Category: Money

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Return to Sender

I couldn’t expect this. The Postal Convenience Center, located at the corner of El Cajon and Louisiana in San Diego’s University Heights district, is closed—looks like forever. I made the discovery when out for a leisurely walk this afternoon. Signs posted in the windows state: “We Have Moved” and directs customers to 4075 Park Blvd, where their mail will be forwarded. The location is a UPS Store.

A second-hand source says this: The proprietors learned last month that the block of properties has new owners, who will redevelop it. Efforts to continue operations of a business reportedly opened in 1987 ran aground; I don’t know specifics but can guess costs of relocation and starting over on short notice. Postal Convenience Center served locals—many of them likely lost in any lengthy restart. The establishment hasn’t moved, if I am rightly informed. It’s gone for good. 

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Fill `Er Up

Maybe you heard how high are gas prices in California compared to most other states. The Featured Image attests to the gouging that we experience at the pumps. In a nice twist, and keeping with the Cal progressive push for equity, all grades cost the same. Well, if you’ve got to pay more, all the same is a small, but not meaningless, consolation.

Alas, the equity price hike didn’t last long. Hours later, regular grade sold for $4.06 a gallon. Now there’s a tactic for making you feel good about the high cost of gasoline. Four bucks six cents seems so reasonable when you could pay $4.83 more. (Wink. Wink.)

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I Won’t Go Soft on Hard Seltzer

Before the Wilcoxes relocated to California from Maryland some thirteen-and-a-half years ago, I generally replaced soda with a couple tablespoons of apple juice mixed with a 12-ounce can of seltzer (e.g., carbonated water). But finding the bubbly proved to be really challenging in SoCal. A few stores stocked seltzer in quart-size plastic bottles but no cans and for considerably higher price than what we paid back East.

Then came LaCroix’s bold brand turnaround early in the last decade. Packaging makeover and consumer rage against sugary soda won over mainstream Millennials, ultimately leading to a seltzer surge—whether measured by increased number of brands, flavors, or sales. That’s good for me, now a drinker of straight seltzer; no juice added by my hands or artificial flavors by bottlers.

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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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Are You Coming, or Going?

New month, and I see lots of people moving in, around, and out of San Diego—and considerably larger numbers than any time during the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 pandemic year. Perhaps partial reopening of California and imminent lifting of the eviction moratorium (in about 60 days) are factors.

Citizens certainly are fleeing the Golden State. Crime, governance, homelessness, high housing costs, single-party politics, and taxes are among the reasons. Slowest population growth since the Great Depression era means California will lose one Congressional seat. All that said, many movers are staying in the state, and San Diego is one of their more popular destinations.

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Don’t You Mean Four Bucks?

Someone tell me where Joe Wallace lives, because I want to go there. Yesterday morning, I read his Wall Street Journal story, “Leap in Gas Prices Puts $3 a Gallon in Sight“, in state of disbelief. In sight, as in coming? Because here in San Diego, that reference means looking back. We passed three bucks a gallon well more than a month ago. In fact, before President Executive Order killed off the Keystone Pipeline, the price had been $2.86 for months—and that was up 30 cents from Summer 2020—at my local economy filling station.

“Gasoline prices at pumps in the U.S. hit an average of $2.88 a gallon over the past week, according to the AAA”, Joe writes. “In California, the most expensive market, average prices stand at $3.88, according to AAA”. Hours later, I shot the Featured Image, with Leica Q2 Monochrom, specifically to illustrate this essay. Granted, Chevron charges more than many competitors but not outrageously greater than the $3.88 at nearby Valero. 

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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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What’s Not Upside Down in California?

While walking along Monroe, approaching Utah, in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, a street sign beckoned my attention. Consider the Featured Image, captured using Leica Q2, as a metaphor for all things unimaginably crackers about the Golden State. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/2, ISO 100, 1/5000 sec, 28mm; 2:54 p.m. PST, Feb. 10, 2021.

We could start with the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns that have devastated California’s economy; compelled tens of thousands of businesses to permanently close; put millions of people out of work and unable to pay either rent or mortgage; prevented landlords and lenders from collecting the aforementioned and prohibited them from evicting tenants and homeowners; forced families or individuals into homelessness; kept kids out of school for 11 months and counting; opened the prisons, releasing potentially dangerous individuals into the population (many of these former inmates become homeless); and—hell, that’s long-enough list of misery.

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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 Washington 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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Don’t Be Typosquatted

In early September 2014, I bought my wife the Singer Heavy Duty 4432 Sewing Machine from Amazon for $99.99. Annie had hoped to make some of her own clothes—something she had long aspired to do. Perhaps if we lived in a larger apartment, she would have achieved her dream; setting up and using the Singer—portable as the thing is—required more space than we could spare.

Fast-forward to late-December 2020. Annie saw a post on Nextdoor from someone looking to buy a sewing machine. Budget: $100. Seeing as the 4432 had never been used, other than to make sure it operated, Amazon’s current price was $209.99, and the manufacturer’s $289.99, $100 would be a deal. Annie responded, and the woman, who we’ll call Grace, agreed to buy the Singer, which would come with extra sewing doodads.

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When You Can’t Serve People, Squirrels Must Do

The mom of Bruce, Guido, and Little—all of which appeared in my “Cats of University Heights” series—put out a clever, cutesy squirrel feeder. There is a sad sweetness to the gesture. She can’t serve people—no thanks to California Governor Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom’s order prohibiting all restaurant dining—and last I heard her employer might join the increasing list of local eateries and pubs put out of business.

In this County, SanDiegoVille keeps a running list of the permanently shuttered since the pandemic’s start. I count 115 eating or drinking establishments, but more when accounting for businesses with multiple locations.. Uncontrollable spread of COVID-19, which is caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2), demonstrates that forced closures are ineffective subduing the pandemic.

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Somebody is a Quick Study of Capitalism

Four days ago, I posted about the clever entrepreneur selling double-layer, home-made face masks for a buck. They’re a bargain no more! Since seeing the unattended sales display on Jan. 9, 2021 along Maryland Street in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood, something changed—the price! Four dollars more—a 400-percent increase! Granted, the presentation is fancier, and Venmo payment is now accepted—with QR code option, no less.

Smooth sales tactics, reminiscent of retail operations everywhere, are evident in the “originally $10 each”, too. That’s not the price I photographed last week, hehe. I wonder why the change. Were too many selling at $1? Was the price below product cost? Were passersby abusing the honor system and stealing them? (Behavioral studies show that people are less likely to swipe things that are more valuable.)