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This year, we created a blog this year focusing on maps, charts and other graphics. We wanted to expand our visual storytelling and help readers more easily digest stacks of important data.

Looking back, we used graphics in every section of our coverage. Student test scores, firefighter response times, political redistricting, ticket prices, library cuts, false claims and beach pollution are a few examples.

But those graphics aren’t the ones I’ll remember most. While some took less than an hour to create, each of my favorites involved hours of tedious data crunching and analysis. They were truly original images that added new information to our understanding of life in San Diego.

Below, I’ve ranked and briefly explained my top five graphics. Clicking on the small image in each section will send you to the original story with a larger image of the graphic. If you have a favorite VOSD graphic not listed below, please share it with other readers in the comments section of this post.

1. Redevelopment Bonanza

One of 2011’s biggest political battles focused on redevelopment. In an effort to resolve the state’s budget deficit, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed killing, or severely curtailing, redevelopment agencies.

San Diego officials responded to Brown’s push by approving more than $4 billion in future spending. Until we published a graphical analysis of the spending plan, few had a comprehensive understanding of what it involved.

City officials had quickly patched together the plan so they could act before state lawmakers approved Brown’s proposal. We first showed exactly how much money would flow to different neighborhoods and what types of projects would get funding.

2. Murder by the Border

San Diego police reported an astonishing drop in murder in 2010, and it spurred me to put the news in a historical perspective. Working with a few researchers, I pulled together two decades of murder statistics for San Diego and Tijuana.

Though the two cities reported a similar number of murders in 1990, they gradually drifted further apart over time. Law enforcement reported 29 murders in San Diego last year; in Tijuana, 688.

3. San Diego’s Changing Neighborhoods

The 2010 Census results allowed Adrian Florido and me to explore the dynamics of San Diego’s shifting neighborhoods. Florido worked in the community talking to residents, and I worked in the office researching census data. (I’ll concede that he had the better gig.)

We produced several powerful portraits using the census data, but I personally liked our first story the most. The accompanying graphic illustrated the same trend that we heard from residents in southeastern neighborhoods: the heart of black San Diego had become significantly more Latino.

4. Marijuana and Taxes

After the November 2010 elections, I created maps showing which neighborhoods supported raising taxes and which supported legalizing marijuana. Though San Diego’s poorest neighborhoods opposed raising taxes for city government, most supported raising them for city schools.

Beach and central neighborhoods backed legalizing marijuana, but to my surprise, so did East County residents. “It’s less about actually smoking marijuana and more about having the right to,” an East County business leader told me in response to the election results.

5. Measuring the Booze Ban

Labor Day renews debate each year about banning booze from the city’s beaches. This year, I used police statistics to gauge how the ban has impacted alcohol-related crime. As crime fell near the beach, it rose by a similar margin inland.

The graphic showed a strong correlation between the ban and more crime inland, where voters had largely approved the ban. It was the same scenario Police Chief Bill Lansdowne predicted before the ban went into effect.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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