Category: Money

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We All Need a Smiley Break

Flashback two years, to May 2, 2020: SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns compelled Californians to avoid anyone and to otherwise practice so-called safe social distancing. The seeming hardship would pale compared to racial riots that would erupt weeks later.

One of my neighbors literally put on a happy face—among several encouraging, or funny, street decorations to adorn this University Heights property and/or the sidewalk straddling Meade Avenue. Seems like every time I walked by something different greeted. Thank you.

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Fenced Out of Affordable Housing

My daughter rents storage space at one of the local facilities. From my infrequent trips to the place over the years, I have observed stark changes. For starters: An increasing number of people, many of them clearly employed, living out of a vehicle and storing their stuff. With the cost of housing so incredulously expensive in San Diego, these working nomads are not surprising to find. What shocks is how many more I see compared to 18 months ago.

Since a new report about residential renting released this week, I will focus on that topic and let be soaring home selling prices for another time. (If you can’t wait: “Pop Goes Another Housing Bubble” and “Simply Stated: San Diego Unaffordable Housing“.) According to Zumper, rents rose 31.3 percent year-over-year in April 2022. “As a result, San Diego has leapfrogged San Jose and Los Angeles to become the nation’s fifth most expensive city”. Ugh, and I know it’s a fact from watching rents relentlessly rise.

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Shattered Serenity

The difference 24 hours make. Yesterday, the abandoned houses still stood along Louisiana Street at El Cajon Blvd. Today, they—and the businesses around the block—are gone. The Featured Image captures something of the devastation. Vitals: f/8, ISO 100, 1/320 sec, 28mm; 1:26 p.m. PDT. This one and the others come from Leica Q2, aperture manually set for all.

My wife and I have known since summer last year what would happen along one of my favorite blocks in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood. Two cottage complexes, a few modestly-rising apartment buildings, and bunches of single-story houses—with vast swaths of grass and greenery in an area otherwise converting to cement—create calming ambience. The street is, or was, surprisingly serene. Three residential properties on Louisiana and businesses half-way to Mississippi along The Boulevard are gone.

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Pop Goes Another Housing Bubble

The current housing bubble—and there absolutely is one—bears only modest resemblance to the previous catastrophe, which I warned about in a lengthy August 2005 analysis. Rising mortgage rates already are deflating the 2020’s-decade bubble, but the pop is unavoidable without fundamental changes in the actual market or the myths used to explain existing dynamics.

Since before anyone heard of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19, which economic and societal disruption super-inflated the housing bubble, I had warned about a dangerous trend that ignores common sense observation of national demographics: Among the two largest segments, Baby Boomers are dying off and Millennials aren’t having many kids. As population growth stalls, there will be less demand for housing because there will be fewer people to buy. Meaning: All the babbling about not enough inventory has set into motion an overbuilding frenzy that is sure to deflate home values in the not-so-distant future. Before pandemic lockdowns, I had thought within 10 years. I now expect less than five—if we’re lucky.

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What is Inflation?

Everywhere you look, there are reports about rising inflation, which is presented as increases in prices of goods. As a longtime journalist with a reputation for making complex concepts simple and straightforward to understand, I must correct the glaring mistake made by the majority of news reports: Inflation and rising prices are not the same, although there is an undeniable relationship between the two.

Inflation isn’t prices going up but the value of money going down. Spending power decreases. The classic case is late-1923 Germany, when, because of hyperinflation, “a loaf of bread cost 140 billion marks. Workers were paid twice a day, and given half-hour breaks to rush to the shops with their satchels, suitcases, or wheelbarrow, to buy something, anything, before their paper money halved in value yet again” (source: “Loads of Money“, Economist).

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The Difference Between Today and Yesterday

Gasoline prices continue their relentless rise here in San Diego. Regular unleaded now is $1 or more per gallon than on Feb. 24, 2022—when started Russia’s Ukrainian invasion. The Featured Image and companion compare changes over one day. The Arco is located at El Cajon Blvd and Texas Street, where North Park and University Heights meet.

But 30 cents a gallon more than yesterday, or the day before, isn’t the bigger difference. I awoke this morning to news alerts that Joseph Biden banned importation of Russian oil. Price to pump fuel is least of the problems. This sanction, on top of the others, leads to one conclusion, and a single consequence: The United States and Russia are unofficially at war. All that remains is declaration by one side or the other.

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How About ‘U’ for Unaffordable

Hours following a routine visit to the ophthalmologist and dilation, my pupils are still huge and so my vision remains wonky. I can’t imagine what the Featured Image really looks like. Perhaps you can tell me. I stood in the middle of Park Blvd and used Leica Q2 to make the moment on Feb. 23, 2022. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/640 sec, 28mm; 9:30 a.m. PST.

The sign is situated between Adams and Madison, and viewpoint is towards the latter. Around the turn of the last century, Bentley Ostrich Farm relocated to the district—hence the birds on the poles. During the same era, street cars served the community, and some of them were housed and serviced in a facility that is long gone but became the public Old Trolley Barn Park.

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San Diego Affordable Housing

The place isn’t roomy, but the architectural style is quite appealing. I hear there’s a waiting list, though. But if you like, I walk past often enough and can look for that “no” to be covered up. Here’s the thing; A little birdie told me that several crows are in the queue—and they are quite aggressive about obtaining lodging, particularly when the place is furnished and the landlord provides some meals.

Advice: Adopt a community cat from the shelter and turn him loose nearby. If the beastie doesn’t catch and eat some of the animals waiting for the place, he might scare off most of them. The residence is on Maryland Street in University Heights. Address isn’t disclosed, just in case I want to submit a rental application myself.

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The Torn One

Walking along the University Avenue bridge that crosses highway 163 in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, I passed two remnants of a torn up dollar bill. The shredding surprised because many homeless folks frequent the area and would regard a buck as precious commodity. So what’s the backstory? Did someone panhandle the wrong person, who responded by taking out a dollar and ripping it to pieces? I’ll never know.

I used Leica Q2 Monochrom to capture the Featured Image, feeling rushed but nevertheless taking too long. The bridge is a busy thoroughfare, and I knelt down blocking the way to get the shot. The camera balked about ambient light, which was odd. But being harried and not thinking clearly enough, I chose the smallest aperture opening as quick remedy. Using exposure compensation would have nicked the problem—or my actually paying attention to the settings. I had moved the shutter speed from auto the night before and neglected to switch back the dial.

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Inflation Disarms The Bomb

I learned something about cost-creep today that hopefully will benefit you. Don Miguel The Bomb Spicy Red Hot Beef & Bean Burrito is a favorite of mine—available in lots of 12 at my local Costco Business Center. When I first found them, some years ago, a case could be bought for $18.99 or $1.58 per 14-ounce burrito. Later, the price rose to $19.99 before quickly going up to $20.99 and finally $21.99 during the tightest SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 lockdowns. That’s $1.67, $1.75, and $1.83 per package, respectively.

After nearly exhausting a somewhat stocked supply, I returned with my wife to the warehouse store for more. My mistake: I did not closely inspect the box. Price is higher now: $22.49 for that dozen-filled case. But that 50 cents more is for less. The Bomb now is 12 ounces, a decrease of 14 percent in size for a burrito costing $1.87—15 cents per ounce versus 13 cents previously or 11 cents from what I paid about three years ago; maybe four, I don’t rightly recall.

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The Teardown

The massive redevelopment of my San Diego locale advances so briskly that today’s cute business or residence is tomorrow’s demolition. In December 2021, while walking along the University Heights side of Park Blvd, I saw that vintage clothier Frock You! had closed. Strangely. On the door was an eviction notice from the county sheriff, while clothes and debris littered the business’ (uncharacteristically exposed) outdoor shopping area, which had attracted a cadre of the homeless. The adjacent businesses were shuttered, too, suggesting a soon-to-be teardown before the build up of something new.

Fast forward to this afternoon and my first venture that way in more than six weeks. A fence cordons off the former strip of shops and what had been a beautiful home converted into several residences—the Featured Image and companion. The exposed kitchen appliances piqued my interest enough to pull out iPhone 13 Pro and point it through one of the spaces among the chain-links.

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The House on Cleveland

Today’s question: How much longer before this lovely home is demolished and replaced with something ill-suited to the street? On Dec. 2, 2021, I used Leica Q2 to take the Featured Image, after my wife read about the property in University Heights Community Association News. Photo vitals, aperture manually set: f/4.5, ISO 100, 1/160 sec, 28mm; 12:18 p.m. PST.

According to public property records, the place sold for $1.595 million during October 2021. UHCA News reports: “This charming Victorian home at 4350 Cleveland is 2,000 square feet with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths and built in 1905, according to the 2015 Uptown Historic Resources Survey Report”.