Ocean Beach to Julian is a long way to bicycle. About 65 miles one-way, and entirely uphill with nearly a mile of elevation gain. It’s a test worth taking, and one you’ll savor when done.
This is the 4th year I’m organizing the Ride for the River Park and I hope you’ll join me. The event will take place September 26 and 27, 2015. It’s been a great time riding with friends old and new and pushing through one tough day of riding to enjoy the mountain town of Julian, some good stories, and some good San Diego beer. The upside to a really tough first day is cruising back down the entire way on the return trip.
The first year I organized this ride it was my longest ride ever – by a long shot. I had never ridden more than 30 miles in my life, maybe not even 20. If you’re concerned about your ability and the difficulty of the ride you’re not alone – most of us that have participated were in the same boat. If you’re looking for a good challenge, and a good group to cheer you on I hope you’ll consider coming out.
Riding from coastal San Diego, through Mission Trails Regional Park, through vineyards near Ramona and Julian, and eventually through pine shaded roads is a wonderful experience. The amount of diversity of natural beauty in San Diego is astounding and seeing it first-hand (no, out a car window is not the same) is something I look forward to every year.
I’m proud to support the San Diego River Park Foundation with this event and regular donations. The organization does great conservation and native space restoration work to preserve and enhance the native landscape. Additionally, there are year-round clean-ups, educational workshops, and many other programs. If you can’t join the ride I hope you’ll consider supporting the foundation financially or volunteering for a clean-up this year.
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 space 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 two
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Effective today, June 4, the City of Carlsbad has new regulations on vacation rentals / short-term rentals in the city. They have a helpful FAQ sheet explaining where such activity is and isn’t allowed. Essentially, the city has banned renting any portion of a home, or an entire home, for fewer than 30 days, unless it’s in the “coastal zone” – roughly west of Interstate 5. This means if you have a second property, or a spare bedroom, you can not rent it for less than 30 days whether once a year, once a month, or every day of the year. Per my conversation with the City of Carlsbad, it also prohibits home-swapping or a home exchange.
What is home-swapping? It is trading time in one property for time in another. A popular platform for enabling this type of trading is HomeExchange. For many, it is an opportunity to travel and greatly reduce total travel costs by securing free lodging. I haven’t used home-swapping before but it seems like a great idea. A couple approaching retirement on my block recently used HomeExchange so I spoke with them to get more details. (Names withheld to protect privacy.)
To use HomeExchange costs my neighbors $100 annually, which gives one access to the site and contact information for others on the site. The details for a swap occur between the individual parties, not via the site. My neighbor noted that some people include money as part of agreements to swap but they have not in their two uses in the past year. Their first experience was to Brooklyn, New York, and their most recent trip to Florence, Italy.
My neighbor noted that when he originally read about HomeExchange his wife was adamantly opposed but after looking at overall finances and their joint desire to travel they thought it worth a try – this option would close the financial gap and allow for travel now, and during their retirement years soon approaching.
So far the experience has been a very good one for them and they plan to continue using this option in future. However, the San Diego City Council may have other plans. The city is currently researching new regulations on short-term rentals which may include a ban on uses like home-swapping as our neighbors to the north in Carlsbad have enacted. This platform that allows homeowners to utilize their otherwise empty homes and enable world-wide travel for owners would be gone.
For more recent home purchasers in San Diego the financial incentives to supplement vacation funds is compelling. The median single-family home price in San Diego currently stands at over half a million dollars – $520,000. As opposed to long-time home owners with lower property taxes (and lower mortgage balances), new buyers are shelling out near-record prices for their homes. The upside is that living in San Diego means that there is a lot of demand for property here and home owners have an opportunity to utilize that by home-swapping to visit family or explore a new country. Of course, banning home-swapping would be a double whammy – high purchase prices and limited ability to utilize homes.
The debate about short-term rentals and Airbnb continues in San Diego and new regulations of some sort are on the way. Hopefully, these regulations won’t throw new opportunities in the trash can in the effort to address resident concerns. We are at the start of many new opportunities like Airbnb and home-swapping which are beginning to become mainstream and many others that are yet to come. Problems need to be addressed, but the opportunities presented also need to be preserved when possible.
[The Carlsbad prohibition of home-swapping also raises questions about the general ability of homeowners to have guests of any sort. If no payment is being made but home-swapping is not allowed, are non-paying friends or family also prohibited? It almost seems as if any overnight guest is technically barred from staying, though I don’t believe this was the intent of the new law.]
A number of years ago a friend shared a simple bread recipe popularized by the New York Times. It’s delicious, simple, cheap, and easy to make. Two years ago our family decided to make our own bread for the year and kept a tally on the kitchen wall as part of our New Year’s resolutions. I don’t have the official count anymore but believe it was around 150 loaves baked and 7 loaves bought.
This year we’re refocusing on cooking at home, saving money, and cooking wholesome food with simple ingredients. Making our own bread is a big piece of that and also encourages having basic ingredients on hand (flour, salt, yeast, etc.) that make it easier to make other things like pizza crust, cookies, and more.
Here’s the recipe and a couple of delicious photos.
.25 tsp yeast
1.5 cups warm water
1.25 tsp salt
3 cups flour (I like to use 2.5 cups white flour, .5 cups whole wheat flour)
Put yeast into a ceramic bowl, add water and then salt. I really like ceramic bowls since they are easy to clean up. Mix together and let sit 2-5 minutes.
Add flour and mix together by hand until a consistent mixture is created.
Cover with tea towel or cloth for 12 – 18 hours.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees with dutch oven inside during preheating. Mix risen dough by hand in bowl before adding to dutch oven. Don’t burn yourself, 500 degrees is hot!
Bake covered at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove lid and cook for additional 5 – 15 minutes to brown, my oven takes about 8 minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and enjoy with butter, jam, avocado, or plain.
Feel free to experiment with additional in ingredients in the bread, there are a lot of options. You can add some cheese, which I recommend doing just before putting in the oven. You can add herbs like rosemary which I would do before letting sit so it can spread through the dough overnight.
This bread tastes so good and is so easy you have to try it. We love to start off the weekend with a hot loaf on Saturday morning to enjoy with coffee and a cool morning breeze coming through the window. I hope you enjoy this recipe, and the weekend, too.
If the above directions aren’t enough, I also did a (terrible) video on this recipe a couple of years ago. It also includes my cost estimate of 62 cents per loaf. That price has been reduced since I found a cheaper option for yeast by buying in bulk via Amazon. Below are a couple of links to Amazon for yeast and a cast iron pot like we use. I’m trying out the Associates program Amazon has so yes, I’ll get a dime or so if you buy something but I recommend buying used and/or local first before looking to Amazon.
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.
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 Twitter, Facebook, 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.
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.
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.
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.
We like to eat hard-boiled eggs in our house. However, we’ve gone through a number of different instructions on how to make them best. Our issue has been that they are often not easy to peel. Our current method is below, courtesy of Mama Joyce.
Put eggs in pot.
Add water until eggs are covered.
Bring to full roiling boil on stove.
Turn off heat, keep cover on pot.
Let sit 30 minutes.
Remove eggs from water, put in refrigerator.
We enjoy hard-boiled eggs because they’re filling, cheap, and can be eaten plain, in a salad, or a number of other ways. We typically buy organic or local farm eggs for $4.99 a dozen, which is 41.5 cents per egg. Two eggs with a big slice of homemade bread and some cheese or carrots is a great lunch you can easily take to work, the beach, or the park.
Have a better method to cook eggs? I’d love to hear it.