Category: Econolypse

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Welcome to the San Diego Housing Boom (I Mean Bubble)

Gulp. San Diego home prices are skyrocketing far worse than my recent essays report. For some unexplainable algorithmic reason, a short news clip from the local Fox affiliate popped up in my YouTube feed, reporting rapid rise in the median home price. One year ago: $671,000. One month ago: $800,000. Currently: $825,000. The clip doesn’t cite a source and my quick online news search didn’t find one. By my math, the annual increase is 22.9 percent. Yikes.

Let’s look at one property on North Avenue in my neighborhood of University Heights. On Dec. 29, 2019, I captured the Featured Image, which because of uncharacteristic underexposure by Leica Q required extensive post-production correction and refinement. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 10:21 a.m. PST.

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San Diego County Partly Reopens, But Not Soon Enough for Some Businesses

One year ago today, California bars, breweries, and eateries stopped serving customers indoors, shifting to delivery and take-out services only—as ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom. On March 19, 2020, he issued a “stay-at-home” order for all Californians that went into effect the next day. Restrictions would later lift only to be reimposednearly as harsh during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as the pandemic‘s early-declaration days.

Today, after months of onerous prohibitions upon local businesses, San Diego County rose from the most restrictive tier, which permits malls and retailers to operate at 50-percent capacity; aquariums, churches, movie theaters, museums, restaurants, and zoos to allow customers indoors at 25-percent capacity; and gyms and hotels to operate at 10-percent capacity. Oh joy. Beat me with the stick, because it feels so good compared to the baseball bat you were whacking with.

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Surely There is a Better Way to Help the Homeless

I specifically shot the Featured Image, yesterday using Leica Q2, to illustrate this essay. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/400 sec, 28mm; 11:22 a.m. PST. The carts belonged to one of three homeless men gathered together a few meters away on the Hillcrest side of Vermont Street Bridge (University Heights is on the other). For sure, San Diego has a significant indigent population. But I write about San Francisco and something that surprises me—and perhaps will you, too.

According to the SF Chronicle (sorry, subscription required), the city is “currently sheltering more than 2,200 homeless people in about 25 hotels” and the “monthly program costs range from $15 million to $18 million”. By my math, that works out to between $6,818.18 to $8,8181.82 per person each month. If these people were paid, the equivalent annual salary would be between $82,000 and $98,000. Oh, and looks like the United States government will cover costs through the end of September 2021.

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What a Sign Foreshadows

Across the country this Thanksgiving holiday, the dire circumstance is businesses closing forever because of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—local lockdown and stay-at-home orders that keep away customers and choke revenue. In this County, SanDiegoVille keeps a running list of restaurants and pubs permanently shuttered during 2020—the majority since the pandemic’s start. I count 109 entities, but more when accounting for establishments with multiple locations.

Many businesses that had reopened during the summer are closing again as states seek to combat rising Novel Coronavirus cases. For the record, the use of cases is grossly misleading; the numbers actually refer to positive tests, which doesn’t mean that someone is sick—and most likely not. Eighty percent (or more) of people contracting COVID-19 are asymptomatic or mildly ill. Regardless, restrictions are everywhere, placed by (hopefully) well-meaning governors.

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Park Your Butt, Not Your Car

Southern California continues to suffer from the self-inflicted economic devastation imposed by our esteemed governor, Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom. He has imposed a partial, second statewide shutdown in response to increasing confirmed SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—cases. Pandemic deaths aren’t rapidly rising, which, in my journaled opinion, is the metric more important to making policy that harms millions of businesses and leads to massive job losses.

What is the harm? Locally, according to San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation: “Forty-one percent of businesses surveyed saw revenues decline by 81 to 100 percent; 93 percent saw staffing declines of one to 50 employees”. Additionally, “minority-owned small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by COVID”. Explicitly: “More than 90 percent of minority-owned businesses have seen their revenue decline, with most experiencing steep revenue declines of 81 to 100 percent”. EDC released the most recent data—collected May 28 to June 8, when the state started reopening—on July 1, or 13 days before Newsom reimposed new closure measures.

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COVID California: No School or Anything Else for You

Yesterday, which was when I captured the Featured Image, Los Angeles and San Diego school districts announced that students would not return to classrooms next month as previously planned. Kids will study online instead, as they had been since late March when Governor Gavin Newsom essentially closed California in response to the so-called pandemic. Also yesterday, he issued new orders that start a second statewide shutdown. Most indoor activities are prohibited; no more church services, shopping mall extravaganzas, zoo visits, gym exercising, barber haircutting, restaurant eating, or bar hoping—among many other activities and the business operations providing them.

There is nothing like the art of understatement. From the LA-SD joint statement: “This announcement represents a significant disappointment for the many thousands of teachers, administrators, and support staff, who were looking forward to welcoming students back in August. It is obviously an even greater disappointment to the many parents who are anxious for their students to resume their education. Most of all, this decision will impact our students in ways that researchers will take years to understand”.

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Garbage Day

Trash and recycle collection is underway throughout San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood—and, whoa, is it needed. The cans overflow like I’ve not ever seen in the nearly 13 years living here. Shouldn’t surprise with most stores closed and Californians ordered to stay at home (e.g., “shelter-in-place“). Damn the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—aka COVID-19pandemic for the catastrophe unleashed on communities, counties, and countries across the globe. As asked three weeks ago: “I Wonder Which Will Flatten First: Us or the Curve?

The Featured Image (warning: 25MB file), taken on March 31, 2020 using Leica Q2, shows what happens with some of the refuse. The pizza box is one of three stuffed in a hedge. Seriously? Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 125, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 11:16 a.m. PDT.  The companion shot, from the same camera yesterday, gives glimpse of overflowing cans that typically wouldn’t be. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/8, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 4:25 p.m.

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I Wonder Which Will Flatten First: Us or the Curve?

Today, the global number of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2), also known as COVID-19, infections topped 1 million and 50,000 deaths. As I write, based on data collated by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University: 1,015,709 confirmed cases; 211,615 recovered; 53,069 dead.

One month ago, there were eight reported Novel Coronavirus cases in the United States. This moment, according to John Hopkins: 245,213. The dramatic rise is part increased testing, part exponential community spread of the virus. This USA Today headline, regarding April 1, makes the point better than I could: “More than 1,000 in US die in a single day from Coronavirus, doubling the worst daily death toll of the flu”. That number doesn’t include collateral casualties—people who, being treated for something else, might otherwise have lived if not for overwhelmed hospitals in hot zones like New York.

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I Agree

Along several sidewalks in the neighborhood, kids who have been forced home by school closings express in chalk positive sentiments about beating back or overcoming the global crisis presented by the conjoined pandemics: Viral—SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2), better known as COVID-19—and socioeconomic. One message moved me more than the others, for being affirmative against adversity.

“We Can Do This” is a proclamation of will, of determination, of taking responsibility—with the plural meaning everything. We can be two or more all the way up to collective humanity. But the importance is greater, as the sentiment explodes in context: In California, like a handful of other states, Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered all 40-million citizens to “stay at home” and practice so-called “social distancing” behavior as a strategy to slow spread of the contagion. All businesses, but a handful considered to be “essential”, are closed. We are apart physically—separated by six feet or more—but we are close in desire.

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Something Stinks Here

There are the photo opportunities that you frustratingly miss, those you purposely pass on, and the ones you use for illustration—even when they’re make-do. That’s the context for our Featured Image, shot today using iPhone XS. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 69, 1/1689 sec, 26mm (film equivalent); 10:05 a.m. PDT. Now comes some explanation.

In response to the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19pandemic, federal and state officials have issued orders for citizens to “shelter in place“. Most businesses considered to be non-essential are closed; schools are, too. Staying home is fine most of the time, but some healthy outdoor activity is nevertheless necessary for the Wilcox family’s well-being. Turns out that walks are considered to be safe enough—and my wife and I continue to take them, mindful to try and keep the recommended six feet away from passersby (mostly dog walkers). At 8:50 a.m. PDT, we met someone, or I should say something, that we surely wanted to keep distance from: A skunk scurrying down the Meade Ave. sidewalk approaching us.

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To Slow the Pandemic, Commerce Crumbles

Last night, Governor Gavin Newsom directed the closure of restaurants—other than take-away or delivery—across California. San Diego County issued legally-enforceable health orders, 11 in all, that impose tighter restrictions. Sizable group gatherings are prohibited, and residents are instructed to stay home. Six days after the World Health Organization (finally) declared SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—a pandemic, commerce shutters, slows, and stops.

My wife and I take cautious walks around the neighborhood, avoiding other people as we can. Today, as we approached Park Blvd from Monroe Ave., a strange sight greeted: Closed LeStat’s. The bustling coffee shop is normally open 24 hours every day of the year. We didn’t explore the remaining portion of University Height’s main street, but for sure the many bars and restaurants are dark, too.