The Lopez-Beltran family moved to the city of Murrieta due to the high cost of living in San Diego. Dohney Castillo (far right) commutes daily to his job at Republic Services in Chula Vista. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz
The Lopez-Beltran family moved to the city of Murrieta due to the high cost of living in San Diego. Dohney Castillo (far right) commutes daily to his job at Republic Services in Chula Vista. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Nationwide, transportation costs are typically the second largest part of a household’s budget, after housing.

In Southern California, that can often mean residents chasing cheaper housing end up doing so in favor of more expensive transportation, as with the estimated 50,000 people who work here but live in Riverside County.

But as Andrew Keatts shows in the latest installment in our weeklong dive into the region’s cost-of-living crisis, money spent on cars and driving isn’t always the biggest cost facing those fleeing local housing prices.

“More than that, it’s my family,” said Dohney Castillo, a sanitation worker who commutes from Murrieta to Chula Vista everyday, missing out on time with his girlfriend, 4-month-old daughter and step daughter who just started high school. “Those two to three hours on the road every day, without them, it’s changed my mind. I’m looking for something in the area.”

The transportation burden isn’t much better for people who manage to stay in town. Keatts also spoke with Johanna Bernal, who lives in Sherman Heights and works two jobs downtown. She’d love to spend her transportation budget on a bigger place for her two teenagers and a baby who all live in a one-bedroom apartment, but between getting the baby to daycare in time to work downtown, it doesn’t seem plausible.

Transportation can be an overlooked cost. But as Keatts reports, it eats up 22 percent of the typical San Diego household’s budget. The combined 57 percent of income that San Diegans spend on housing and transportation is good for the fourth most nationwide.

Read more here.

(Editor’s note: Cost of Living Week at Voice of San Diego seems like it was well timed …)

Speaking of transportation costs: Assembly Republicans pushed Sacramento Democrats to take a stand Monday on whether to suspend the state’s gas tax. The state adds about 50 cents to every gallon of gasoline sold. The money funds roads and infrastructure and the state has already borrowed against it to fund construction projects. 

Chris LeFall passes a gas station while driving for Uber Eats in Chula Vista on March 11, 2022.
Chula Vista resident Chris LeFall passes a gas station while driving for Uber Eats on March 11, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler for Voice of San Diego

Tuesday, San Diego’s Democratic delegation were struggling to find a unified voice about why they opposed the move even while expressing sympathy for the pain people are feeling at the pump. They support instead a still unclear plan from the governor to distribute a rebate statewide. 

Read the story about their reactions by Scott Lewis and Alisha Wadhwa

Related: San Diego County Supervisors unanimously approved sending a letter to the state supporting both a suspension of the gas tax and/or a rebate like the governor envisions. 

Why Your Water Bill Is Rising

The cost of water in San Diego is rising for similar reasons to why the cost of electricity is increasing: we’re all paying for the stuff we built to get water and power to a coastal desert. 

It takes a lot of infrastructure to get water from the Colorado River (San Diego’s main source) down south and keep it here. But we pay for that infrastructure based on how much the region sells to San Diegans that use it. 

Except, San Diegans are using less water than they used to. That means the cost of maintaining the infrastructure is going up, while the money the region makes from selling the water is going down. 

In a new story, MacKenzie Elmer breaks down how costs have crept up to pay for the region’s main drinking water sources: the Colorado River and treated ocean water. And what some in the region think San Diego should do to alleviate the growing burden of water costs on the local ratepayer.  

Read more here.

Council Appoints Interim Housing Agency Chief

The City Council on Tuesday appointed Housing Commission veteran Jeff Davis to serve as the agency’s interim president and CEO after longtime chief Rick Gentry departs on March 31.

Davis, who now serves as deputy CEO, will receive an annual salary of $300,000 while serving in the role.

It’s not clear how long Davis will remain in that position — or when the city might begin searching for a replacement.

Gentry, who has led the Housing Commission since 2008, abruptly announced he would leave the agency late last month amid increasing scrutiny of the Housing Commission and its oversight structure. Gentry submitted his resignation a week after the City Council created a committee to potentially reform the agency and demanded a chance to review his performance.

That committee composed of Council members Chris Cate, Stephen Whitburn, Marni von Wilpert and Joe LaCava is set to meet for the first time on Thursday. 

In Other News

  • The Union-Tribune reports that a planned Tuesday deposition of a purported volunteer city real estate adviser paid millions by the city’s 101 Ash St. and Civic Center Plaza landlord was postponed for the second time in just over a month.
  • Times of San Diego broke down a new report revealing San Diego County home prices have spiked 16 percent in the last year.
  • 10 News reports that county supervisors on Tuesday formally vowed to take action in the wake of a damning state audit that panned the county’s failure to address jail deaths.
  • City News Service reported that county supervisors also advanced three potential candidates to serve as interim sheriff. Supervisors are set to vote next Tuesday on which veteran law enforcement officer will serve in the post until early next year when a new elected sheriff takes office.
  • KPBS on Tuesday kicked off a three-part series focused on how the pandemic has impacted San Diego’s performing arts community.
  • The City Council on Tuesday approved a five-year email retention policy pushed by Mayor Todd Gloria. The policy is set to go into effect in February and officials said the city will start deleting emails sent prior to early 2018 at that time. 

This Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, MacKenzie Elmer, Lisa Halverstadt and Scott Lewis. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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