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San Diego craft beer culture continues to expand

By Denise Chang

The way Marc Truex describes it, brewing beer is a delicate balance between passion, art and science.

Head Brewer Troy Smith “kind of throws it together, like a mad scientist in the kitchen, grabbing things and throwing it around,” eventually producing great beer, said Truex, director of sales at Belching Beaver Brewery.

The brewery established its first satellite tasting room in North Park three years ago when there were only three other breweries or tasting rooms in the area. Today, there are almost 10 breweries in the San Diego neighborhood, with more on the way, Truex said.

“We were one of the first breweries to get down there and open a tasting room,” Truex said. “In the three years we’ve been in that location, you now see Mike Hess Brewing, Fall Brewing, Barn Brewery, Rip Current, Modern Times.”

Since then, Belching Beaver Brewery has expanded to five brick and mortar locations including a larger capacity brewery in Oceanside, a brewpub in Vista and a tasting room in Ocean Beach. Their rapid expansion parallels the overall growth of the craft beer industry in San Diego County.

The industry has supported the establishment of over 120 local craft breweries in the county, bringing in more revenue than the annual San Diego Comic Con and opening up over 2,800 jobs in the past five years, according to a National University System Institute report.

Jill Davidson, vice president for the San Diego Brewer’s Guild attributes the growth to a willingness to experiment within a close-knit community of local craft brewers along with the accessibility to local resources.

The San Diego Brewer’s Guild began their work in 1997 to create awareness of San Diego breweries and an open line of communication between brewers. And it worked.

“Every bar you walk into, no matter what part of the county you’re in, you’re going to find more craft than domestic [beer],” Davidson said. “That’s largely due to the last 30 years and the hard work of a lot of our pioneer breweries and the San Diego Brewer’s Guild.”

Local craft brewers have found a community within themselves, and “borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor” isn’t uncommon, Davidson said.

“It’s the ability to work of each other, to use local ingredients, to be able to have that ‘phone a friend’ and ask for them for assistance or ask them for a bag of grain,” she said.

Truex said that it is especially important in an area where there’s so much competition.

“The craft community – since we all rely on each other, its one big family. We get help and support from other breweries,” he said. “They guys from Coronado [Brewing Company] – they’re like a sister company to us, will help us with one leg up or with talking to their accounts, like yeah, Belching Beaver makes good things.”

The craft community has also flourished on a word-of-mouth, where tasting room hopping is a social exercise now, Truex said.

“Your business is just growing because you’re attracting like-minded clientele,” Truex said. “That’s how the craft consumer is. They want to visit multiple spots. They want to try different interpretations of different beers, and it’s a wonderful thing to see.”

People are always excited to try something new and support someone new, Davidson said. “Every time I go to the bar, 90 percent of the time the first beer I’ll have is something I’ve never had before. It’s exciting, you know. It keeps everybody together.”

Perhaps it’s the warm weather, but San Diego is synonymous with having very hoppy beer, said Davidson. Hops are what give beer its bitterness, with a lot of Pacific Northwest and Australian hops being used often.

“We’re known for having a very casual, mellow, light bodied, light flavored grain build,” Davidson said. “There isn’t dominant sweetness [from the malt] but the hops are going to be very bright, very vibrant.”

Belching Beaver Brewery is a prime example of meeting the demands for flavorful and quality beer.

Davidson attributes their success to making clean, consistent beer and putting the right resources in the right place. “It’s pretty neat to see the exponential growth,” she said.

Truex with Belching Beaver said that the company aims to make beers that are approachable and innovative and that craft beer lovers are not just set on one type of beer.

“We’ll make everything across the board from your introductory beer, Me So Honey, that’s really light and crisp but has just enough to keep heavy craft beer drinkers coming back for more,” he said.

“Everyone’s palate is looking to have it all, so you’re getting people that are crawling from tasting room to tasting room,” he added. “We don’t just go to one brewery, we’re gonna go to four, we’re gonna go to five.”

The beer brewing culture in San Diego has roots in the Prohibition era. At the time, there were only three breweries in San Diego: Aztec Brewing Company, San Diego Brewing Company and Balboa Brewing Company. In between, commercialized domestic beer and imported beer were most popular in the United States. However, more homebrewers began creating quality beer in the 1970s, and a new beer culture emerged in San Diego.

The economic impact of the craft beer industry is undeniable. Total annual sales went from $734.7 million in 2014 to $851 million in 2015, according to a recent National University System Institute for Policy Research report. Since 2011, over 2,880 industry jobs were made available, according to the  report.

The San Diego Brewer’s Guild continues its work in cultivating the craft beer community, hosting multiple events a year including a job fair, San Diego Beer Week and Rhythm and Blues in Vista.

“Making solid, consistent, clean beer and having the mindset that we’re all in this together will take you really far in San Diego,” Davidson said.

“That’s what it’s about. We want people to come to San Diego, we want them to try beer they’ve never had before and we want them to love it. Whatever we can do to support each other and make that be everyone’s experience when they come into the city, that’s our main goal.”

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What’s the pointe? The realities of a life in professional ballet

By Cambria Fuqua

When Kate Arnson arrives to rehearsal at the San Diego City Ballet, she begins by wrapping and taping her feet and toes. With 35 hours of rehearsals per week alongside working a second job, she tends to her injuries on a daily basis.

For Arnson, that all comes with the territory of being a professional ballerina.

Despite an outward appearance of glamour and sophistication, ballet as an art form has an unflattering reality rarely seen by the pubic. A behind-the-scenes look at the lives of professional ballet dancers reveal what few people see: fierce competition, an unforgiving physical regimen and the need to supplement income.

That reality is is on full display at the San Diego City Ballet, especially for the female dancers. Arnson explains that with each new production, the company’s ballerinas feel the need to fight for a lead role.

“There are definitely always going to be more women than parts,” she said. “There are always going to be women behind you, so just because you aren’t willing to work for a little less money, there are definitely 10 girls behind you that will.”

The psychological strain from the constant need to fight for a place within the company often ensues.

“Sometimes it feels like a total mind game,” she said. “Ultimately, though, we all love it.”

Head choreographer for the San Diego City Ballet, Elizabeth Wistrich, elaborates on the mindset needed for such a unique career.

“You have to really focus. It’s a lot of hard work,” she said.

The hard work and focus extends to the physical exertion of her dancers as well.

Each dancer at the company rehearses seven hours each day. It is inevitable that this amount of physical strain will take its toll on the human body.

“Part of the pain – you just kind of have to deal with. You move on with your life. I take a lot of Epsom salt baths, different kinds of tape, different kinds of ointments – anything you can put on your body that will lessen the pain,” Arnson said.

According to the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, overuse injuries are the most frequent injuries in ballet. The repetitive motions of ballet movements are especially taxing on the hip, knee and ankle joints. As a result, many dancers experience arthritis at a young age.

Although a strong mentality and resilient body are vital, Wistrich emphasized that other attributes are needed in order to achieve success in the world of ballet.

“If you have really high expectations, you have to have the physical attributes. You do have to be on the thinner side, you have to have nice feet, and I think you have to really focus,” Wistrich said.

She puts into perspective just how much her dancers need to truly want to succeed.

“It’s 75 percent hard work and disappointment, and maybe like 25 percent where you really love it, enjoy it, and get some kind of reward out of it,” she said.

Not only are the dancers working hard in the dance studio, but they are also working hard outside of rehearsals.

The dancers say they don’t get an impressive salary by any means. Because of this, most dancers at the San Diego City Ballet are forced to work a second job on top of their busy ballet rehearsal schedule.

“Ballet is never enough to pay the bills,” Arnson said. “In addition to all the other struggles we’re dealing with, everyone is usually working another job until 11 or 12 or two in the morning,” Arnson said.

Lorenzo Sanzo, a guest dancer with the company, elaborates on the passion that is needed for professional dancers to succeed.

“It’s always going to be hard- you’re going to want to give up a thousand times,” he said. “But when you step out onto that stage, it all goes away and the hard work, sweat, tears are all worth it. It’s amazing, and no one can ever take that feeling away from you. That is why we dance.”

Donation-based yoga offers affordable alternative to studios

By Tori Hahn

Yoga, the ancient Hindu practice of meditation to bring health and relaxation to the body, found resolution and validation in San Diego in an unsuspecting location: court.

Steve Hubbard, a Pacific Beach yoga instructor who goes by “Namasteve,” is for many San Diegans the face of donation-based oceanfront yoga — a class style in which participants are not obligated to pay but are encouraged to donate to the instructor.

The donation-based style of yoga earned local fame when Hubbard encountered a First Amendment issue with it in early 2014.

Hubbard’s oceanfront classes in Palisades Park stirred up mixed reactions among community members, who complained about the more than two hundred people who showed up to practice yoga Saturday and Sunday mornings.

“It was a municipal code that stated you can’t have over 49 people, and myself and my attorney disagreed,” Hubbard said. “[We] thought that the First Amendment guarantees that I can get up on my soap box and say something, [and] if people want to listen then they can.”

Hubbard said donation-based yoga exploded in San Diego after his win in court, and has since continued to rise.

The noncommittal style of yoga offers an option to those who can’t afford or don’t have access to traditional membership-based yoga studios. With monthly yoga studio membership fees reaching almost $140, yogis, as they are called, have started seeking out new outlets in which they can practice.

“For a college student on a budget, it’s really what you can manage,” said 22-year-old Quinn Nunes, a casual yoga practitioner. “You can try [donation-based yoga] out before you have a commitment; [with] other classes you [have to] pay up front or you have to pay a large sum of money, but this one — you can come to one class, try it out, see how you like it.”

Both practitioners and instructors stress the importance of donation-based yoga’s accessibility.

“In a studio, if you can find that, it’s going to cost you $20 or $25 per class, which, if you want to practice a lot of yoga, and you’re going class by class, it’s not very accessible to everybody,” Hubbard said. “So of course [with] donation-based yoga, you give what you can and it’s going to draw a lot of people.”

Hubbard’s classes follow the format of traditional yoga, whereas novel varieties of donation-based yoga continue to pop up in San Diego. One unique style, for example, is aerial yoga in which participants hang from cloth while practicing yoga-inspired movements and balancing techniques.

Leila Whitehead is the owner of Trilogy Sanctuary in La Jolla, a rooftop yoga studio that also offers donation-based classes.

Whitehead said she wanted to make the “fun and playful” aerial yoga classes accessible for those who can’t afford to pay the usual fee because of the positive changes it brings.

“I think … [teachers] want to be able to offer yoga to people, but they understand that having a set price doesn’t work for everybody,” Whitehead said. “Some people can feel really scared by it. It can bring up a lot of emotions and feelings for people … and all of those heightened senses, really, it makes it more powerful somehow.”

Another donation-based yoga platform called Yoga Out Loud introduces house music to the 5,000-year-old tradition. Sessions along the water in Mission Beach feature DJ Adam Davis playing deep house music while instructor Jordan Tyler recites classic yoga poses.

Tyler said people flock to donation-based classes because they are often the cheapest option that allow younger people to participate.

“Socioeconomically speaking, the rent is so high and the cost of living is so high [in San Diego] that [without] donation-based yoga for a lot of us, especially us in our 20s or in college … [we] don’t really have access any other way,” Tyler said. “And it’s [a] really important part of my practice, as a teacher, to bring that to the community.”

“We have an awesome outdoor environment too,” Tyler said. “I think that really gives us yogis specifically in San Diego so much opportunity to practice … We have so much time outside all times of year to be able to bring yoga any day, all day, to anyone.”

In the 2015 American Fitness Index report, San Diego ranked third most fit city in the U.S. The American College of Sports Medicine report compared the 50 largest metropolitan areas in diverse categories, including recreational facilities available to residents and community members’ personal health indicators.

The “built environment” indicators — statistics that account for parkland within a city — are what put San Diego on the map. Parks account for 23.5 percent of the land area in “America’s Finest City,” reaching almost 13 percent more than the nation’s target goal.

Additionally, San Diego boasts of almost double the target goal for acres of parkland per 1,000 acres with 36.2 acres.

Hubbard, a New York native, noted that the consistent sunny weather and health consciousness of San Diegans makes yoga a perfect fit for the region.

“You can get out on the beach 300 days a year and you’re not stuck in the house,” Hubbard said. “I think that has a lot to do with it.”

One thing yoga instructors agreed on is the healing yoga can bring.

Whitehead said her students have told her after practicing yoga they see changes in their physical bodies, their moods are elevated and they are generally happier.

Tyler said yoga helps her relieve stress and even improves her depression.

“Over time you start to learn that it’s such a safe space to open up and unwind, unfold the different layers of yourself and get in touch with your body and your brain at the same time,” Tyler said.

 

 

 

Traditional taxi services try not to get elbowed out

By Chelsea Baer

Each day, a line of brightly colored taxicabs line up alongside the entrance of the San Diego Zoo. Ben Kanzi frequently drives his orange taxicab to the Zoo parking lot, where he waits to chauffeur families and tourists around the city.

Kanzi has been a taxi driver in San Diego for more than two decades. He is one of many cab drivers that have watched their business dramatically decline, especially in recent months.

In an age where nearly every industry is going digital to stay visible, the taxicab business is no exception. San Diego Yellow Cab has steadily lost riders and drivers to new-age ride-hail services. Their response? Evolve and innovate in order to stay relevant.

Round-the-clock taxi alternatives, Uber and Lyft rolled into the San Diego market around 2012 after launching their best Lyft coupon code apps in cities across the country. Since then, the taxi industry has been financially impacted, losing almost a third of their business, forcing them to join the trend of app accessibility, said Dan Brand, San Diego Yellow Cab’s Director of Sale and Marketing.

The new crowded field of cab services have left some cab drivers calling for fair treatment.

“We are not against Uber or Lyft, okay. We’re just asking the city to make the same regulations as we have,” Kanzi said. “That’s all.”

Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego Yellow Cab came together as a coalition to create an app that competes with popular ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

“Ride Yellow gives you the availability to book the ride from your phone but you also have the extra insurance,” Brand said.

During his eight-year career with San Diego Yellow Cab, Brand has witnessed a lot of change in the taxi business including an exodus of taxi riders and drivers. Brand estimates that about 30 percent of traditional taxi riders have switched to using ride-hail services.

RideYellow is Yellow Cab’s official app, which puts taxicab transportation in the palm of the rider’s hand. The app is currently available in 20 cities across the country. It made its Southern California debut at the beginning of this year in response to the increased competition, according to Brand.

RideYellow essentially works  the same way  as competing apps, equipped with a GPS based pickup and drop-off options, driver information and easy payment methods.

Some features that set this taxi app apart include a cash-friendly option and a surge-free policy, ensuring a dependable rate.

Regulations that Kanzi wants to see made uniform involve insurance and licensing. San Diego Yellow Cab drivers must pay for commercial insurance that covers damages up to $1 Million. All insurance is not made equal, according to Brand.

“When it comes to public safety, I think [regulation] is really a necessity,” he said.

A complaint from Uber and Lyft riders is the unpredictable surge pricing, according to Brand. During holidays, special events and high-demand hours, the rates can increase. If there are more riders than drivers, the rate can reach more than double the standard rate, according to Uber’s website.

San Diego branch representatives from Uber declined comment and directed media inquires to their webpage.

While RideYellow offers a surge-free ride service, Uber and Lyft have a lower daily rate on average, about 90 cents per mile. The RideYellow App is a $2 per mileage rate all day, every day, according to the RideYellow website.

The RideYellow app is fully functioning. The hardest part, according to Brand,  is advertising and reaching customers who are already accustomed to Uber and Lyft.

San Diego State University senior Maggie Sin, frequently uses apps like Uber and Lyft to travel around San Diego.

“What I really like about Uber and Lyft is the convenience factor,” Sin said. “I can be anywhere and it locates me, where exactly I am and how much it will cost.”

Sin was not aware of  the RideYellow app but said she might consider using it the next time she encounters a surge fee from Uber or Lyft.

“I would be open to using it just to see how different it is, if there is a fare difference,” Sin said. “As long as it is a mobile app, I feel like I would be open to anything.”

Kyle Schneider, a graduating senior at San Diego State University,  has been driving for Lyft and Uber for almost two years. What started as a side job ended up being a hobby he grew to enjoy.

As a busy college student, he appreciates the flexibility of working for Lyft and Uber.

“I like the freedom I have,” Schneider said. “ I get to drive my own car and work around my schedule.”

Aside from being able to earn money in his free time, Schneider also enjoys meeting new people.

“The thing that I like most is the ability to interact with a diverse crowd,” Schneider said. “Obviously, you don’t really know much about them aside from their name and  a picture, but when they get in the car you can learn all types of interesting information from where they come from personal preferences and hobbies.”

As Uber and Lyft continue to grow in popularity and taxi drivers are losing almost a third of their business, one may wonder if taxi drivers would consider transferring to a company like Uber or Lyft?

That’s an easy question for Kanzi to answer, based on principle.

“I’m never going to be an Uber driver, personally,” he said. “I can’t say it for everyone, but for me, never.”

Others, like Schneider, think the transition in the taxi industry is just another technological shift.

“I think millennials and young people can utilize it more effectively and it fits their lifestyles so that’s why the transition has become integrated into society now, and I feel like progression is kind of inevitable,” Schneider said.

 

 

Complexity of homelessness persists in North Park

By Vassili Demos

Robert Doran once had an idyllic life.

A San Diego State University graduate and lifelong San Diegan, he was the general manager of a water company in Santee for seven years. For 12 years before that, he worked at General Dynamics making cruise missiles. For a time, he even owned a bar in La Mesa.

Then, it all fell apart. He fell on financial hard times and slipped into drug addiction. Eventually, he lost his home, his wife and began living on the streets in North Park.

“I had a good life,” Doran, 59, said. “It just all of a sudden was like the carpet got pulled out from under me.”

Doran is not alone. Homelessness has been a part of North Park for many years, and Edwin Lohr, President of the North Park Community Association, believes it’s getting worse.

San Diego’s pleasant weather and a push from other cities to move homeless people out of their communities are reasons why the homelessness persists here, Lohr explained.

“For many years we did ignore it, but I think we’ve got to find out the root of why there is homelessness here,” Lohr said. “I believe that is one of the biggest challenges our government officials have to take into consideration.”

In October 2015, North Park leaders and police held a community forum to address the homeless problem in their community. Six months later, the problem persists.

Jessica Lawrence, City of San Diego Budget and Finance Committee Consultant, acknowledged development in downtown San Diego has led to a migration of homeless people to neighborhoods like North Park.

Ariel Walker, a former homeless person, knows first hand why people stay in North Park. People and police are generally sympathetic to the homeless population there. She added that she believes it’s because North Park, situated to the northeast of Balboa Park, is a comfortable place.

San Diego had a population of 8,742 homeless people in 2015, placing the coastal city fourth for largest population of homeless people in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in their Annual Homeless Assessment Report.

The report also shows both San Diego city and county have 1,981 homeless people who comprise families with children.

Both San Diego city and county ranked fifth in the nation with 12.3 percent of homeless people who are unsheltered – those who sleep somewhere not intended for human residence. And that number is on the rise, Lawrence said.

The study also found San Diego ranked third for largest population of homeless veterans. San Diego also has the sixth largest population of chronically homeless people in the nation.

Someone who understands the struggles the homeless face is Melissa Peterman, Director of Homeless Housing Innovations at the San Diego Housing Commission.

San Diego’s high cost of living and its notorious expensive housing compound the  problem. Peterman says it’s very difficult to find homes for people who have bad credit histories, no prior rental experience and who can’t afford to rent a home or apartment in an extremely competitive rental market.

Walker, for example, attributes her homelessness to her not being able to afford rent in the city.

Doran said once someone become homeless, it becomes especially difficult to get back on track.

“Who wants to hire a 59-year-old guy? What do I do? Go to Walmart and greet people at the front door,” he said. “I’m lost right now.”

The sheer number of homeless people in the area is daunting.

“The reality is we don’t have enough funding from the federal government to house everybody,” Lawrence said. “We don’t have enough available units to house the over 8,000 homeless on the streets in the county.”

It’s important to understand that homelessness is always going to exist, Lawrence argues.

“You’re never going to stop somebody from falling on their luck one day, losing their job, having an incident happen to them that leads to their homelessness,” Lawrence said. “There is always going to be people that fall on hard times and wind up on the street.”

Sarah McCarthy, 23, was living in Reno, Nev., but was unhappy working a nine-to-five job. She then joined her friends in an adventure across the country. After that, their van broke down and she found herself stuck in San Diego.

“I’ve been stuck here between OB and North Park,” she said. “Haven’t really been able to get out.”

A local organization knows the pressures the homeless face all too well. Home Start, run by CEO Laura Tancredi-Baese, is focused on providing services to homeless mothers and children living in poverty.

“Some people choose to remain on the streets because of severe mental illness, bad experience with systems and some just prefer being independent on the streets,” Tancredi-Baese said.

Doran said he is better off on the streets than in a shelter. He said he grew weary of bed bugs and overcrowding. He also said he can survive on his own and works together with his friends, who are also homeless.

“I live better where I’m at right now,” he said. “I’m out here. I’m surviving. I know how to survive.”

That mindset, combined with the good but sometimes flawed intentions of city officials can be frustrating, said North Park resident Paul Richardson.

“The city wants to help them, but some of the methods in which they do so are counterproductive,” Richardson said. “Sometimes their idea of helping is – OK, lets run them out of this area into another one.”

McCarthy said she was living in Ocean Beach, but the harassment from local residents and police pushed her to North Park.

“It got to a point where you couldn’t even sit down without being harassed, so I had to go to North Park,” McCarthy said. “The cops are pretty cool, a lot easier than OB.”

Anyone can experience homelessness, Peterman said. “Most folks are just a missed paycheck away, or an unforeseen medical expense away from being on the streets.”

Doran knows that reality well.

“I was sober for four years. I went to Escondido. We had two different rehabs for two years, and I got my life straight. I slipped and I ended up coming back down here. I’m back on the streets again,” he said. “I’m not happy about that.”

Pet-friendly invention has tails wagging

By Joseph Ciolino

An owner of a 60-pound dog might want to think twice before tying their pet to a patio chair outside a coffee shop. Simply put, once the dog sees a squirrel, there goes the chair.

There is a certain responsibility that comes with being a dog owner and that includes keeping the dog, people and the community safe, said Brian Hoffman, a dog owner and boat repairman who came up with an idea that would give people an extra hand while out on the town with their pooches.

“I was walking, and I wanted to go into the convenience store, and I had to tie my dog up to a phone booth, and it was a precarious situation,” Hoffman said. “I thought: Why wouldn’t a business want a hitch outside for people walking their dogs?”

Hoffman’s answer was to invent a way for people to secure their dogs while they were out. He started developing dog hitches in 2013 by producing six prototypes and handing them out to local North Park businesses.

It became the starting point of his business, Doghook, which is exactly what it sounds like: a plate with a bended hook welded on top of it, with holes punched on the plate where screws with washers are used to hold the plate on a sturdy surface.

The plate can be placed on the outside or inside walls of businesses, on fences or any vertical surface, and patrons can simply secure the leash end on the hook. The hooks work with every type of leash, even the larger handles that are commonly seen with extractable leashes.

“I wanted to find something that was a little more fashionable and a more modern look in the shop,” said Cielo Mathis, owner of Paws and Whiskers Grooming and Retail.

According to Hoffman, multiple shock and weight tests have put the hooks to the test.

“There have been about 6,000 hooks made at this point and there’s never been a model that has failed,” Hoffman said. “You’d have to put 800 to 900 pounds [on the hook] to disfigure it and that just doesn’t happen.”

Indeed, safety was the main concern for Hoffman when he came up with the idea to develop the dog hitch; his main vision was keeping the dogs and the patrons safe while advocating for dog-friendly communities.

“There are lawsuits waiting to happen,” said Steve Yeng, owner of OB Noodle House in Ocean Beach. “A dog pulls an umbrella and hits somebody’s head and there’s a $10,000 lawsuit.”

Yeng and his family all own dogs, and he has made it a point to make OB Noodle House a place where people can bring their pets and feel comfortable. The Asian fusion bar and restaurant has about six dog hooks placed on poles in the outdoor dining area. Couch for dogs are available for them nearby, everything has been thought of in their behalf.

“I think already that it has been a great thing for the dog-friendly community,” Hoffman said. “There’s really sort of a swell of dog friendliness going around, and we want to be at the front of that.”

The hooks can be found all over San Diego, spanning to about 50 local businesses varying from bars, breweries, restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, schools and convenience stores.

“We really concentrated a lot on the beer culture, so there’s a lot in the breweries and tasting rooms,” Hoffman said. “I frequent various brewpubs and breweries in town with some regularity, and with my dogs, I simply wanted to make it safer and easier for myself and others to drink and dine with dogs.”

The Rabbit Hole in Normal Heights is a microbrewery that has outdoor seating with a wall facing the inside of the establishment. That wall is lined with Doghooks for customers to eat and drink with their dogs secured.

“Beer culture at its heart is a very casual, relaxed atmosphere,” said Steven Throop, general manager of The Rabbit Hole. “People think about drinking beer on their porches with their neighbor, and what’s more neighborly or more homey than having your dog with you?”

Aside from the beer scene, many veterinarians and groomers use the product as well.

Mathis has eight hooks spread throughout her pet-grooming parlor in Chula Vista, including hooks near the grooming stations, in the pet-holding areas and by the washing station. Previously, only crates and expandable gates were used in the parlor to secure dogs.

It wasn’t until a dog escaped when Mathis realized that safety takes priority and security had to be heightened in her parlor.

“It’s a great way to contain the dogs very easily and very quickly,” she said. “[Customers] love the idea that their dog doesn’t have to go in a crate, and the dogs like it too.”

Cielo’s Schnauzer, Buttons, usually hangs out at the front of the shop on her Doghook and comfortably watches her master groom the other dogs.

Hoffman has also sold his product to large companies that buy hundreds at a time, including Groomer’s Choice, a large catalog company that sells to dog groomers, and Red Cape Limited, another grooming distributor based in the United Kingdom.

One of the newer clients that Hoffman has been working with is the Canadian pet grooming product franchise known as Pet Edge.

“We’re selling them all across the board to all kinds of different people, businesses, wholesalers and distributors,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman has approached the bigger companies Petco and Petsmart but was not able to come to an agreement because of the high startup and monthly account system fees.

“It’s tough to get through with them,” he said. “Dealing with big companies – there’s a lot of expenses in the setting up of it, so I sort of backed away from doing that.”

Though the hooks are widely known, things have started to pick up for Hoffman. He has sold about 250 hooks internationally, nearly 5,000 domestically and plans to sell many more.

“It’s such a simple thing, and there’s so few ideas that haven’t been thought of yet,” Hoffman said. “With seven billion people you’d think somebody would’ve thought of this before.”

Drag queens cultivating a younger fan base

By Jose Gutierrez

It’s nearly midnight on a Sunday evening in a dimly lit parking lot in North Park. RuPaul’s Battle of the Stars Tour has just finished its San Diego tour date at The Observatory, a venue larger in capacity than the House of Blues where the same event was held a year earlier.

A group of about 20 fans began surrounding a tour bus before security promptly tells the group to move toward the sidewalk.

“Are any of you under 18?” a security guard asks the group.

Nearly half the group raises its hand.

“You guys gotta leave here by 12,” the security guard said to the group, reminding them of the curfew for minors.

It’s nothing new to see passionate young fans eagerly waiting to meet their idols post-concert, but the same dedication now applies to popular drag queens whose performances were typically limited to bars and clubs.

“I don’t want to drink, I just want to enjoy the show,” 16-year-old drag enthusiast Linzy Luu said. “I just want to see them live and be inspired by them.”

The thought of drag queens garnering such a young audience may be confusing at first, but the phenomenon is largely credited to “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a competition reality show in search of “America’s Next Drag Superstar.”

When the show debuted in 2009, drag culture was placed on a national platform, taking drag culture from bars and clubs straight to the family living room.

“There was already a well-established drag community, whether it had been underground or out there in the clubs,” Lips Restaurant performer and drag queen Nadja Baskin said. “The show’s timing just skyrocketed drag’s popularity.”

Lips Restaurant, a drag-themed dinner theater in North Park, holds nightly performances six days a week with local drag queens serving as the waiters and the performers.

According to Baskin, it’s not uncommon to see young audience members at Lips.

“I had one mom call and her daughter was turning ten,” Baskin said. “I personally wouldn’t take my 10-year-old child to a drag show, but it’s a new generation of kids.”

While Lips typically discourages those under 12 from attending the nightly shows, it provides one of the few opportunities for those under 21 to see drag up close and personal.

Responding to the demand for more age-accessible drag, there has been a recent flux of all ages events that aims to connect underage fans to their favorite queens. One such event is RuPaul’s Battle of the Stars 2016 Extravaganza Tour.

Eastlake High School senior Abraham Hernandez lined up at The Observatory by 2 p.m., even though the show wouldn’t begin until 8.

His evening took a turn for the better when one of the performers, RuPaul season 8 finalist Ginger Minj, spotted Hernandez and gave him meet-and-greet passes for being lined up so early.

“Now there are a lot of kids who love drag queens and want to meet them but they can’t because they’re under 21,” Hernandez said. “It made my whole year to have the opportunity to meet them.”

Television personality and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” judge Michelle Visage isn’t surprised to see that the show has a notable following among the youth.

“At that age, middle school and high school, everybody’s trying to find their own tribe, something to call their own,” Visage said during the preshow meet and greet. “It makes complete sense.”

At the event, Luu was also able to meet some of her favorite drag queens from the show. She intends on meeting more at RuPaul’s Drag Con at the Los Angeles Convention Center on May 7 and 8.

“Drag shouldn’t have an age limit. It should be open to anyone that’s interested,” Luu said. “Drag Con is a great opportunity for kids out there like me to be in a world like drag and not feel left out because all their shows are 21 and over.”

According to Luu, she is passionate about drag culture because of the creativity that goes into the performances.

Justin Anthony, known as “Gro Tesqua” in San Diego’s drag scene, uses drag as an artistic outlet for his creativity.

“Drag for me is basically self-expression,” Anthony said. “I’m an artist, I’ve always been an artist, and drag is a way to express myself.”

Just moments earlier, Anthony had just won the first round of Dueling Divas, a local drag competition held in Urban MO’s Bar and Grill.

Baskin, a good friend of Anthony, agrees that drag revolves around self-expression. However, she adds that drag doesn’t belonging to any one particular group of people.

“Drag is a world of beauty and embracing all walks of life,” Baskin said. “It’s not necessarily a gay or straight or trans thing. Everybody’s equal.”

Baskin, a transgender woman, identifies as being more female than being a drag queen. Being a woman is a part of her identity, but being in drag entails performance and entertainment, which is why drag is not limited to any particular gender.

Sixteen-year-old Luu plans on participating in drag culture in the near future, although she faces criticism and opposition from her schoolmates.

“They tell me no, you can’t that, drag is for men pretending to be women,” Luu said as she recalled comments from her peers. “But it’s 2016 already. Everyone is really open. The world is changing.”

While drag inspires Luu with creative energy, Hernandez says that drag has helped him feel comfortable in his own skin.

“Drag makes you feel accepted. You learn to love yourself just watching the show,” Hernandez said. “A lot of kids need to learn that now because their parents might not always approve of them.”

As for now, both Hernandez and Luu are anticipating a recently announced all-ages tour being put together by Jasmine Masters, a drag queen who is responding to seeing underage fans waiting outside clubs until the late hours of night.

Masters made the announcement via YouTube, explaining how the tour is specifically for those under 21. The tour is comprised mostly of contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but it will also team up with local drag queens to introduce fans to their own local drag scene.

Until that tour comes into fruition, however, super fans will have to keep waiting outside venues in hopes of seeing their favorite drag performers.

While Luu is excited about the tour’s announcement, she is most excited about eventually performing drag in the near future.

“At my age, I can’t perform at clubs, but I want do everything,” Luu said. “I want to perform, I want to do make up. I want to meet them, I want to be them.”

 

 

San Diego’s elder Filipino-Americans share their experiences

San Diego’s Filipino population has gone from small and scattered pockets around the county to a large and bustling community 145,000 strong.

Just as this generation passes on its knowledge and achievements to the next, the old-timers of San Diego’s Filipino community will pass on their history and heritage to younger Filipinos.

Whether it’s in the culture or the history of Fil-Am activism around the county, it’s important that old-timer Filipinos have plenty to pass on, according to Rey Monzon, director of San Diego State University’s Student Affairs Research and Assessment department.

“It reminds me of something (from) Jose Rizal,” he says. “I think it was something that you can’t go forward unless you know where you’ve been.”

The early Fil-Am community

San Diego’s Filipino-American community was definitely a more social one, where it was the norm for many Fil-Ams’ parents to be involved in some sort of community organization, Monzon says.

These community organizations, he adds, were created to help the Filipino immigrants of that time to network and connect with others from the same province and hometown, such as the Bataan and Cavite associations.

“My family was heavily involved in the community at that time,” Monzon says. “It was really dominated by first-generations.”

DSC_2311

Anamaria Cabato speaks at a FAVA Hall open house about her experiences growing up with the building, April 9, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Raquidan)

Indeed, it was common for many of San Diego’s Fil-Ams growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s to attend events and gatherings held by the organizations that their parents or relatives were involved in.

And with so many Filipino community associations representing the different towns and provinces, dances and beauty pageants were held nearly every week in the same two venues.

For Anamaria Cabato, the PASACAT Philippine Performing Arts Company’s executive director, these clubs’ social events were the place to meet and play with other Fil-Am children.

 

“It was fun (growing up in the community),” she says. “Because my parents would go to these meetings – they were involved in these associations. So we got to meet other Filipino kids, and we would meet them at the FAVA (Filipino American Veterans Association) Hall.

“They had fun dinner-dances. All the Filipinos could fit in the FAVA Hall or the El Cortez Hotel. That was so popular in the ’60s and ‘70s.”

And FAVA Hall hosted a significant amount of events for San Diego’s Filipino community.

Growing up Filipino back then

Being raised as a first-generation Filipino-American back then had its ups and downs – where in general, Fil-Am youths didn’t need to worry as much about their futures, as their parents decided for them for the most part, according to Cabato.

She adds that in general, Filipino families are very hierarchical, with the parents on top and children following their wishes.

To her, these values led to a culture shock in college when she suddenly found herself on her own, away from her parents.

“Excelling was easy in high school, but when you go to a four-year institution, you’re no longer spoon-fed,” Cabato says. “You sort of have to do things on your own. And being raised (as a Filipino), your parents do everything for you.

“So you don’t know anything about the worldly stuff and how to take care of your personal problems like talking to the professor, because the stigma was if you go talk to your teacher, you’re not understanding and you have a problem, and something’s wrong with you.”

550 CabatoSnap2

Cabato discusses the difficulties she faced as she made the jump to college. For many Filipinos, simply approaching professors with problems is a challenge in and of itself. (Photo by Kevin Raquidan)

Nevertheless, many Filipino-Americans were already well-established in the community, and went through completely different upbringings.

Whereas parents like Cabato’s had a lot more say in their children’s life decisions, other Filipino parents like Rey Monzon’s and former SDSU Educational Opportunity Program counselor Sal Flor were more lenient with their children.

On the one hand, Monzon’s upbringing wasn’t exactly typical for Filipino families.

“My dad immigrated here in San Diego through the Navy,” he says. “That’s a very typical scenario (for Filipinos here). But my mom was actually born and raised here, and she’s half-Filipino and half-Mexican. So we had a different dynamic in our house unlike most first-generation family homes.”

This dynamic, Monzon adds, allowed for him and his siblings to have more open discussions with his parents – something that’s not normally done in typical Filipino families.

“We had a lot of freedom to do things,” he says. “We were out here doing this and that. But that wasn’t typical, especially in high school.”

And for Sal Flor, the son of a Filipino veteran of World War II, today’s Filipino notion of having the parents decide for the children was unheard of.

He says the reason was that there was already a generational gap between his parents, so in turn, he grew up immersed in all sorts of fields.

“My dad was 18 years older than my mother,” Flor says. “When you have that type of background you see a lot. Our parents were into bringing us out, so we all took judo lessons when were little kids.

“We all took piano lessons. We all played Little League, and two of us were paper boys. The world of work was always kind of pushed on us. We all worked through our lives.”

Embracing your roots

Still, despite her facing difficulty in making the jump between high school and college, Cabato found herself immersed in her roots as a Filipina, thanks to her parents’ heavily exposing her to their culture.

550 PASACAT Snap

Gemma Cabato, Anamaria’s daughter, teaches a Filipino cultural dance to the girls of PASACAT, March 30, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Raquidan)

“My mom always used to play Filipino records like Juan Silos Jr. and His Rondallas, and the Bayanihan National Philippine Dance Company,” she says, smiling. “My parents wanted to make sure that we were exposed to the culture, so they asked us to participate in the Filipino Women’s Club and learn cultural dances.

“We even performed at the House of the Philippines (in Balboa Park), one of the oldest Filipino organizations in San Diego.”

Even to this day, and thanks to her parents’ encouraging her to join, Cabato still serves as the executive director of the PASACAT Philippine Performing Arts Company, performing at all sorts of events around the community.

To her, being able to perform Filipino cultural dances around the community is an important act in and of itself, as it allows her to bring the culture to the spotlight.

“My generation, we’re definitely activists,” Cabato says. “I’m an activist in a different way … in preserving the culture, and making that as the positive contribution for our community, to help people connect to their culture, and for our audiences to enjoy and embrace our culture.”

This generation definitely has plenty of outlets to contribute to the community, she adds.

Clockwork Coffee Shoppe caffeinates the College Area with locally roasted, quality beans

Situated on the corner of College Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard, between a small nail salon and a Chase Bank, an orange sign attracts attention to Clockwork Coffee Shoppe, a quiet study nook for San Diego State University students and passersby alike.

When Clockwork co-owner Gordon Smith first developed the idea, he had one goal in mind: to provide high-end coffee in the College Area.

“I knew I wanted to do a coffee shop that really focused on doing higher-end coffee, unlike other places in the area that are more like restaurants that serve coffee. I wanted to be the specialty coffee in the area,” Smith said.

An idea is born

Clockwork Coffee Shoppe Sign

Clockwork Coffee Shoppe, located in the College Area serves between 300 and 400 customers every day. (Photo by Megan Foo)

Having worked in cafes and coffee shops in La Mesa and North Park, Smith said he had an extensive background in brewing quality coffee and operating a coffee shop prior to opening his business.

“Although we had to learn how to manage a really small kitchen, coffee was always in the bag,” Smith said.

The concept for the coffee shop is based around the “On the Clock” deal, whereby a customer can pay $6.99 for an hour of unlimited coffee, $5.99 for the following hour, and so on, according to Smith. Customers still have the option of purchasing individual drinks.

The name Clockwork Coffee Shoppe emerged as Smith developed a business plan. Instead of naming the business Clockwork Cafe, as he had originally planned, Smith said he chose to put the word “coffee” in the name to reinforce his vision of focusing on the quality of coffee.

“It’s snappy, and it’s easy to brand,” Smith said. “It has the meaning of on-time and punctual, and it just worked out.”

Challenges of opening a small business

Smith described the process of opening a small business in San Diego as “terrifying.” Although he was confident in his idea, he said that he knew he needed help, and partnered with family member Laura Smith to open the shop.

In conjunction with Laura Smith, who had experience with small business startups, Gordon Smith moved forward with the project.

“Neither of us had opened a restaurant or any sort of cafe, so we had no clue what we’d have to do with the health department,” he said.

Despite his initial concerns, Smith said working with the health department was easy. Obtaining building permits during the renovation process posed the real challenge. The resulting construction delays caused the shop to open about five months late, Smith said.

Focusing on the coffee

The coffee used by Clockwork comes from local San Diego roasting companies, including The WestBean Coffee Roasters, Zumbar Coffee & Tea, Dark Horse Coffee and Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, according to Smith. On an average day, the shop has a house coffee in addition to coffee from four to five  other roasters. Smith goes to cuppings at local roasters in order to taste and select what he thinks is the best coffee to serve in the shop, always keeping his customers in mind.

“We’re a little bit of an oddity,” Smith said. “I don’t think there are any other coffee shops in San Diego that carry multiple roasters.”

The variety of coffee available at Clockwork is one of the reasons SDSU student Shoshauna Borowitz goes there.

“There’s always something new to try, and it always tastes great,” Borowitz said. “No matter which roast I get, I love when they do a pour-over instead of regular drip coffee, because it tastes so much better.”


In addition to providing its customers with variety, Smith said, Clockwork also provides them with quality. Their coffee is brewed from beans roasted only two to three days before arriving at the shop.

Once coffee beans have been roasted, they should be given time to rest, according to Heather Brisson, the head roaster at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in San Diego. This is important because it gives the coffee time to continue developing its flavors, she said. After the coffee rests, it is at its freshest between three and 10 days after roasting, she said.

Fresh coffee bullet points“After that, coffee starts to lose some of those subtle flavors, you know, the fruitiness, the chocolatyness, they just begin to mute a little bit and taste more like just brown water,” Brisson said.

Sourcing coffee from local San Diego roasters is something that Teal Cooper, co-owner of VendiBean, echoed when she described her business’s success. Although VendiBean operates out of a vending machine instead of a retail space, the taste and freshness of the final product is still something best achieved by sourcing coffee from local roasters, Cooper said.

“When we first began, we were using coffee from a Seattle-based roasting company that tasted OK, but not amazing,” Cooper said. “We recently ended up finding a good chocolaty, Brazilian blend through Swell Coffee Company , which tastes so much better and is a lot fresher.”

According to Smith, most of the local coffee shops roast their own coffee. While Clockwork does not roast its own coffee, it instead focuses on preparing the coffee well in order to provide the highest quality of coffee to the customers.

The customers keep coming back

According to Smith, about 80 percent of the customers who enter  Clockwork Coffee Shoppe on a daily basis are returning customers.

“The fact that we have a really high return rate of customers makes me feel like we’re doing something right,” Smith said.

student studying at table

Clockwork Coffee Shoppe’s proximity to San Diego State University, making it a popular study spot for students such as Denise Chang. (Photo by Megan Foo)

Smith attributed the high return rate to the quality of both the coffee and food at Clockwork. Despite having a “closet-sized” kitchen, Smith said, both Clockwork’s food and coffee receive positive Yelp reviews.

“We put out pretty basic stuff done simply and done well, and I think people respond to that,” Smith said.

Clockwork’s welcoming atmosphere is also something that keeps customers coming back. Borowitz said she used to go to Clockwork at least twice a week when she lived nearby, whether it was to get a cup of coffee before class or to sit and study. She lives farther away now, but still visits Clockwork to grab a cup of coffee and study.

“The people there are just really nice and personable,” Borowitz said. “They’ll say ‘hi’ to you and they’ll know your order if you come in often enough.”

Other SDSU students, such as Denise Chang, can often be found studying at the tables in the coffee shop. With its numerous seats and spacious layout, there is always a place to sit and study, according to Chang.

"What's next for Clockwork?" bullet points“Clockwork is definitely my go-to because of the tables and really good coffee,” Chang said.

What’s next?

Since opening in September 2014 with five employees and serving between 120 and 150 customers a day, Clockwork has grown to nine employees and is now serving between 300 and 400 customers a day, according to Smith. Success did not happen overnight, and it took almost a year for Smith and his co-owner to begin taking home small paychecks, he said.

“Most people hear about overnight successes, but if you throw enough effort at something, you’ll succeed,” Smith said.

In the future, Smith said, he hopes to open new locations across San Diego, and to expand the current location and potentially make it into a 24-hour spot without compromising the quality of the product — the key aspect of the business.

Tiny homes in San Diego face uncertainly future

By Amanda Kay Rhoades

While struggling to support herself and her daughter while attending Grossmont College, Danielle Drummond knew she had to do something drastic. A two-bedroom apartment on an $11-an-hour salary just wasn’t cutting it.

In San Diego’s expensive and competitive housing market, a full-size home was out of the question. So, she built her own 266-square-foot home with the Tyrone attic stairs and similar smart home solutions for herself and her daughter.

“Ever since that documentary aired on Netflix, hundreds of people have joined my tiny home meetup group,” she said of the group she founded in 2014 and which now has over 900 members. “They don’t all live in tiny houses but they’re interested in tiny living or living sustainably in some way.”

Tiny homes have continued to rise in popularity in the last few years, but San Diego’s housing regulations can make it tough to live small.

“If your tiny home is hooked up to a pickup truck … essentially you’re operating a recreational vehicle. It’s no different from pulling an RV up to the curb and parking it and living there,” said Anthony Santacroce, a public information officer for the city of San Diego.

It’s illegal to park an RV in one place for more than 72 hours in San Diego.

Santacroce said that the city has not yet made codes for tiny homes specifically, but if they became popular enough in the region, that could change. For now, landowners who want to build tiny homes on their property will have to refer to the zoning laws.

“If you’re developing a tiny home that’s on a piece of land, your land, then the permitting, the inspection, the coding – it’s going to be the same as a home that’s 1,500 to 2,000 square feet,” Santacroce said.

Every city within San Diego county has different rules. What’s allowed in Lemon Grove, for example, isn’t necessarily the same as what’s allowed in La Mesa.

“No one bothered me the entire time I was building in Lemon Grove,” Drummond said. “People would come by and leave these notes that said like, ‘I’ve seen these on TV! This is so cool.’ ”

She said she even had to make a sign referring people to her meetup group because so many of them would knock on the door at strange hours.

After she was finished building the home, Drummond moved her home to La Mesa where her daughter goes to school. She had the home parked in a friend’s backyard, and that’s when she started to run into problems.

“We made it two days before the city shut us down. It wasn’t even necessarily a secondary dwelling law, and I wasn’t even hooked up to utilities yet. It was just that I got a nuisance ordinance,” she said. “They decided that it wasn’t in line with the other buildings in the community and that they wanted it gone.”

Drummond said she was given 72 hours to move her house or she’d be fined for every day that the home remained. With the help of her friend, she moved her home back to Lemon Grove until she met her current landlord.

She said she’s been there since December without any problems. But even though she plans to relocate soon to continue her education at San Jose State University, Drummond said she knows someone could force her to move her tiny home at any time.

“I really don’t have high hopes for tiny home living in San Diego. I think it would take a lot more people to create a change,” Drummond said.

Former real estate professional Janet Ashforth has been working on creating the region’s first tiny home community in Escondido. Her company, Habitats Tiny Homes, already has 25 reservations for space in the community.

She said they’re looking at two different sites but haven’t finalized the location yet. Although for this first community the homes will all be built on wheels, Ashforth said she’s hoping to create some on traditional foundations in the future.

“The county and the city of San Diego are finally recognizing that tiny homes are here to stay, and they’re acknowledging that people are going to live in them,” Ashforth said. “But instead of creating a tiny home category, what we have to do is build to RV code, manufactured home code, or factory built home code.”

Ashforth said that after she’s finished building the first community, she hopes to work with government officials to help establish better codes for tiny homes in the future.

For Drummond, the decision to live small was just as much financially driven as it was about sustainability. She said her meetup group are all just looking for alternatives.

“They don’t all have tiny homes,” Drummond said. “They’re just all interested in minimal living, or they’d like to build one some day, or they are building one.”

Pacific Beach homeowners protest Airbnb vacation rentals

 

Valerie Lewis lives just a block from the Pacific Beach shoreline, where the waves crash and sunbathers roast. She’s surrounded by moderately-sized homes like her own, an elementary school, a library and the Catamaran Resort.

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach, located north of downtown San Diego, is a popular destination for locals, college students and tourists. But the increase in short-term rentals is causing concern among local homeowners.

This community feel is what brought her to the area in the first place, but now she says neighboring short-term vacation rentals are tearing up the close-knit environment she loves.

“When we bought this house five years ago, we were told it was single-residence zoning, which is why we were attracted to it,” Lewis said. “Because of all the other businesses around, it was a unique pocket within Pacific Beach. And a single-family residence means just that, a single-family residence neighborhood… schools, libraries, a neighborhood.”

 

Neighborhoods are for Neighbors signs

Signs protesting short-term vacation rentals are scattered around Pacific Beach, as well as Mission Beach.

Under city law, Lewis’ neighborhood is designated for single-family dwellings, but locals, renters and lawmakers all seem to have different interpretations of this definition.

To voice concern against the short-term vacation rentals, San Diego citizens created the organization Save San Diego Neighborhoods. Thomas Coat, a founding member of Save San Diego Neighborhoods, said the municipal code clearly outlaws short-term vacation rentals, but a lack of regulatory resources have allowed them to permeate. Lewis is also a part of this neighborhood coalition that is pressuring the city to enforce the current municipal code.

 

 

 SLIDESHOW: Save San Diego Neighborhoods Co-Founder Thomas Coat describes the difficulties of living next to a short-term vacation rental.

 

However, Todd Kirschen, owner of a short-term vacation rental property next to Coat’s home, said what he’s doing is perfectly legal.

 

“I don’t think there is an opinion of the law,” Kirschen said. “The law says that if you rent your place out and make an income, then you have to report that income and pay taxes on it.”

 

The tax he is referring to is the Transient Occupancy Tax, or TOT, which the county imposes on owners who rent properties for less than a month, including short-term vacation rentals. For all lodging businesses, this tax is 10.5 percent, according to the City of San Diego website.

Meanwhile, the city is struggling to decide who is right in this argument.

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Council members are consulting with Planning and Development Services and sifting through the municipal code to decide how the short-term rental debate should be solved.

“The municipal code is silent on short-term vacation rentals,” said Ryan Purdy, Smart Growth and Land Use Committee consultant for the city of San Diego.

While the city is in the process of clarifying the zone’s uses, private homeowners and vacation rental companies are continuing to invest in the beachside property.

Short-term vacation rentals are managed in various ways. They might be owned by vacation rental companies or private investors through websites such as AirBnb or VRBO, which are international companies that rent out single rooms, apartments and homes without a minimum or maximum length of stay. These websites work as a contractual middle man between the homeowner and the renter. It is also where the money is exchanged.

 

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According to InsideAirbnb.com, there are 3,500 short term vacation rentals in San Diego, most of which are near the coast. The majority of these properties are entirely rented out by owners to vacationers.

 

 

 

As of June 22, there were more than 3,500 Airbnb listings in San Diego County, according to Inside Airbnb. Almost 2,300 of those listings are entire homes or apartments being rented out, meaning the owner is absent. On average, the homes are rented out 155 nights a year.

“We’re giving people an opportunity to experience and explore San Diego and bring money into the community,” Kirschen said. “People that stay in short term rentals from anywhere from three to 10 days will spend significantly more money in the community than someone who lives there.”

Deciphering the code

The Community Planners’ Committee rejected a proposal from council member Lorie Zapf last September that would have allowed short-term vacation rentals to operate in these single-family residential zones under certain restrictions.

Those restrictions included:

  • A maximum of two occupants per bedroom plus two occupants may stay in a dwelling unit in Single Family Residential (RS) zones.
  • A minimum stay of no fewer than 21 nights in Single Family Residential (RS) zones.

Another part of the proposal, which was drafted by the city staff in August, would expand upon homesharing only and would not require a minimum night stay if only a room, instead of the whole home, is rented out, Purdy said. Bed and breakfasts would fall under this category also.

Instead of passing these proposals, the committee voted 23-4 to uphold the current regulations, recognizing that the municipal code bans short term vacation rentals, but the code needs to increase its enforcement.

“Neighborhoods without neighbors”

Coat coined the phrase “Neighborhoods without neighbors” when his neighboring houses became a revolving door of vacationers, he said.

“That’s not a high quality neighborhood where families live,” Lewis said. “It’s taking away homes from long-term renters or families. That impacts school enrollment, that impacts neighborhood atmospheres and communities.”

Kirschen’s and Coat’s homes, situated on a hill overlooking the beach, are separated only by a wooden fence.

Kirschen’s and Coat’s homes, situated on a hill overlooking the beach, are separated only by a wooden fence.

One of the Save San Diego Neighborhood’s main complaints is noise, but Kirschen said the requests for police support can be exaggerated and unfounded at times.

“I know there are people on the police department’s low priority response list, we’ll put it that way, because they cry wolf far too often,” he said.

Although Save San Diego Neighborhoods is against short-term vacation rentals, it fully supports home sharing because the owner is still on site and is more aware of the renters’ behavior, Coat said.

 

VIDEO: SDSU journalism senior Quinn Owen has been renting out a room in his Carlsbad condo to help him stay financially stable.

 

“There are different lifestyles and we chose this lifestyle and now we are going to fight to keep it,” Lewis said. “I’d say there’s a good chance we are going to lose it because we don’t have the lobby or the money. The stories that they are telling is not the story of everyday life here.”

Meanwhile, Amy Hoeschen, a private property manager, only has positive things to say about AirBnb.

“I’ll actually recommend vacationers that we don’t have room for to use the site because a lot of times people want to book for just two days…So if they want to come in for a day or two, AirBnb may be the best option for them,” she said.

Hoeschen even rents out a granny flat connected to her own home through the site.

“I’ve had luck with AirBnb so I have no problem with it, but that’s because I haven’t run into a problem with it,” she said. “I’ve been lucky.”

San Diegans will have ample time to weigh in with their opinions about short-term vacations rentals at the next meeting on Dec. 2. The city council is expected to vote again on the suggestions Zapf has made regarding the municipal code in January.

Proposed ban on plastic bags in San Diego spurs action from supporters and opponents

It’s not uncommon to see them dancing in the wind, brushing the roads, the sand on the beach or sidewalks. Consumers fill shopping carts with them and use them to transport and dispose household trash, containing anything from forgotten leftovers to cat litter.

As of late, they have also been a source of contention among politicians, environmentalists and businesses in California. Currently, the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach have been the only ones to ban plastic bags in San Diego County. Along with the ban, both cities have enforced 10-cent fees on paper bags. 

 Customers will only see paper bags like in this supermarket in Cardiff, CA.

Customers will only see paper bags like in this supermarket in Cardiff, CA.

The Equinox Center, an independent San Diego research foundationreleased an executive report on the impact on plastic bag bans. The report found that among the biggest problems with plastic bags are:

  • their presence in waste streams
  • the high costs of litter clean up
  • the lack of curbside recycling to discard them
  • and limited landfill space

The report also takes into consideration the local economy by analyzing and estimating possible consequences on retailers, consumers, cities and plastics manufacturers. The report states that in the long term, local economies would not be affected negatively by a plastic bag ban.

Due to the effects of plastic bags on the environment, city, county and state leaders have proposed a state-wide ban on plastic bags, Senate Bill 270The bill will appear on the November 2016 ballot.

Initially, lawmakers passed the ban and planned to enforce it in July 2015. But opponents of the ban, including small businesses and plastic bag alliances successfully delayed the ban. A ballot measure to repeal the bill in February pushed back the date for voters to decide the future of plastic bags. According to a report issued in 2013 and then presented to the San Diego City Council, main opposition to other California bag ban ordinances have come from plastic bag manufacturers and plastic bag trade associations.

The report also estimates that 500 million bags are distributed annually in San Diego and approximately 3 percent of them are recycled. The cost of cleaning up plastic bag litter totals around $160,000 per year.

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San Diego veterans find healing through competition

Competitors in CAF's annual San Diego Triathlon Challenge line up at the starting line to begin the biking portion of the race. The bike ride takes them from La Jolla all the way to Encinitas and back.

Competitors in the annual CAF triathlon line up at the starting line to begin the biking portion of the race. Athletes and their families traveled from around the country to attend the event in La Jolla, CA on Oct. 8, 2015.

 

One illegal turn from an oncoming car and Michael Johnston’s life was never the same.

In 2003 Johnston was leaving a naval station in Virginia after a long day of work. While this was supposed to be like any other ride home, it ended in tragedy when Johnston was hit on his motorcycle and woke up later in a hospital bed with one of his legs amputated.

Johnston prepares to race more than 40 miles in the Aspen San Diego Triathlon Challenge. Athletes and their families traveled from around the country to attend the event in La Jolla, CA.

Johnston prepares to race more than 40 miles in the Aspen San Diego Triathlon Challenge. The bike ride takes them from La Jolla all the way to Encinitas and back.

 

“I was the only amputee in the hospital so I had to go through a lot of it on my own,” Johnston said. “I don’t think I had ever seen an amputee in real life.”

 

This situation is one that many veterans face when they survive a life and body-altering accident. The stigma of disability paired with an intense interpersonal transformation can lead to setbacks when it comes to re-entering society; however, there are various programs and foundations working in San Diego to ensure that people living with disabilities can live an active lifestyle and find community support.

 

 

Before relocating to San Diego in 2008, Johnston went through a year-long intensive physical therapy program where he had to navigate his new life as an amputee. He had to resort to weight gain with creatine to recover certain parts of his strength. Johnston said that in his Virginia hospital, every day held unknown trials and tribulations because there were no other amputees around him to give him guidance. The pain management, the new ways of walking, and the barriers new amputees must overcome were all things he went through on his own.

“Maybe it was just my location on the East Coast, but I didn’t have a support group or a community or someone mentoring me,” Johnston said.

Returning to duty

Johnston's fiancé plays with his service dog during his cycling leg of the race. While the athletes are out on their routes, families and supporters meet with each other and form bonds that span across the country.

Johnston’s fiancé plays with his service dog during his cycling leg of the race. While the athletes are out on their routes, families and supporters meet with each other and form bonds that span across the country.

Despite the setbacks, Johnston says he remained motivated through his physical therapy with one goal at the forefront of his mind: he wanted to return to active duty.

After petitioning to get back into the Navy, Johnston was only the fifth amputee to return to active duty after losing a limb.

“I had to rethink my disability and decide to focus on my abilities and what I could do.”

Still, Johnston said that the stigma of disability influenced the way the other soldiers treated him. While he had grown used to his new abilities, it took his colleagues a bit longer to get comfortable with his new reality.

“While before my squadron would tell me what I needed to do, now it was more of a, ‘can you do this?’ with a question mark at the end of everything,” Johnston said. “People weren’t really certain what it meant to be an amputee.”

So while completing his other work-related duties, Johnston began participating in fitness classes on base and showing he could keep up with everyone else.

“I started with 5ks and 10ks on base and a physical exercise class they would hold,” Johnston said. “I feel like I wanted to be the guy overcompensating and being out on the flight deck the whole day on my feet and working hard to show them that with a little determination and will power I could still do everything.”

Finding a community with CAF

His athletic ability and desire to challenge the status quo served Johnston well when he moved to San Diego and was approached by members of The Challenged Athletes Foundation’s Operation Rebound.

Triathlon participants swam in the Cove in La Jolla for the first leg of the race. Some athletes swam with guides with one boy being pulled in a boat by his brother.

Spectators lined up around the Cove in La Jolla to watch participants swim for the first leg of the race. Some athletes swam with assistant guides and one brother swam towing his brother in an inflatable boat.

The Challenged Athletes Foundation’s (CAF) Operation Rebound program offers sports and fitness opportunities for American military personnel, veterans and first responders with physical challenges. Along with offering training classes, the program also provides grants to cover equipment, training and competition expenses.

For Johnston this meant receiving a bike and being able to travel to events around the world.

Sports clinics and events like the Challenged Athletes Foundation triathlon are held throughout the year. volunteer coaches provide instruction and mentorship to introduce beginner athletes to a range of sports including cycling, handcycling, running, swimming and basketball.

From accidents with IEDs to living with post traumatic stress disorder, the veterans participating in the Aspen CAF Triathlon alongside Johnston each had their own individual stories about becoming disabled and their journey of adapting afterward.

Melinda Mcclure teaches a disability and society class to hundreds of college students each year and focuses the class on helping her students see the disability experience as normal and valued. Every year she has veterans from CAF’s Operation Rebound visit her classroom and share their own personal experiences with disabilities and the foundation.

“Most individuals, especially if they have previously been able bodied athletes, fear the loss of their ability to be involved in activities,” Mcclure said. “CAF turns this around and says to people with disabilities, ‘we are able, we are whole, we do things differently, but we can heal with the support of a  community that reaches out and acknowledges the need for an active lifestyle.’”

SLIDESHOW: The Challenged Athlete Foundation’s annual triathlon on Oct. 18 brought athletes with all different kinds of disabilities to La Jolla from around the country to swim, bike and run. Mike Johnston biked more than 40 miles when he participated in the relay with two other teammates.

Battle on the home-front

Veteran’s advocacy group, Veterans Inc., reports that:

  • One in 10 veterans is disabled, oftentimes by injuries sustained in combat.
  • The number of disabled veterans is increasing; more than 20,000 veterans were wounded during service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • 19 percent of Iraq veterans report a mental health problem, and more than 11 percent of Afghanistan veterans.
The veteran population is most concentrated in California, Texas and Florida. The veteran population is currently rising with the wars in Iraq and Afganistan.

The veteran population is most concentrated in California, Texas and Florida. The veteran population is currently rising with the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. (va.gov)

Many of these veterans are ending up in hospitals disabled, discouraged, and without any family to keep them company. The transition from being a soldier to being stuck in a hospital bed or heavily dependent upon others can lead those wounded veterans to depression and other emotional traumas.

In fact, one report states that veterans have a suicide rate 50% higher than those who did not serve in the military. The study included more than one million veterans who served in active-duty units between 2001 and 2007.

While the physical and mental challenges facing these veterans are difficult, programs in San Diego like CAF’s Operation Rebound work with the veterans and get them active like they used to be, just in a new, adapted way.

“CAF is an example of a community that is willing to use adaptive equipment so that the individuals can continue to participate in activities that they love,” Mcclure said.

Building a better future

Johnston switches to his cycling leg before his race. His prosthetics are made by a local company that specializes in making adaptive limbs for athletes.

Johnston switches to his cycling leg before his race. His prosthetics are made by a local company that specializes in making adaptive limbs for athletes.

For his sports legs, Johnston relies on a local company, Peter Harsch Prosthetics, which opened three years ago in San Diego.

From running to biking to swimming, Peter Harsch works to ensure Johnston’s legs are comfortable and ready for his races and has been doing so since Johnston met him in 2008.

“I started this company over three years ago because I felt like there was a need to take care of the higher activity cases of amputees coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afganistan that are pushing the benchmark in sports,” Harsch said. “Looking at the industry there were no places out west that catered to any amputee that wanted to live an active lifestyle.”

A former triathlete and IronMan competitor, Harsch understands the athlete’s competitive lifestyles.

“I feel like my background in triathlons and 20 years of IronMan experience allows me to understand where they are coming from and their drive to win,” Harsch said. “It’s a lifestyle for me. I would want somebody out there to give me, my children or my family the kind of attention needed to get active again.”

During his time working with veteran amputees, Harsch says that their ability to receive high-end prosthetics has been done well by the government and Veteran’s Administration.

VIDEOPeter Harsch Prosthetics is a boutique prosthetics company where amputees get personal care and support from technicians and engineers who handcraft their legs and arms. The kinds of legs range from an ordinary walking legs with trendy shoe capabilities to legs used for surfing.

Finishing the race

In the coming year, Johnston begins the next chapter of his life with his wedding quickly approaching in March and international triathlons following shortly after.

Along with training for and participating in CAF triathlons, Johnston mentors other amputees at local Naval hospitals and is taking classes to one day become a teacher.

“Sometime I feel like it was such a blessing that I was injured,” Johnston says. “Otherwise, I mean, I’d be normal probably.”

Johnston met his fiance, Madeline Warr through his prosthetist Peter Harsch and his wife, Lauren. He says that her presence during training and traveling to competitions is an important part of his support system.

Johnston met his fiance Madeline Warr through his prosthetist. He says that her presence during training and traveling to competitions is an important part of his support system.