The Morning Report
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It’s been five years since housing prices in San Diego peaked and began a brutal correction. And now? Our analyst Rich Toscano says they’re finally “reasonable.” For years, he’s been keep track of home prices in relation to both local incomes and local rent.
“While home prices may be middle of the road, mortgage rates are ridiculously low. As a result, the ratios of monthly payments to rents or incomes are very near all-time lows,” he writes. How about a little comparison? Toscano writes that before the correction, the ratio of mortgage payments to rents was 82 percent higher than its historical median. Now it’s just 1 percent higher.
If you really like this stuff, you can’t let yourself miss this piece in Vanity Fair on what happened in Ireland by Michael Lewis.
How bad did the home prices to rents ratio get in Dublin? Lewis: “In parts of the city, rents had fallen to less than 1 percent of the purchase price — that is, you could rent a million-dollar home for less than $833 a month.”
• My name is Scott Michael Lewis. Unfortunately, that Michael Lewis is not me. I don’t have anything close to his talent for deconstructing in fascinating detail what’s happened to various countries and sports over the years. (“The Big Short” is just a brilliant book and wonderful read.)
That said, I have been getting better at articulating a theory about what’s happening to the city of San Diego as it struggles under the weight of major liabilities and a recession. To me, it’s as if the city is dissolving and if you care about a service or city asset, more and more people and businesses are getting together with similar folks to save it. Do you see the same connection between a man who donated to the San Diego Police Department to preserve a bike patrol in North Park and hoteliers who banded together to get their own dedicated tax to fund tourism marketing?
A version of my piece also ran this week in San Diego Magazine. It’s part of a new partnership we’ve formed. Now we’re regularly on local television, local radio, online and in print. More on all that later. Back to struggling cities.
• Obviously, San Diego is not the only city facing hard times. As writer Will Carless is documenting, Chula Vista’s been cringing as it watched its overspending turn to draconian cutting. Today, Carless explains what the failed Proposition H means to the future of the city. The measure would have allowed the city to keep collecting fees on cell phones and other utilities. Now, it’s still collecting money but it’s not so sure it’ll be there.
• Meanwhile, even more attention is being paid to the county of San Diego’s own pension problem, this time from the Union Tribune. Where the county taxpayers once had to pay little or nothing into the county’s employee pension plan, now the bill has reached $296 million and yet, after borrowing more than $1 billion, the fund’s ratio of assets to liabilities is only getting worse.
Last week, I blasted county Supervisor Dianne Jacob for blaming this only on the stock market, when she and her colleagues gave themselves and employees a 50 percent increase in the pension benefit not only from that point going forward but, yes, retroactively. It was a giveaway.
For this U-T piece, Jacob struck again. The U-T also quotes the pension fund’s CEO touting how well the system’s investments have performed to rebuff those who might say the system should lower its expectations. So you figure it out: The only cause of this taxpayer burden is the stock market, not our massive benefit boost, but our investments in that stock market have been doing great!
It’s been more than a year since we opened up commenting on all stories but insisted that people provide their full names and contact information to leave a remark. We have a ways to go still to make it an easy experience and to fully develop the conversations we’re hosting. But we took a good step last week.
Like many people, though, you might not have the time to wade through all of the comments to find gems or good debates. For you, Grant Barrett has launched a new feature “Voices.” He’s scouring the opinions and comments on our site and elsewhere to help you follow it. He’s even trying to cull the best of what’s being debated on Twitter and Facebook.
Here was his first post from Thursday and Saturday he helped readers follow a Twitter forum Councilman Carl DeMaio, some provocative comments about redevelopment and the downtown library and a Los Angeles suggestion for San Diego’s mascot. He’s only one man so if you leave a comment somewhere or see a particularly interesting op-ed, Facebook post or Tweet, drop him a line.
Do You Mind? We’re Trying to Have a Cockfight Here
An animal control officer stumbled onto something interesting the other day, the Union Tribune reports.
Fab How Many?
And yet another story about how SDSU men’s basketball coach Steve Fischer has gotten out of the shadow of Michigan’s Fab Five scandal. Now, if he can only get out of the shadow of stories about the shadow of the Fab Five scandal. The Aztecs are preparing for the only team that has beaten them this year: BYU, which is coming to town Saturday.
The U-T has a follow up about the light now being shined on working conditions for cab drivers after the ugly accident last weekend outside of downtown nightclub Stingaree, and it also has tidbits from a Channel 8 interview with the driver.
It WILL NOT Bite!
Finally, we spotted this flyer Sunday while eating in Ocean Beach. I, for one, would completely lose it if I saw a three-foot lizard ambling down Voltaire Street. The assurance that he was friendly helps I guess.
Not to worry, as we were leaving, the owner of the lost (but friendly!) lizard came by to take the posters down. He reported that the little beast had been found.
You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!): twitter.com/vosdscott.