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!]

Running – Best Sport Ever

I don’t get to run as much as I used to, but appreciate the opportunity when I can find time.  My favorite sport to play is basketball but there is no better sport than running.  No teammates, no equipment (other than maybe shoes and clothes), and thus no excuses.  It’s you against you, fighting fatigue, pain, and weakness.

It’s a sport where grit and determination count more than natural ability.  Everyone has a chance to be a champion when it comes to running.

Stop Package Theft – Simple Steps You Can Take To Avoid Losses

With the rise of Amazon, Etsy, and other Internet businesses there has been a marked increase for many in the amount of package deliveries.  The convenience of home delivery and the vast array of products online, many at discount prices, has been a boon for customers around the world.  Unfortunately, these deliveries have also presented a new easy target for theft in many places.  That has been the case in my neighborhood, so I wanted to share some tools I use to reduce the risk of theft.

This man wants to steal your packaged trinkets. Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/saxonmoseley/288741595/
This man wants to steal your packaged trinkets. Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/saxonmoseley/288741595/

 

Sign up for package delivery alerts

  • FedEx – Create and account, “My Profile”, via the link at the top right for a multitude of options regarding your packages.  Use the “Delivery Manager” to set specific actions for when a package arrives so you don’t miss it.  My method is to receive a text message when the package is delivered – it usually arrives within a minute of the package delivery.  You can also do other things like set a Vacation Hold to avoid packages sitting on the porch while you’re gone.
  • UPS – Create an account via link at top “New User” for options similar to those available on FedEx, though I find the FedEx site more polished and with more options.  Use “Delivery Alerts” to set specific actions for package deliveries.  As with FedEx, I use text alerts when a package arrives.  If you prefer to know in advance, you can get email or text alerts the day of or day before a package arrives.
  • USPS – USPS does not currently have the same breadth of tools as UPS and FedEx, but you can still create an account with some useful tools.  Use the “Register / Sign In” link at the top right to start.  I primarily use USPS to hold mail delivery while we’re out of town.  Hopefully they’ll add package delivery options in the near future.
  • OnTrac In San Diego, OnTrac completes a fair amount of deliveries for Amazon though it seems recently that USPS is doing more of that work.  Their website options are very limited, and from conversations with company representatives they do not have similar tools to those for other delivery providers.

Know your neighbors

  • No one knows your habits and schedule like your neighbors.  Creepy, right?  Exchange your contact information with your neighbors and be a nice person and they’ll probably be happy to pick up a package that’s sitting on your porch if you’d like.  If you have the delivery notifications mentioned above set up, you can even call them when there’s a package at your place.  Your neighbor probably doesn’t have a formal registration system, but cookies are usually a good starting point.

Install a security camera

  • I installed a security camera above our front door to record anyone coming to our home or passing by.  It’s also visible from the street so hopefully acts as a deterrent to those considering approaching with ill intent.  I opted for the Dropcam Pro due to ease of installation, price point, and low monthly fee structure (which is optional).  It cost me $149 plus $10 per month for 7-day online recording, so I can review the tape and save clips if anything happens.  The price per month per camera decreases quite a bit if you add additional cameras.
Our front door camera and grumpy old man sign.
Our front door camera and grumpy old man sign.

 

Report thefts that do occur

  • If you do have a package taken, or other items stolen make sure to report it to the police.  Chances are that you won’t get your item back, but the theft will be entered in the official system and may result in increased patrols or better data for the police to address area issues.  If they don’t know, they can’t help.

Have you had packages stolen from your property?  Have other tips to avoid this problem?  Share them, I’d love to hear.  Cheers!

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.

Balboa Park – A Great Place to Drive a Car Through

Balboa Park is frequently referred to in loving tones by San Diegans, guide books, and articles.  It’s our “Crown Jewel” and an asset for the entire region that draws visitors from all over the globe.  There are a number of very enjoyable museums in the park and it’s a great place for a picnic or to take the kids to.

Apparently it’s also a great place for high-speed auto traffic to speed through.  Here’s a map of the speed limits for the roadways going through Balboa Park.

The speed of cars trump people throughout San Diego
The speed of cars trumps people throughout San Diego

These type of speeds are more appropriate for highways than access roads to the premier park and open space for a major city.  As a result of the abundance of these types of roads in Balboa Park there is essentially nowhere in the entire park you can enjoy without the sound of automobiles.  There are very few spots you can even be out of sight of cars whizzing by.  The very nature of these roads shows you that they are not for visiting the park, but for moving as many cars as possible through the park area quickly.

In addition to high speed roads, we continue to pave ever more of the park to provide automobile parking.  On the East Mesa area the city has established a growing parking lot for park service vehicles.  It is huge.  The San Diego Zoo is building an $18 million parking garage behind the Old Globe Theatre with 650 parking spots for employee use.  The access for this garage will be via Village Place and Old Globe Way – small roadways that are currently very quiet and provide access for only a few dozen parking spots, maybe a hundred at most.  Now there will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of cars traversing this area throughout the day.  Oh – and a native canyon space has been razed and replaced by an enormous garage.  San Diego Zoo – shouldn’t conservation start at home?

East Mesa Parking Lot in Balboa Park
East Mesa Parking Lot in Balboa Park

All of this amounts to an area that professes to be a park but would more appropriately be described as an auto park.  We recognize that we live in a beautiful region with an incredible amount of natural beauty worth preserving.  We can recognize that land is very valuable here.  But when it comes to roads and parking we choose to annihilate our native habitats along with the plants and animals, including us, they support and spend exorbitant amounts of money (nearly all public money, not private) to do so.  As you can see with the massive interstates built through our coastal wetlands and the decades old surface level parking lot that is the San Diego Downtown bayfront, there is literally no land too valuable or beautiful for us to not pave the ever-loving piss out of it and call it improvement.

So we’ll continue to pave Balboa Park, widen the roads, and raise the speeds.  We won’t even have to waste our time walking in the park to “enjoy” it.  Why waste the time?  Speed in, take a selfie, and speed out.  Progress.  It’s disgusting, unhealthy, and a terrible message for San Diego to spend to the world.  New Yorkers value Central Park and you can bet your bottom dollar they would never allow their “Crown Jewel” to suffer the fate that we continue to actively choose for our own.

So enjoy your next visit to Balboa Park.  Maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of the museums or zoo while you’re speeding past.

How to Buy a Bike – 8 Simple Steps

cabrillo point - jake davis
This could be you. Pretty sweet. Credit: Jake Davis

How does one go about buying a bicycle?  What things matter?  Many people are interested in bicycling – to commute, for fun, to ride along with children, or to get in better shape.  If you don’t already have a bike or it’s been a couple of decades since you rode it can be intimidating.  What to look for, how much to spend, what kind of accessories are needed, etc?  Here’s a short list on how to approach buying your first bike, or the first bike you’ve had in awhile.

  1. Don’t overthink it.  You’re buying a bicycle, not a car that costs you tens of thousands of dollars.  Especially if you’re going to reduce your car usage, you’re going to save a ton of money, even if you buy a very fancy bicycle.  AAA estimates the average car costs about $9,000 per year.  Put another way, you could buy a $750 bicycle every month of the year and be even money with what you spend on a car in that time.
  2. Find a bike shop you like.  Whether you buy a new bike or a used one, you’re going to need someone that knows how to keep it in top shape.  Walk in to a bike shop near you and say hi to the people there.  Are they nice and fit your style? Awesome, you’re good to go.  Are they mean or you don’t really like the vibe? Walk out and go to a different shop, there are lots to pick from.
  3. Buy a bike.  Utilize the friendly bike shop you have identified and ask them what they’d recommend.  All you need is a general idea of what you’ll be doing – going to work, rolling down mountains, cruising along the boardwalk.  The good thing is that bikes have awesome utility so you’ll be able to do many of these things with whichever one you pick, but buying in the right general ‘category’ is a good idea.
  4. Can’t decide? Buy a hybrid.  Here’s my current bicycle – a Giant Escape hybrid.  Hybrids are basically a cross between a road bike and and a mountain bike – designed to handle a wide range of uses, with a little more comfort and durability than a road bike.  They’re all-around great.  I paid about $600 new for this bike.  My previous bicycle was a $200 used road bike I bought on Craigslist.  My wife commutes to work daily on a hybrid bicycle as well that cost around $450.

    2015-04-25 16.10.13 23
    My bike, with rear rack and pannier bag.
  5. How much should you spend? It really doesn’t matter.  For a new bike, I think it’s worth spending $500-600 to get a solid ride from a good brand.  You can buy a new bike for half that and be fine, or buy a used bike and also be fine.  If you’re buying used look for a good brand so you know the bones are good.  With your trusted local bike shop you can rest assured that if your bike has mechanical problems or just needs a tune up they can help you out.
  6. Get some accessories.  A few things you want to add to your bike to greatly increase the utility.
    1. A super strong lock. Get something from Kryptonite and always lock up your bike.  Thieves suck and will try to take your bike.
    2. Good lights – for both front and back, get some powerful lights.  I recommend doubling up on the rear lights for good measure.
    3. A small pump and two spare tubes.  In case you have a flat, you need these.  When you ride with your friends they won’t have these and you’ll be the hero. Rock on.
    4. A rear rack with a pannier bag.  This will allow you to easily carry things on your bike. Awesome.
  7. Take care of your bike.  I don’t know much about fixing bikes, I’m guessing you don’t either.  Plan to get a tune-up at your bike shop twice a year.  They’re pros at this stuff and will make sure your brakes work, your chain is well oiled, and your tires aren’t worn through.  Put it on your calendar and just do it.  It will cost $25 – $65 per time and is well worth it.  Later on you can do it yourself, but start with the bike shop until you increase your skill set.
  8. Have fun and ride often!  You made a great decision to buy a bicycle.  You’re going to be healthier and happier.  You’re going to save a ton of money.  (Mr. Money Moustache has awesome articles about the cost of commuting / cars.)  You’re going to make your community healthier and safer for everyone.

Have other tips for those looking to buy a bike?  Drop some love in the comments.

Ride with GPS – I’m an Ambassador! Help me highlight great SD rides.

Ambassador shieldI became familiar with the Ride with GPS app / website while planning for the most recent Bikes & Beers event here in San Diego.  Our events do not seek street closures, we want the experience to showcase how good our city streets can be for bikes without special measures like barricades, traffic cops, etc.  It’s meant to be a preview of the way we envision our streets in the future – filled with bicycles and people having a great, safe time in our city.  This can make it difficult to keep people on the route, though, since there isn’t a wide swath of empty road to follow as there would be with a marathon.

What we needed was a turn-by-turn tool to direct riders and after looking over many different apps I could not find what I needed.  I needed an easy-to-use app that could do voice navigation for a custom bicycle route.  Then I found Ride with GPS and it was just what we were looking for.  They even hooked us up with free access for all event participants.  It was great.  The app did voice turns, we could add custom instructions and photos, and it didn’t suck the battery like Dracula.

After being so pleased with the app during the event and the great support from the company, I volunteered to be an “Ambassador” for the brand.  Basically I’ll be creating a set of great rides in San Diego that others using the app can utilize.  So whether you’re a visitor or a local looking for a new ride, you can open the app and access the routes I’ve highlighted.  However, most of my biking in San Diego is functional, not recreational.  I’m usually towing a couple of kids and going to school, library, grocery store, etc.  I’m pretty much a newbie when it comes to the scenic rides throughout the county.

So I’m asking for your help.  If you have a great route you want to share, please let me know so I can add it.  Of course I’ll give you a shout-out too. 🙂

Hit me up via email – john.patrick.anderson@gmail.com if you have suggestions and thank you!

bike with trailer photo - 4-22
A typical day of riding for me

Airbnb in San Diego – Good Riddance to a Great Thing?

Last Wednesday morning, April 22, the City of San Diego Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a public comment hearing on the topic of short-term rentals in San Diego in advance of creating a proposal clarifying the status of this sort of property use and potentially creating additional rules and regulations.

2015-04-22 09.25.26
After the hearing room was full, many more waited in the lobby.

The meeting was attended by hundreds of San Diegans and testimony was heard in 30 minute chunks with those opposing restrictions on this property use alternating with those supporting restrictions.  Many, myself included, were unable to speak during the 4 hour meeting.  A continuance of the meeting will be held on May 29th for those that were unable to speak.

San Diego’s primary issue is it is a very desirable place to live and visit.  It’s a good problem to have.  Today there are more vacation rental properties than ever, the hotel industry just came off a record-breaking year, rents are high and rising, as are property prices.  There is more demand for every type of property than supply can keep up with.  Further impacting the supply is a strong sentiment across most of the city against increased density and/or building heights.

The city is approaching this issue in the wrong way.  A small number of San Diegans have had issues with short-term rentals – mostly complaints of noise, trash, or impacts on street parking.  For those not familiar with common San Diegan complaints, the lack of pavement on which to park private vehicles at public expense is nearly always the top of the list.  Joni Mitchell is probably crying.  More likely, she’s darkly laughing.

The complaints raised have existing rules and penalties that can be applied.  If enforcement of those rules is the issue then the solution is to improve enforcement by increased staffing and resources.  The solution should not be to curtail the property rights of every property owner in the City of San Diego.  Banning or restricting the ability of property owners to use their property is not the answer to problems with enforcement of public nuisance laws.  It would quite literally mean reducing the property rights of hundreds of thousands of San Diegans due to the complaints of a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand.  That is not a relevant or appropriate response.

Restrictions on use of platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and others would also be a real disservice to homeowners throughout San Diego.  For the first time, technology is putting the opportunity to utilize what is typically the largest asset a family owns, their home, in the hands of every property owner.  Vacation rentals have existed for decades in San Diego but were mostly relegated to property management firms and wealthy individuals that could hire staff to manage the properties.  Today, this is possible to the average person whether they are renting their home once a year or every night of the month.  This is a great thing.  It also means many dollars coming into and staying in San Diego, benefiting our entire economy.  Unlike hotels, which are often owned by non-local companies, home-sharing brings dollars into our city and keeps them here – in the pockets of our friends and neighbors.  Win win.

Are there bad actors among the property owners and visitors in San Diego? Certainly.  There are also bad actors among homeowners and renters.  When there is an issue there are tools to remedy them.  Utilize the tools we have, don’t take away a great opportunity for all property owners in San Diego and a boon to our economy across the board.

Meet the new site. Same as the old site.

I’m moving this website back to the WordPress platform after a stint on the Weebly platform per the advice of persons that know much more about these things than I do.

I’ll likely lose some old content in the process and will take a few weeks to get everything pretty but hopefully it will be worth the effort in the long-term.

Have a great night and hope to see you back here soon!

– John

Have a bike? You need a pannier bag, or two.

Have a bike? Probably. Maybe you use it, maybe you don’t.  You almost definitely know how to ride a bicycle – per a recent FiveThirtyEight article an estimated 94% of Americans know how to ride a bike.  Why such a high percentage? Because bicycles are cheap, efficient, elegant modes of transportation that are fun and socially engaging.

If you already bike, you really need a rear rack and a pannier bag or two.  What’s a pannier bag? It’s a fancy word for a bag that hooks onto your bike so you can hold stuff.  They are awesome and an instant, cheap upgrade that makes takes your bike up about five levels.  You have a European man purse to impress friends with at parties.  You can carry things like laptops.  You can pick up a six-pack of beer or a picnic without having to do the handlebar hang wobble ride.

For a long time I didn’t have a bag but bought the wife one for taking to work on her daily commute.  I was jealous so I got the same bag – a Linus “The Sac” canvas pannier bag.  The official site lists it at $69 but I think I paid $55.  Either way, it’s a nice bag that lasts well so I think a good value at either price.  It’s mostly waterproof except for probably in a heavy downpour – living in San Diego I wasn’t concerned on that count.

To show just some of the functionality even a basic bag like this provides I took some photos of my trip to the grocery store today.  Grocery shopping by bike is a somewhat frequent topic of conversation at bicycle meetings – non-riders can’t understand how one can carry groceries without an SUV.  Basically, you buy groceries slightly more often – probably a benefit if you mostly eat fresh produce and food instead of mega-size boxes of industrial junk.  You also use a functional bag to carry your groceries and buy some fancy chocolate as well with the money you saved on not using an expensive car for every minor trip in life.

2015-04-25 16.07.44
Step 1 – Buy delicious food

.

2015-04-25 16.08.49
Step 2 – Put groceries in bag. Do NOT squash avocados!

 

 

2015-04-25 16.10.13 23
Step 3 – Put bag on bike, ride home.

 

 

2015-04-25 16.38.27
Step 4 – Unpack, and cook something yummy. Note: beer not even shaken up.

 

That’s it.  Bonus: you already have a reusable bag wherever you’re riding so you can help to kill less fish, turtles, dolphins, humans, and generally make our planet a better place.  Since you’re riding a bike you’re also not giving small children in your neighborhood asthma so feel good about that one too.

Cheers and keep on riding on.