Top 10 Reasons San Diego is the 8th Least Affordable City in the World


Once again San Diego has shown up on a Top 10 List of Cities with the likes of Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne and London…the Least Affordable Major Metropolitan Markets in the World.

San Diego is the 8th least affordable metropolitan market in the world according the the 11th annual study published by Demographia. San Diego has a metropolitan population of nearly 3.2 million, a median house price in 2014 listed at $517,800 and a median household income of $62,700. The 8.3 multiple of income-to-house price puts San Diego in the category of ‘Severely Unaffordable’, which Demographia applies to any metro area with a 5.1 or greater ratio.

So, why is it so unaffordable to live in San Diego? Here are my Top 10 reasons.

Weather forecast showing it is currently 73 and the expected high of 80

San Diego weather for January 25th

1. San Diego Weather

People want to move to San Diego for the weather. I’m writing this post on January 25th and posting a photo image of day’s weather forecast, which notes an expected high of 80° (27°C). Yesterday, it reached 79°. We are not south of the equator where places like Sydney are enjoying summer this time of year. We are in North America where places like Chicago and New York are bracing themselves for a major winter storm today. If you are not familiar with San Diego weather where the typical local skips watching the weather forecast because they expect it to be 70°s and sunny every day they walk out the door, read my introduction to San Diego weather in our travel guide.

2. San Diego People

The great weather in San Diego makes people happy. No windows to scrape in the winter and no humidity to escape in the summer. We are in a good mood all year round. Don’t you like to hang around happy people? Well, that’s another reason people want to move to San Diego.

3. San Diego Things To Do

With great weather, we can host tourists all year-round. As a local, we get to enjoy all the amenities provided for tourists…and we have a lot of them.

Panda chewing on bamboo

Checking out what the Panda is up to after work.

Our travel website describes over 250 attractions for tourists to visit in San Diego. Even better, most of the attractions sell annual passes. So for example, I have an annual pass that gets my wife and me into the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The cost is basically the same as it would be for a tourist to visit each place once but we get to visit all year-round, whether it is for 30 minutes or 3 hours. How would you like to go for a walk through the world-famous San Diego Zoo after work? Same goes for SeaWorld San Diego and many other attractions. Again, another reason people want to live in San Diego.

4. San Diego Mountains & Desert

We find most visitors to San Diego are surprised to learn we have more than just nice beaches. Our mountains rise up to 6,600 feet (2000 meters) and our desert is home to the largest state park in California, with over 938 square miles (2,400 square kilometers). This provides a variety of environment to enjoy hiking, camping, and enjoying all facets of nature. For example I’m in the middle of taking a Wilderness Basics Course with the local Sierra Club. Next weekend I’ll be camping in the desert, hiking through slot canyons, and checking out pictographs made by natives going back thousands of years. Later in our course, we’ll be camping in the mountain snow. All of this is within a short drive of where most locals live along the coast in San Diego. Follow this blog and I’ll share stories from the camping trips. Again, another reason people want to live in San Diego.

Surfer standing atop ocean cliffs admiring the ocean views

View from our tour stop in Torrey Pines.

5. San Diego Scenery

From beaches and seaside cliffs to the mountains and desert, the scenery in San Diego is spectacular. On our tours of San Diego, we meet visitors from places most Americans admire for natural beauty such as the French Riviera and the Greek islands and yet people from those areas who’ve taken the tour say they like to beauty they see in San Diego more than their own. So, not only do many American want to live in San Diego but there are many people who move here from around the world.

6. San Diego Environment

San Diego is home to many federally protected species and is a biodiversity hotspot. Princeton University and the Environmental Defense Fund rank San Diego County as the only place in the United States that is a biodiversity hotspot for mammals, fish, and plants. As a result, most of the undeveloped land in San Diego will remain off limits for development to protect these species. San Diego is also not able to build out (we are surrounded by the ocean, mountains, and vast desert), we are not able to build up (we have height restriction on buildings). Thus, San Diego has significant restrictions on building more housing limiting its ability to meet the demand.

7. Propositions 13 & 58

Multi-million dollar mansions on the La Jolla hillside

There are thousands of million dollar homes in San Diego.

California has very favorable property tax laws, particularly Propositions 13 & 58, which set a cap on the growth of property taxes (1% tax on a home value, which is capped at an annual increase of 2%) and allows you to pass that tax benefit to your children if they hold onto the home. So, once you are in, chances are you and your children will never sell the home. To give you an example, there are houses across the street from the beach in the Ocean Beach area of San Diego (albeit they are smaller, older homes built in the 1950s) whose property tax bills for 2014 were under $1,000. So, not only do we have very little land left to build new homes but once people are in a home, they have a lot of motivation not to sell it limiting the availability of resale homes.

8. Bright Minds and Wealthy People

So, who can afford to move to San Diego? Honestly, anyone can make it work. For regular working folks who don’t have the benefit of an inheritance, you have to set lower expectations on the size of the house and yard. More realistically you’ll live in a condominium complex and explore all that San Diego has to offer rather than sitting in the backyard of a house.

blue welcome sign to the medical research institute with the slogan "From Research, the Power to Cure"

In 2014, the Sanford-Burnham Institute received an anonymous donation of $275 million.

However, if you have your mind set on living in a single-family home with a small yard (big yards are out of reach for even most wealthy people in San Diego), you’ll have to be smart with a good high-paying job (two of those in a household is a general requirement) or the good fortune to have made it big somewhere else before moving to San Diego. San Diego attracts so many smart people that later this Spring, National Geographic will have a one-hour feature about San Diego as being one of the Smart Cities of the World. During our tours, we take are guests through the Torrey Pines area where over a dozen of Nobel Prize winners are at work. San Diego also attracts many of the most successful people in the world from the NFL quarterbacks who live in the Del Mar area to many business people like Ted Waitt and Mitt Romney who made their way to La Jolla.

9. San Diego is a safe city

San Diego generally ranks #2 as the safest large city in the United States. (#1 is San Jose, which is also on the world list of least affordable places). I’ve spent time in inner city areas in the Northeast, Midwest, and South in neighborhoods known for high crime that others avoided or were extremely cautious of their surroundings. I’ve visited all parts of San Diego numerous times, even the poorest neighborhoods, and never once have I felt the need to be overly cautious of my surroundings, even at night.

10. Our Neighbor Tijuana

buildings surrounding a traffic circle in Tijuana

Tijuana is San Diego’s neighbor to the south.

The city border for San Diego touches the city border for Tijuana, Mexico. There are two border crossings for people to cross from the City of San Diego into Tijuana. The San Ysidro crossing is ranked as the busiest international border crossing in the world. This provides part of the answer that many of our tour guests ask, which is, “where does the ‘working class’ or the laborers live?”. Well, as I mentioned earlier, it is possible to live in San Diego if you are willing to live in a small place or your parents happened to have moved to San Diego well before people started realizing how much San Diego has to offer and real estate prices went up and can pass the house down to you while keeping a very low property tax. The other thing that makes it work is that many of our local laborers from landscapers to hotel maids come across the border from Tijuana, which is what contributes to San Ysidro being the busiest border crossing anywhere. There are many cross border families with dual citizenships. (For a brief history lesson, California was a part of Mexico until 1848.) Also, there are many cross-border marriages and the families decide to live in Tijuana where it is a lot cheaper than in San Diego but work in San Diego where wages are much higher than in Tijuana. In addition, Tijuana and the beautiful coastline south of it provides even more things for San Diegans to enjoy, including a growing dining scene that is attracting many top chefs.

looking throught the top of a palm tree at the San Diego coastaline while standing on a trail 100 feet above the ocean

A very quite (hidden) spot just a 12-minute drive from my condo, I like to consider this one of my many backyards in San Diego.

Making it Happen in San Diego

I moved to San Diego in 1998 and was very fortunate to get some wise advice the following year. I joined by father at his high school reunion in upstate New York and met one of his classmates who lived in San Francisco, which is #5 on the least affordable places to live in the world. He told me that he and his wife both had high level jobs with Hewlett-Packard and they kept telling themselves, “we’ll save up money for one more year and then buy a house, but each year the home prices kept going up more than their savings went up”. He said “don’t wait, buy now!” At the time, home prices were going up quickly in San Diego as more people learned about how desirable of a place it is to live and work. Others said I should wait until the market cooled off. Fortunately, I jumped in at the end of 2000 and am forever thankful of that sage advice to buy as soon as I could afford anything, no matter how small it may be, to be able to stay for a lifetime in my favorite place in the world!

Top 10 Reasons People Move to San Diego


relocate-best-placesA 2014 survey released by the American Planning Association reinforces something that those of us in the San Diego tourism business in particular and most San Diegans in general have always known…San Diego is the most desirable place to live in America. Sometimes locals get caught up in the day-to-day grind and forget to appreciate how wonderful San Diego is as a place to live. Almost every day I’m reminded not to take it for granted because I get to hear it from my tour guests how they all want to move to San Diego. The cost of living deters most but some of them actually have moved after joining me for a tour.

San Diego came out #1 in the survey overall, #1 among the Boomer generation, and #3 among the Millennial generation behind New York and Los Angeles.

Based on my experience living in San Diego since relocating here in 1998 and based on what I hear from guests on my San Diego tours, here are my Top 10 Reasons to Relocate to San Diego. Add your thoughts below!

10. We get so little rain in San Diego that we don’t have to be pestered by flies, mosquitoes and gnats. Some guests notice there are homes that don’t have screens over their windows and then realize they haven’t been bothered by mosquitoes and flies while visiting America’s Finest City.

9. Despite the lack of rain, we are home to more varieties of trees and plants than any other place in the United States. I love being able to show guests beautiful flower blooms in February.

8. It’s easy to travel back home to visit with friends and family. Our small San Diego airport is less than a mile from downtown, rarely has delays, and offers direct flights as far away as London and Tokyo.

7. San Diego offers all of the cultural amenities of a big city (8th most populous in the U.S.) but it still feels like you live in a small town. The City of San Diego is spread out over a large area and is made up of over 50 communities with volunteer town councils, planning groups, and park and recreation councils so it’s easy to get involved in making your community a great place to live.

view of San Diego skyline across harbor from Coronado6. As a tourist attraction, it’s easy to enjoy an inexpensive ‘stay-cation’ right here in San Diego. The San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND California, the museums at Balboa Park all have annual passes that usually equal the cost of one or two visits so you can spend as little as two hours or until the kids get ornery and then had back to your favorite theme park the following weekend. Living in San Diego is the closest thing to a perpetual vacation.

5. No matter what your skills are, you can find a job in San Diego. If you need an entry-level job to work your way up, we have a large tourism industry that offers that and if you’re a rocket scientist or Nobel prize winner, you’ll probably find more of them working here than in any other city in the world. For the past few years, former President Bill Clinton has spent so much of his time to persuade other cities to do what San Diego has done to attract these bright minds that he jokes he should be on the city payroll.

4. The local landscape stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the local mountains and desert creates one of the most beautiful natural environments surrounding any city in the world. Downtown San Diego and Mission Bay may be flat but guests who join me on the Coastal San Diego Tour that takes us up to a hilltop overlooking the entire San Diego region and beyond quickly realize the rest of San Diego is made up of canyons, mountains, and seaside cliffs.

3. San Diego is rated near the top of all cities for best park systems that are accessible within a 10 minute walk of one’s home. Better yet, San Diego County is home to massive State and National Parks, 4,600 acre aquatic park, 53 miles of city beaches, 6,000 acre underwater park, and wildlife corridors that extend from our ocean to the mountains and desert that contribute to the thousands of miles of hiking trails in San Diego County.

coastal view atop mount soledad2. One of the most common unsolicited comments I get from my tour guests is how friendly everyone is in San Diego and how helpful they are. It’s one of the unexpected benefits I noticed when I relocated to San Diego making it easy to find new friends and falling head over heals for my new hometown.

1. The number one reason to relocate to San Diego is also the main reason that makes the other 9 reasons for relocating to San Diego possible…..the WEATHER! Average highs in the summer are mid to upper 70s and the average highs during the winter are mid to upper 60s. To top it off, San Diego only averages 10 inches of rain a year. Great weather puts people in a good mood. People with good moods are friendly to one another. Good weather means no weather delays at the airport, plenty of outdoor fun at the local attractions and parks, lack of mosquitoes and on and on!

Bonus Tidbit: More than half of San Diegans relocated here from outside the State of California.

If you want to learn interesting tidbits about San Diego, follow this blog or one of the Social Media links I’ve posted in the sidebar.

CrossFit San Diego


CrossFit round 5 thrusters and burpees
I recently learned about ‘CrossFit’ training from some friends I’ve made at my local gym. They receive their workout regimen the night before from CrossFit and carry it out the following day at the gym. Just last week I learned there is a worldwide CrossFit competition where the winners receive $275,000 from Reebok!

It turns out a team from San Diego (Invictus in Point Loma) is currently ranked #1 in the world after the 4th week of competition. Competitors from around the world meet at their local gyms to perform a routine announced the previous night by CrossFit and they are ranked by how quickly they carry out their routine. Apparently, Invictus is home to 3 of the world’s top 10 individuals but even if you were to remove their scores, Invictus would still rank 3rd in the world.

I checked out what I’ll call their 5th and final regular season competition on Friday night. They had to perform 7 sets of thrusters and burpees for a total of 84 reps. Men had to use 95 lb and women 65 lb weights. It blew me away to see what these people can do. And, you can’t just judge a book by its cover because some of the smaller people totally outperformed the ones with huge muscles.

To help you get better grasp of how the competition works, here’s a glimpse of the competition I attended where there are heats of competitors racing against the clock.

The next event will be a regional final at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on May 25, 2014. I’m told tickets sell out quickly. If you want to learn more, visit the Crossfit Games website.

One of the top women’s performers on Friday night is a lady who runs Haunted San Diego Tours. (She’s the one in the foreground of the video.) You’ll see her in the photo below that Victor and I took as we plan some joint advertising of our tours.

Buses for City, Coast, and Ghost Tours

Finding Meditation in San Diego


My guest blogger today is Carli Leavitt, the editor of Carli is a San Diego native with a wealth of knowledge about local attractions, hotels, beaches and nightlife venues in Southern California. Enjoy reading her article about finding meditation in San Diego:

Gold domes along California Highway 101 signifying Self Realization TempleTravelers who vacation in San Diego may get caught up in the hustle and bustle of downtown or the sometimes crowded beach scene. San Diego can seem like a big beautiful city packed with tons of people and no true solace – but that’s only if you don’t know where to look. With over three million residents, San Diego definitely isn’t lacking when it comes to a social scene, but for visitors looking to get away from it all in America’s Finest City, the best place for relaxing meditation is the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas.

San Diego County happens to be home to one of the most amazing meditation grounds in the world. The Self-Realization Fellowship (or SRF as it’s often called) is home to an incredible meditation garden high atop a sea bluff above the gorgeous and famous surf spot, Swami’s. Located in the quaint coastal community of Encinitas in north county San Diego, SRF is just 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, but makes visitors feel like they’re a world away.

Landscaped stairwell to see ocean views at the Self Realization Fellowship Gardens in EncinitasThe north county coastal region of San Diego attracts yogis and yoga enthusiasts from all over the globe because of its laid-back vibe and health conscious culture. You’ll find restaurants catering to a healthy, yoga-infused lifestyle such as the Lotus Café focusing on healthy cuisine with vegetarian and vegan options, just a few blocks down Highway 101 from the meditation gardens. It seems there is a yoga studio on every block of this beach community, scattered in between countless local surf and skate shops just steps away from some of the most beautiful beaches on Earth.

Encinitas is an interesting area with a large population of people who love surfing and yoga. One morning they’re in their wetsuits at famous surf spot, Cardiff Reef, rubbing elbows with local surf celebrity Rob Machado, and the next their perfecting the crane pose at a local yoga studio. Of course, you don’t have to be a yoga aficionado to enjoy meditation and take advantage of the relaxation this area has to offer. The Self-Realization Fellowship is the best place for meditation in San Diego County with a gorgeous tropical meditation garden overlooking Swami’s beach. The gardens have flowing streams, koi ponds, waterfalls and lush green foliage with winding footpaths creating a serene environment for meditation. It’s open to the public so visitors can sit and get lost in the sounds of the ocean, resident birds and breezes blowing through the ferns in this beautiful coastal garden.

Ocean views from the gardens at the Encinitas place for yoga and meditationThe timeless spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi was written at the Self-Realization Fellowship Ashram Center in Encinitas by founder and renowned yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda. Its overwhelming beauty and serene location make it a popular destination for visitors from all over the world, looking to meditate in these inspiring coastal gardens just 25 miles north of San Diego.

For guests staying in one of the downtown hotels in San Diego, SRF is an easy drive up Interstate 5 or a relaxing drive up Highway 101 along the coast. It usually takes between 30 minutes and an hour to get to the meditation gardens from downtown depending on traffic, but it’s definitely worth the trip. For those traveling to San Diego without a car, the NCTD Coaster also runs from downtown to Encinitas for an easy and stress-free public transportation option.

The convenient location and stunning coastal setting make the meditation gardens at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas the best place to find solace and meditate in peace in San Diego County. Get away from it all on your next San Diego vacation by making time to meditate or take a stroll through these unique oceanfront gardens.

Elephant mural on the Meditation Center gift shop in EncinitasThe SRF meditation gardens are located at:

215 ‘K’ Street
Encinitas, CA 92024

Tuesday – Saturday 9am – 5pm
Sunday 11am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

I hope you will follow up on Carli’s recommendation to visit the SLF gardens in Encinitas. My wife and I visited for the first time this past weekend and really enjoyed the visit. The gardens are in full bloom, the birds are chirping away, the babbling brook is full of koi, and the views of the Pacific Ocean, where the garden reaches the seaside cliffs, are spectacular.

Although we were lured to the Pacific Highway side of the Meditation Center by the gold domed structures you’ll see along the roadway, the entrance is actually a one block walk down K Street. Quite a few people were enjoying the meditation gardens on the day of our visit but there are a number of nooks and crannies where we found secluded benches and a grassy knoll next to the pool, which used to be used used by Swami Yogananda, to sit and enjoy the atmosphere of the gardens and watch the surfers on Swami’s Beach below.

What’s that Mini-Cruise Ship That Has Been Parked in San Diego Bay?


January 22, 2013

The other day, a guest on my San Diego tour asked me about the cool looking mini-cruise ship parked in San Diego Bay, right between the Maritime Museum and Cruise Ship terminal on Harbor Drive.

Yes, it does look like a mini-cruise ship since it’s longer than a football field and has two helipads. But no, it’s actually the 19th largest superyacht in the world and when first built in 2010, it was claimed to the the largest expeditionary yacht in the world able to traverse long distances without refueling.

It’s been in San Diego Harbor for the past two months and you can still see it today. I’m not sure who’s brought it to town since it is owned by a Russian Billionaire, who also owns what is now the largest superyacht in the world, but charters these boats out to others. I have heard rumors that there was a Russion Billionaire who was visiting La Jolla and is now traveling the Southwest. However, I don’t know if the two are connected.

Anyways, keep your eyes open when driving or walking along Harbor Drive in San Diego. What may look like a cruise ship could in fact be one of the largest yachts in the world owned by someone famous. Here are the pictures I’ve taken and a little background on three superyachts I’ve seen San Diego. If any of the superyacht visitors are reading this, I’d love to take a tour of your yacht!

Superyacht Luna in San Diego Bay

Owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. It’s the 19th largest yacht in the world at 115 meters long (377 feet …longer than a football field!) and has two helipads. Abramovich apparently started off selling rubber ducks and built an empire that now includes the Chelsea football team. [Yacht photo taken December 30, 2012]

Wikipedia Profile for Roman Abramovich
Luna Profile on

Superyacht Attessa in San Diego Bay

Owned by American billionaire Dennis Washington along with Attessa IV (see comment below post), which is the 27th largest yacht in the world at 100.6 meters long (330 feet) and has a helipad. Washington started a construction business to build highways in Montana and branched out into mining, railroads, shipping, and more. [Yacht photo taken July 7, 2012]

Wikipedia Profile for Dennis Washington
Attessa IV profile on

Superyacht Ice in San Diego Bay

Owned by Russian billionaire and politician Suleyman Kerimov. It’s the 39th largest yacht in the world at 90.1 meters long (295 feet) but surprisingly no helipad as it was built supposedly to be an environmentally friendly yacht. Kerimov started as an economist before helping to start a bank to invest in struggling companies, which obviously became quite successful. He also served in the Russian Duma. [Yacht photo taken September 4, 2008]

Wikipedia Profile for Suleyman Kerimov
Ice Yacht profile on

Largest Yachts in San Diego

The yacht rankings above will change as it seems each week a newer, longer yacht is introduced to the world. There’s a good chance we’ll get to see some of them not only because they like to visit San Diego but when I took a tour of the Port of San Diego, I learned that billionaire’s like Larry Ellison and Paul Allen send their yachts to San Diego for repairs and maintenance.

I’m curious if any of you know what are the largest yachts home ported in San Diego. If you have some ideas, let me know!

Monopoly at McDonalds Advertises that San Diego is the Luckiest City


I agree. Watch the new McDonalds video, read my reasons on why San Diego is the luckiest city, and then share your thoughts on why we are the luckiest city in the U.S.

Monopoly at McDonalds

This McDonalds commercial caught my attention over the weekend during the NBC Sunday Night Football Game when I heard ‘San Diego’.

Looks like we’ve got a new resident moving into town because San Diego has the most sweepstakes winners and the fewest lightning strikes. Gotta like those odds. Update: McDonalds took the video off air now that the Monopoly promotion has ended. Basically, the commercial shows two buddies, one of whom is going to move to San Diego because it has the fewest lightning strikes and most sweepstakes winners so he feels he’ll be lucky once he moves to San Diego.

I hadn’t heard about San Diegans having great odds for winning sweepstakes but it doesn’t surprise me based on all the stories I’ve gathered as a tour guide in San Diego, some of which I share below. I’m certainly not surprised we have the fewest lightning strikes because we rarely ever have a lightning storm but don’t let that fool you into thinking most San Diegans know how to stay out of harm’s way. Since it is such a rarity (seems from my experience over the 14 years I’ve lived here that there is maybe one thunderstorm a year that I can at least hear somewhere off in the distance), I’ve seen many people ‘race outside’ to enjoy the rare spectacle.

Why San Diego is the Luckiest City

Here are a few stories about people from San Diego hitting it big with a little luck on their side:

Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) – The founder of one of the world’s most used web sites is Jimmy Wales. Before Wikipedia’s time, it’s eventual founder Jimmy Wales moved to San Diego and set up a small internet hosting business in Pacific Beach. He had an idea to create an online encylopedia called Nupedia that was being created by experts in their respective academic fields. However, after a lot of time and money being spent on the project, they had little to show for it. That’s when a lucky opportunity struck. Larry Sanger, who was running Nupedia for Jimmy Wales, got together for dinner at the former Mama Mia’s in Pacific Beach with an old friend Ben Kovitz who had just moved to San Diego. Ben started sharing with Larry the new concept called wiki’s. A week later Wikipedia was launched so anyone on the internet could help work on the project and the rest is history.

Jewel – The signer Jewel was living out of a van and performing in a local coffee shop in Pacific Beach before she got discovered. Word about a surfer girl with an amazing voice singing on Thursday nights made its way to a friend of a friend who happened to know someone at Atlantic Records…and again, the rest is history.

Charles Brandes – Charles Brandes, one of the most successful investors in the country and owner of the most expensive home in San Diego County, which the County Assessor initially valued at $60 million before it was challenged, was a young stockbroker in La Jolla when a retired guy walked in the door and offered to mentor him. Who happened to walk in that fateful day when Brandes was in charge of handling the walk-ins? Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffet’s mentor, who had just moved to La Jolla to enjoy his retirement.

There are many interesting people in San Diego who have had fortuitous opportunities. What are your stories about lucky San Diegans?

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