extended Interstate on-ramp that is a park in name only.

How to proceed:

  1. Immediately install temporary concrete bollards blocking Florida Drive to automobile traffic at the Intersection of Morley Field Drive and Zoo Place.
  2. Monitor traffic counts on adjacent roadways to determine impact on traffic flows and overall safety for a 6-month period.
  3. Remove three-quarters of Florida Drive (East side) and replant with native trees which will flourish in the natural creek setting of the canyon bed.  Convert remaining one-quarter to a two-way bike path and install a gravel running path on the West side of the pavement.
  4. Enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of a greatly improved piece of San Diego’s premier park, all done at little cost and with great benefit that will only increase in the coming years.

We can do this, and so much more to make our city better.  All we have to do is choose to do so.

Beautiful trees and shrubs with many birds are found in Florida Canyon, but loud and dangerous cars diminish the area.
Beautiful trees and shrubs with many birds are found in Florida Canyon, but loud and dangerous cars diminish the area.

[Also posted on San Diego Free Press website. And thanks to VOSD for inclusion in the 5/13 Culture Report!]

Common Ground on Airbnb in San Diego

The debate about short-term rentals, including sites like Airbnb, Flipkey, VRBO, and Craigslist continues in San Diego.  The San Diego City Council Smart Growth & Land Use Committee held a public hearing on April 22nd that was attended by hundreds and will be continued in a hearing to be held on May 29th.  To date, four council members have issued memos on the issue (click links for full memos):

San Diegans waiting to attend the April 22nd hearing
San Diegans waiting to attend the April 22nd hearing

While there are a broad number of issues that have been raised, there are also some very major points that nearly everyone agrees on.  These basic points should be the baseline for any proposed rules or regulations.  They include:

  • Everyone should pay the hotel taxes due
    • Anyone renting out a property or a part of a property is responsible for timely and full payment of the San Diego hotel taxes – for most, that is a transient occupancy tax of 10.5% and a tourism marketing district assessment of .55%. (For more details on the taxes click here.) These taxes are not being debated although the City Treasurer could do more to improve the payment system including acceptance of credit card payments, a payment profile system to save account information and history, and acceptance of zero due filings.  Additional staff for the Treasurer’s office to collect back taxes would likely pay for itself many times over in addressing current non-compliant properties.
  • Owner-occupied properties should be allowed to host guests
    • The horror stories of late-night parties, loud noise, and heaps of trash no doubt reflect reality in some instances.  These types of issues are far more likely to occur in a non-owner occupied property.  I have heard very few people that want to prevent a widower from renting a room in their house, or a young couple trying to pay bills renting a spare bedroom.  Home owners should not be curtailed in their ability to rent space on their own property.  There do not seem to be many San Diegans that would agree with the City Attorney prosecuting a retiree in Burlingame for renting rooms in her own home. (Other than perhaps her private investigator neighbors.)
  • Enforcement of existing nuisance laws and fines for bad actors
    • Late-night noise, property damage, trespassing, and other issues have existing laws on the books.  These should be enforced and property owners held responsible for the behavior taking place on their property.  Additionally, most parties support fines for bad actors on an escalating scale.

Hopefully the city council will take these common ground, and common sense, items as a starting point for any proposals put forward.  Other issues remain and will likely be contentious but with very strong support across the board for the above items there is no need to muddy the conversation with issues that are not being debated.