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San Diego Living

3 Tips to Prevent Package Theft

I don’t know about your neighborhood but here in Rolando we’re seeing an upswing in package theft.

Here are 3 tips to prevent becoming a victim:

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San Diego Living

In San Diego it’s now a crime to be poor

Somehow I missed The Jungle in high school.

When I read Upton Sinclair’s classic as a young adult it changed things. While most readers recall the horrifying details of Chicago’s turn-of-the-century meatpacking industry I saw myself in Jurgis Rudkus.

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family San Diego Living

2016 Chicken Report

Yes, we are those people. In 2016, we got chickens. Spontaneously.

And you know what? It’s more fun than we thought it’d be.

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San Diego Living

A Year of Home Ownership

When Citibank stole our house in 2009 we swore we’d never buy again.

In 2015, we were left with a choice: Buy a house or most likely leave San Diego altogether. The owners of the house we’d rented for 6 years needed it back and the rental market in San Diego had exploded beyond what we could afford. Renting a 3 bedroom house in our area, one you actually wanted to live in, had soared to nearly $3000/month.

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San Diego Living

Why I’m Against Measure C

This November, San Diego residents will vote on Measure C, which would raise the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT or hotel tax for short) from 12.5% to 16.5% in order to partner with the NFL and the Chargers to build a new structure they are calling a “convadium.” (A multi-purpose convention and stadium complex.)

An August 29th poll said that 39% of San Diegans plan to vote for the measure. It needs 67% to pass. So, while it is unlikely to pass I want to share some of the reasons I plan to vote against the measure.

My Top 8 Reasons I’m Against Measure C

1. The public shouldn’t fund private ventures

I’d go into more depth about this point but I think John Oliver pretty much nails it.

I’m actually totally fine with the Chargers getting a new stadium. While I’m not a fan of the team or the NFL I am a football fan. And, as a season ticket holder for the Aztecs at the same stadium, I can affirm that the existing stadium is a dump. They either need to seriously remodel the existing stadium, like gut-rehabbing a 1920s bungalow, or build somewhere else.

I’m not against the Chargers. I’m not against a new stadium. But I am against the public financing it. The 49ers are in a smaller market and mostly funded their stadium in Santa Clara with private money, the Chargers should do the same.

2. This is a countywide issue, not just a city one

Have you ever driven around on game day in San Diego? If you have then you know that the San Diego Chargers fanbase doesn’t just come from the city of San Diego. People come from all over San Diego county to attend games. Trains, trolleys, and freeways are packed getting to Mission Valley.

And yet, this measure taxes hotels in the city of San Diego… not the county of San Diego. In other words, why not raise the TOT (hotel tax) on every hotel room in the county, probably at a lower rate, rather than just the city?

It’s been frustrating to me that many of my friends who are Chargers fans, the people who attend the games, don’t live in a place where they can even vote on Measure C.

3. The Lie, Part 1 – Taxation Without Representation

The line you hear repeated is, “This measure won’t cost city taxpayers a dime unless they stay in a hotel.” Dean Spanos, the owner of the Chargers, likes to riff… “Won’t it be fun to know that our stadium is financed by Raiders fans?

Remember the American Revolution? No taxation without representation? Remember the Declaration of Independence when we rubbed this concept in the nose of the King of England?

Asking voters to levy an increase in tax on tourists to pay for a stadium/convention center that most won’t use is making them pay for something they’ll not benefit in any way.

Think about it like this. The NFL provides 10-12 game days per year. Let’s say the average NFL visitor stays two nights at a San Diego hotel. That’s 20-24 room nights per year generated by the NFL for games… for 30 years.

Over the life of Measure C that’s:

  • 300-360 days where NFL fans pay 4% of their hotel rate towards the stadium (if they stay in a San Diego hotel)
  • 10,590-10,650 days where tourists visiting San Diego will pay 4% of their hotel rate towards a stadium.

I think it’s unfair to tax 100% of tourists visiting our city over the next 30 years for a stadium very few of them will actually benefit from in any way. 3.3% of days over the period of 30 years will be game days, and it’s not like 100% of tourists traveling to San Diego on an NFL weekend are coming to go to a game… realistically we’re talking 3,000-10,000 fans are staying in hotels for NFL games.

That’s a whole lot of non-NFL tourists paying a whole lot of tax for a really, really long time.

4. The Lie, Part 2 – It won’t cost taxpayers a dime

This is true if the new TOT increase covers the burden of loan payments that’ll finance the new construction over the next 30 years.

If there’s a shortfall in the funds generated by the TOT increase the city will either have to default on it’s payment or they’ll have to take the money out of the general fund.

Proponents of Measure C say the increase will generate plenty of money, citing a study the Chargers financed. Opponents of Measure C say the increase likely won’t cover the payments, citing a study they financed.

My problem with this financing scheme is that it’s without assurances that this won’t end up costing the city more money than the TOT increase generates. If the NFL and Chargers are so sure that the TOT increase will generate “plenty of money” than they need to offer taxpayers a guarantee that they’ll cover the balance on any shortfalls.

Why? Because it’s easy to spend this kind of money when the money is rolling in San Diego. But you have to know that in the next 30 years there will be multiple recessions where tourism will suffer.

5. You don’t build a pool when you need a new roof

San Diegans are sick of the state of their infrastructure. Sure, we’ve got a lot of beautiful things for tourists to enjoy. But our roads are terrible and our schools are crumbling.

Like a lot of city residents I am sorry– but the Chargers better get in line. If we’re going to raise all of this money to build a new stadium, let’s do that after we invest in things which will benefit 100% of San Diego residents first.

You can say that’s small town thinking. You can say that we are dumb for letting the Chargers go. And I would say only an idiot puts a new swimming pool on a credit card when he’s got a leaking roof.

6. The hotel tax will be too high

Let’s say you come to San Diego for vacation with your spouse. You stay 5 nights at a hotel that’s $200 per night for a hotel bill of $1000. The difference between this measure passing or failing is your total hotel bill being $1125 and $1165. Now, that $40 might not seem like a big deal to you. Especially, since you know that taking your spouse to Sea World for the day would be over $100 or going to the zoo might be more like $125.

So, it is correct to say that paying an extra $40 wouldn’t impact a persons decision to come to San Diego for vacation.

But let’s say you’re the American Association of Cardiologists and you’re signing a convention contract to stay at the Town & Country, 4 nights and 4,000 rooms around Hotel Circle. Presuming it’s $200/night we’re talking an increase of $128,000 difference in that deal for a “convadium” your event won’t even visit.

See, moving to 16.5% is a big deal for event planners. Especially when you consider the hotel tax rate of other cities who might want your 16,000 room night event in their city.

Consider the hotel tax of other cities by comparison:

  • LA – 14%
  • Orlando – 6%
  • Miami Beach – 14%
  • San Fransisco – 14%
  • Anaheim – 15%
  • Portland – 11.5%
  • State of Hawaii – 13.5%
  • Chicago – 17.4%
  • Indianapolis – 17%
  • Dallas – 15%
  • Phoenix – 12.57%
  • Minneapolis – 13.775%

And, don’t forget, this new 16.5% tax is just for hotels in the city of San Diego. All of a sudden the idea of hosting an event or going on a San Diego county vacation gets cheaper… most of San Diego county would stay at just 10% hotel tax. (Carlsbad, Oceanside, Del Mar, Encinitas, etc)

7. Too many promises and not enough contracts

“But building a new stadium will bring the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, and other big events to town.” 

The only promise in that laundry list that you could actually hold anyone to? A Super Bowl. A single Super Bowl.

Is the NCAA going to host the Final Four in an outdoor stadium in the middle of our rainy season? Not a chance. Would a new NFL stadium in downtown San Diego get a lot of new events? Maybe. We just don’t know. A lot of ideas are being floated around but Measure C doesn’t even have a final price tag, much less contracts to bring in events.

8. The Chargers will leave if this doesn’t pass

Maybe. But it’s unlikely the NFL will leave the second largest city in the largest state in the country. San Diego has proven that it’ll support the Chargers through thick and thin. Even when the team is terrible, like last year, attendance was still strong.

I think what’s about to happen is that this measure will fail with 40-45% of the vote in 2016 and the NFL will find a way to make it happen.

I would suggest they consider PSLs or some other financing scheme which puts the burden of a new $1 billion stadium on the individuals who buy tickets and the benefit financially from having the Chargers here.

It also wouldn’t surprise me that if the measure fails that the NFL would seek new ownership for the Chargers. It’s not that the city doesn’t want the team, it’s that the ownership of the team has written a proposal that the voters are rejecting.

The Final Summary

Proponents of Measure C want to increase the tax on hotels in the city of San Diego from a middle-of-the-pack 12.5% to a on-the-high-end of 16.5% for the next 30 years. I believe that an increase in taxes should benefit 100% of the residents of San Diego, not the few who go to Chargers games.

While I’m in favor of the Chargers staying in San Diego, while I’m in favor of building a new stadium for the Chargers in San Diego, I join my neighbors in firmly voting no for Measure C on November 8th.

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San Diego Living

Welcome Back, Students

Over the next week our neighborhood welcomes back 30,000 students to San Diego State University. That includes about 6,500 brand new students from the 83,000 who applied.

Once considered a “fall back” school State has transformed itself over the past decade into a top 100 public university in the country. Despite it’s local reputation as a safe school to apply to it’s now pretty tough to get into! Last year’s freshmen class had an average high school GPA of 3.69 and average SAT of 1118. In other words, lots of alumni never would have gotten into today’s SDSU.

Enrollment achievements aside, college students are– well — college students! They are coming to college for an education but  looking for a lot more than an education: They are learning to become adults.

Our family chooses to live near State. Why? We love it! And, while we enjoy (cough, need) the quietness of summer we kind of love it when everyone comes back. Starbucks is open until 10 again, woohoo! (It closes at 5 in the summer.)

Students bring energy and playfulness that makes our area feel like home.

Tips for Students

This is our 8th year in the college area. So, if you’d indulge, allow this old man to pass along some tips to the young guns.

  1. Commuters… get involved in something on campus. While SDSU is becoming more residential there’s still a huge population of students who live at home and commute to campus each day. While t’s really cool that commuter students can maintain life at home with their relationships from high school they really shouldn’t do that exclusively. Just because you’re a commuter doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get involved on campus. Find something to join, even if it’s a volunteer group, that’ll connect you to the Mesa. Don’t just drive over here, go to class, and then go back home. Get invested on campus or you’ll regret it.
  2. On campus students… get involved in something off campus. The opposite of point 1 is also totally true, particularly of first year students. It’s great that you live in the dorms and you go to all the campus activities. But there’s more to going to State than the men’s volleyball games or the parties that they throw on campus. Get a part-time job off campus or join a volunteer group or just commit to getting off campus for all-day on Sunday. Going to Ralph’s shouldn’t feel like an expedition. It’s 4 blocks! Seriously, get off campus to study or whatever. Just get off campus more.
  3. Join your neighborhood. The vast majority of non-first year students live in the neighborhoods surrounding SDSU. There’s a growing cottage industry of rental housing that caters to students, sliding around zoning and rental laws to put 8-9 people in a 3 bedroom house. This fosters an “us vs. them” mentality, I imagine a similar mentality to those who live near Airbnb rentals in beach areas. My advice would be to act at least somewhat neighborly. When you move in go ahead and knock on some doors to introduce yourself. Trust me, everyone really is peaking out to see who you are. If you’re friendly and offer up some contact info… they will love you. Understand that last year’s tenants may have had raging parties or been total jerks… just take the first step to show them you’re normal. (In the SDSU area, join Nextdoor. This is where people talk.
  4. Give it some time. One of the complaints I hear from students is that they don’t make friends right away unless they jump in on the party scene. This takes a little time. Don’t get down on yourself too much, too quickly. I think the biggest challenge is that a lot of first-year students don’t know how to make friends since their friendships back home developed over a long period of time. Relax, it’ll happen. Just be yourself, take some chances to do things with other people, try out some friend groups… and give it some time.
  5. Don’t be a tool. We, your neighbors, know college students better than you know yourself. We know you take school seriously Monday-Thursday and want to have a good time over the weekend. (How you get a 3-day weekend every weekend I’ll never understand!) But there are things that we see all the time which really do get annoying: If you’re underage you can’t buy booze. And yeah, you will get a ticket in the Vons parking lot if you have someone who is 21 go in and buy booze for you because the police have seen that trick before. Even though a street corner isn’t painted red, you cannot park in an intersection. I know parking is sometimes tough. But if you don’t want a parking ticket for parking in a sidewalk or intersection, don’t park there. You can party until 2 AM. But you’ve gotta keep it down after 10 PM… OK 11 PM. When I talk to my neighbors most of us totally get it… you want to party and you’re a college kid. We respect that. But you’ve got to respect the quiet hours, too. Please tell your drunk self, “Don’t dump your garbage on the street.” I don’t even know why I have to say this! But unfortunately, I do. If it was in your car take it to your house and throw it away. Gosh, if you can’t manage that please just walk up a neighbors driveway and put it in the garbage.
  6. Pace Your Money. Towards the end of each semester we see students start to run out of money. Now, on the one hand, this is pretty understandable considering it might be your first time away from home and managing your money. But do yourself a favor… when you get that financial aid money in your bank account this weekend… put some money aside for the last 2 weeks of school, say $75 just in case. Related: The produce area at Vons and Ralphs are not a smorgasbord. I can’t tell you how many times I see students stuffing their faces with fruits and veggies in the store. That’s stealing. Don’t do it. Just because your mom tastes a grape before putting it in the cart doesn’t mean you can eat an entire meal in the store and not pay for it. Seriously, what do we have to do… weigh people before and after they leave the grocery store? Don’t steal food.
  7. Don’t go it alone. Whether it’s a party or the gym or whatever trouble for students seems to start when they go alone. This is particularly true for female students. No one wants to think about it, but there are older guys who are predators… they are just waiting to see someone break away from the pack. Be wise, don’t go it alone. 
  8. Avoid the pack of stupidity. Something happens among young college students where they seem to completely accept the “wisdom” of their group. So twenty 18-19 year olds create a new set of ethics that are completely situational to their context. You hear things like, “I’m young, sex is about me getting mine. It doesn’t mean anything to me.” Or “It’s not cheating, my roommate took that class last semester and had all the quizzes.” No, literally… there’s no such thing as casual, emotionless sex. We’re humans– we have emotions. Passing a class isn’t about passing the quizzes, it’s about learning the material. So cheating is only cheating yourself! My advice: Find someone who’s a bit older than you, say an older sibling or friend of the family, who can help you process things outside of your group.

Get off my lawn! OK, just kidding. Kind of. Please don’t puke on my lawn.

Share your tips! Do you live near a university? Or are you a college students? Share your tips for college students in the comments below.

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San Diego Living

Goosebumps

In August we will have lived in San Diego for eight years, making it the longest place Kristen and I will have lived in our adult lives. (Chicago, 1994 – 2002; Romeo, 2003 – 2008)

While we’ve fallen in love with and great enjoyed everywhere we’ve lived… there’s just something special about San Diego. While the tagline might be America’s Finest City we’ve become smitten with a place that grabs your heart in unexpected, sometimes non-touristy spots. Here’s a few snapshots of places that have given me goosebumps over these past eight years.

Sunrises over San Diego Bay

 

While tourists slumber, San Diegans take in the sheer, raw beauty of San Diego’s bay. Some of my most haunting moments of solitude have come on a glassy paddle across a silent bay to the bass-laden flats in Chula Vista, watching the sunrise over the mountains, light pouring over where darkness had taken hold. In this distance you hear revelry play on Naval bases while gradually the city wakes up to make noise.

Watching the tiny blue line burst forth into an indescribably sunrise, goosebumps.

Beach Bonfires

While tourists leave our beaches and head for their hotels, locals don fleece to flock to the fire pits partaking in the glorious ritual of a beach bonfire BBQ as the sun sets. Whether at Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, or our newfound favorites in Mission Bay… sitting around a fire while the day slips into night is always magical. Goosebumps.

Viejas Arena

I couldn’t be more proud to be associated, if only as a fan, all that’s happening at San Diego State University. The development phenomenon goes far beyond the success of football and basketball… but it is symbolized by what  happens at Viejas.

Selling out an NIT game in 12 minutes, goosebumps.

Christmas at the San Diego Zoo

Definitely a “locals only” kind of tradition. Each year, after the presents are opened and with supper digesting, San Diegans head to the San Diego Zoo to stroll.

Have you ever heard the lion roar? It’s sound fills the entire park. Goosebumps. 

Landing at San Diego airport

Confession? I dreaded flying home to O’Hare or Detroit’s Wayne airport. It was good to be home, but it was never quite like landing at Lindberg Field.

There’s nothing quite like sitting near someone on a plane who has never landed in San Diego before. You see aircraft carriers, the Coronado Bridge, and then… you fly between some skyscrapers before landing right next to the harbor.

Coming home after a long work trip, goosebumps.

Here’s to many more years of San Diego goosebumps. 

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San Diego Living

Kayaking, a New Obsession

I don’t even know how to describe this obsession. Which is, I suppose, the definition of an obsession.

As the summer began I had a tiny spark of a thought that I needed to find something fun to do that’d get me outside more. I have a personal philosophy of recreation but I had just let it lapse.

My first thought was golf. I absolutely love golf. I grew up playing the game. I love playing… I’m actually a decent enough golfer. (Official handicap is 7, though 11 is more like it.) And, especially while we were in Michigan, it was a constant source of solace. So I started doing research on that. In Michigan I was able to get a membership at a course for under $1000 a year. (I played 5-6 times per week!) But here in San Diego there’s just not that cost-effective option, a course membership would cost me at least $500 per month! On top of that I need new clubs, so we’re really talking about something that’d be $3000 to start and $500-$1000 per month to do well.

Yeah, too much.

Then we went on vacation to Yosemite, where my favorite thing is to play in the Merced River. After which we went to Cayucos, where Kristen and I spent about 40% of our time either on the beach or walking the beach.

Somewhere in there I got bit by the idea that we needed to get into kayaking here in San Diego.

So when I got home in late-July the hunt for kayaks began. After several days of trolling Craigslist, asking a bunch of questions, watching way too many YouTube videos, we bought 2 kayaks and all the gear. (PFDs, car carriers, paddles, and everything else.)

And since then we’ve basically tried to find any available excuse to get the kayaks out on the water.

Fishing with Paul at Lake Murray

Exploring caves and getting flipped by waves at La Jolla

And pretty much any time we’ve got some free time I’m thinking… “I wonder if I can paddle….”

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San Diego Living

Paddling to La Jolla Caves

Kristen, Jackson, and I had a great time paddling out to the La Jolla Caves.

Conveniently missing from these photos is proof that I got dumped in the waves twice and Kristen & Jackson got dumped once. We’re all OK, just a great time getting wet and exploring our town!

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management San Diego Living San Diego State

Two San Diego State Universities: The Power of Winning

I’m new to State. I moved into the College Area in 2008 and quickly adopted them. I’m not an alumni. I didn’t grow up in San Diego. They are just the school that’s near my house and I enjoy going to football and basketball games.