Wednesday, April 20, 2005 | In the fall of 1973, my father first visited San Diego. Driving into Mission Valley via Interstate 8, he became enamored by this “town,” as it was referred to then. He walked on the boardwalk along low-rent yet postcard-perfect Pacific Beach, drove swiftly north to La Jolla Cove during what we now call rush hour and avoided forgettable downtown.
He decided then that San Diego was the most beautiful place he had ever been, called my mother in Chicago and told her to fly here immediately.
My parents, both native Midwesterners, have lived here – and contributed here – ever since by coaching soccer teams, organizing Halloween fairs and working in public service; my mother as a public school teacher and my father as a community lawyer.
I wish I could be so lucky.
I am extremely fortunate to have grown up here. I learned to surf and snowboard at age 12, became a certified scuba diver at age 16 and spoke conversational Spanish by my sophomore year in high school.
However, because this city has fast-become a Mecca for big-spending yuppies and baby boomers basking in the sunshine of their overvalued homes, it doesn’t look like I can stay.
And I thought I made a pretty good San Diegan.
Home prices keep me from remaining here another year. I work for a nonprofit organization and my salary would be labeled “moderate-to-high income” for a single man living in nearly every other city in the country. However in San Diego, I’d be lucky to buy a 150-square-foot condo.
What have high home prices done to San Diego other than buoy the spirits of longtime homeowners whenever they pluck a “home for sale” flyer from a neighbor’s yard?
Although I am no expert on housing policy, I bet the people we most need here simply won’t come. An example:
Larry Zeiger moved to San Diego in 1970 when he was 21 years old, renting a two-bedroom apartment on the ocean in Pacific Beach for $40 per month. After earning a teaching credential from San Diego State University, he began teaching English at Point Loma High School and after about 10 years bought a three-bedroom condo in Point Loma for $95,000.
He has been teaching at Point Loma ever since and teaching is the least of what he does. For the last 29 years, Mr. Zeiger has directed nearly 70 seniors each year in a musical that itself is known throughout the Point Loma community as simply “The Zeiger Show.”
Mr. Zeiger estimates that in his 31 years of teaching, he has taught around 7,000 students. Zeiger Show alumni live and work around the world in every field imaginable. He is revered by the Point Loma community where his contributions are countless.
It’s a shame San Diego can’t have more Mr. Zeigers.
“My condo can now sell for more than $550,000. Who can afford that? Because of housing prices, San Diego is losing teachers, nurses, creative people; the people who make a city great,” said Mr. Zeiger, who surmises he would have taught in another city had he been born 30 years later.
While high housing prices in San Diego refuse to deter the tens of thousands of people who move here annually, an underlying concern remains: Are high housing prices weakening our city?
As San Diego’s economy derives much from highly paid employees, is our region growing too dependent upon such people and overlooking the needs of the individuals who make us better?
I hope not.
Ramsey Green is a native San Diegan and manages a regional energy efficiency program. A Zeiger Show alumnus, he has taught high school social studies, organized political campaigns, worked in public policy within San Diego, and is trying to figure out how he can live here for years to come. He graduated from New York University in 2001. He can be reached at