View Blog Posts About: Get to Know San Diego

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!

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.

San Diego’s Hottest Day was in January! No Heat Waves Here.


I’m glad the oppressive heat wave sweeping the country during the 4th of July holiday week is finally subsiding. It’s been the leading national news story for more than 10 days with headlines like:

Chicago Heat wave: 3 consecutive days with temperatures in the 100s.
North Carolina Heat wave: 6 consecutive days with temperatures in the 100s.
Missouri Heat wave: 11 consecutive days with temperatures in the 100s.
Denver Heat wave: 14 consecutive days with temperatures 95 degrees or higher.
Washington D.C. Heat wave: 9 consecutive days with temperatures 95 degrees or higher.
Philadelphia Heat wave: 12 consecutive days with temperatures 90 degrees or higher.
New York City Heat wave: 5 consecutive days with temperatures 90 degrees or higher.

I get to meet guests from across the country who join my Coastal San Diego Tour. All of my guests over the past few weeks have been very happy they were missing the heat waves back home and enjoying the cool temperatures in San Diego.

I feel bad when I see them wearing jackets and sweaters but they say they couldn’t be happier avoiding not only the heat, but the humidity oppressing other parts of the country.

I’ve learned over time that most guests think they just had ‘good timing’ for their visit to San Diego to enjoy the nice weather and don’t realize that the weather is just as nice all summer long. The local adage is that San Diego weather is always in the 70s with sunshine all year round. Although not completely true, the weather usually does not vary far from that adage. For example, San Diego has the least amount of change in barometric pressure in the continental United States and the average monthly high temperatures range from 65 in January to 77 in September.

San Diego generally does not see heat waves during the summer just like it generally does not see cold waves during the winter…at least relative to how most people define heat and cold waves. (Locally, we call a streak of days in the 80s a heat wave and a streak of days with high temperatures lower than 65 a cold wave.)

Here are a couple weather facts I recently mentioned to my guests that made some of their jaws drop: In June, the highest temperature recorded in San Diego was 76 and the lowest was 59. And, the only months so far in 2012 to see temperatures in the 80s were January and March. In fact, the hottest day of the year so far was 83 degrees back on January 5th. (I’m posting this as of July 11.)

During the summer months, San Diego becomes home to a lot of Arizonans escaping their perpetual heat wave. Now, I want others across the country to start thinking about San Diego as a place to escape the next time they have to endure the hazy, hot, and humid days of summer.

Have a perfect weather day!

January Weather in San Diego – Cold Nights & Warm Days


January can bring warm sunny days…

Happy New Year! San Diego weather in January frequently offers warm days and cold nights. Although, I can tell you from first hand experience running a tour business serving guests from around the world, most travelers get a good laugh when we use the word ‘cold’ in San Diego.

To me, anytime it goes below freezing at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s cold! Well, January is the only month of the year, historically, where temperatures tracked at the San Diego Airport, just a mile away from downtown’s tourist attractions, have gone below freezing. (Yes, woe is us in San Diego.) Officially, it’s only gone below freezing four times in our history, always in January. The coldest was back in 1913 when it hit 25 degrees.

The cold temperatures come during clear nights when there are no clouds to keep the previous day’s heat from escaping into the atmosphere. But, it’s those same clear skies that bring us warm days. We frequently see days with highs in the 70s and even 80s. The highest was back in 1953 when we reached a high temperature in San Diego during January of 88 degrees.

As for the average highs and lows in San Diego during January, they are 65 degrees and 50 degrees respectively. (For foreigners, that’s about 18 degrees Celsius and 10 degrees Celsius respectively.)

…but also cold nights & snow to our local mountains.

January is the wettest month of the year, with an average of 7 days of rain. However, on the bright side, it’s also the fourth sunniest month of the year in San Diego.

So, that’s what you can expect in San Diego for weather in January. Visitors who want to learn more about weather in San Diego throughout the year can visit my San Diego Travel Guide. For locals wanting to learn more about San Diego’s weather history, visit the NOAA web site. I also highly recommend subscribing to the Union Tribune newspaper where weatherman Robert Krier answers readers questions about weather in San Diego.

Watch out for Christmas Berries on San Diego Hiking Trails


Have you seen bushes of these bright red berries in recent weeks while enjoying your favorite San Diego hiking trails?

I’ve seen quite a few, especially in the Los Penasquitos Canyon. With a little research, I’ve found they are appropriately called Christmas Berries. They are also called Toyons, which are evergreen shrubs with leathery leaves, small white flowers that bloom in the summer and the red berries seen in the adjacent photo that arrive by Christmas.

Christmas berries are native to the area and can be found throughout San Diego County from our coastal areas to our mountains. They’ve even been seen in the Anza-Borrego Desert. Christmas berries are found primarily only within the borders of California and are a popular source of food for birds.

Don’t be tempted to taste the berries as they are rated as having ‘Major’ toxicity. However, according the the UC Davis website, native Indians did eat them after boiling away their bitter taste. The native Indians also used the Toyon branches to create their arrows, harpoons, and fishing spears according to the Western National Parks Association website.

Enjoy the bright colors offered by the Christmas berries during our winter months while hiking in San Diego.

Visiting Secluded Black’s Beach in San Diego


Quite Black's Beach in Southern California

Black's Beach on 4th of July Weekend

Are you looking for one of California’s most quiet beaches this holiday weekend? Do you want to avoid the beach crowds? If your answer is yes, head to Black’s Beach in San Diego.

Cool ocean breezes attract lots of visitors from the desert cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas to the beaches in San Diego, particularly on holiday weekends. As a result, up until recently, I tended to avoid the San Diego beaches on weekends from Independence Day through Labor Day. Not only were the beaches crowded, but sitting in traffic heading to the beaches wasn’t my cup of tea.

Then, the light bulb finally turned on for me. After a year of giving Sightseeing Tours to La Jolla, which includes a stop at the Torrey Pines Gliderportand a mention that the adjoining Black’s Beach is one of the most secluded beaches in sunny Southern California, it finally hit me over the last 4th of July weekend that’s where I should go for some rest and relaxation on the beach.

Lifeguard stand at Black's Beach

See lifeguard stand on cliff

My wife, who also prefers quiet beaches, thought I was crazy when I suggested we head to the beach, especially considering this past Independence Day weekend was particularly warm for San Diego with beach temperatures getting into the 80s. I wasn’t sure what to expect but being the curious person I am, I had to check it out.

Well, it met all my expectations and then some. There was no traffic heading to the Torrey Pines Gliderport parking lot. From there, we headed to the beach, which was even emptier than I was expecting. Check out the picture I took of a desolate stretch of beach I took on a 4th of July weekend!

The other surprise was the lack of nude bathers. Considering the online travel review web site TripAdvisor rates Black’s Beach as the #1 Nude Beach in America, it was a relief to only see a few (3 or 4) exhibitionists on the beach. They were (surprise, surprise) strategically positioned near the main entrance to the beach but once you got past them, it was a nice, quiet beach all to ourselves.

So, you may wonder, why is Black’s Beach so quiet, even on a summer holiday weekend? Or more importantly, why is TourGuideTim revealing this little known secret of a quiet place to spend a San Diego beach weekend?

Entrance to Black's Beach

Stairway to Black’s Beach

Well, to enjoy this quiet beach, people have to be willing to descend 300 feet down the side of the Torrey Pines Cliffs to access the beach…which means you have to climb those 300 feet back up to your car after an afternoon of soaking up the sun, running sand through your toes, and listening to the ocean waves crash on the beach.

There is an old stairway built into the cliffs that take you to the beach. Despite the fact signs encourage you to stay away because of the eroding sandstone, it’s not too difficult to use for those in decent shape and it’s much better than following some surfers who have their own, more direct path down the side of the cliffs. Don’t follow these surfers who shun the stairwell unless you want to be featured on the local news because you were rescued by helicopter off a precarious perch half way down the cliff.

For most, including my wife, it’s not worth the climb to enjoy the secluded beach. But, for me, it’s the beach beach in San Diego.