Just got back from San Diego, my first real look at our old hometown in 15 years. I’m still trying to sort out my impressions.
We drove around and looked at every house we had ever owned.
The first place I ever bought was a little 2-on-1 on an owner-carry loan for $19,000. A few years later I had a standard, stucco, 1200 S.F. 3-bedroom, 2 bath, 2-car garage house built there with $50,000 or so of special low-income area investment government money.
That house (in Encanto, for those who know San Diego) appraised for $223,000 in Dec. 2002. We sold it in 2005 or 2006, just past the market peak, at $375,000. Had multiple offers and it went for full price.
Well, that neighborhood looks worse now than it did then! I had presumed that a $375,000 house neighborhood would have nice landscaping and pride of ownership and look way better than the old $50,000 neighborhood that I knew. Wrong.
Instead it seems the high cost of housing has meant that people have nothing extra for the exteriors. There are way more cars in the streets and parked in yards. The population density has gone up! I am guessing that people have doubled up in some of those small houses and that adult children have been unable to leave and start their own homes elsewhere. There used to be kids playing in yards; instead I saw guys just hanging out, no kids outside. Video games? Or not safe anymore?
In Golden Hill, near downtown, there used to be lovely old mansions and houses that had fallen on hard times. I had thought it was an area ripe for gentrification–in the perfect climate zone and a few minutes commute to downtown. Instead some of those old homes–including my 2nd home–have been torn down and replaced by cheaply constructed stucco cubes. A total clash with the old bungalows. The over-all neighborhood charm is gone. They built crap.
In Clairemont houses jumped to the $500,000 range. Those neighborhoods have yellow grass. Where I remembered green, Brady-Bunch yards now whole streets just plain look scrappy. I have heard there is irrigation restriction and sky-high water bills.
Yes, La Jolla stills looks so rich, manicured, glossy, lovely. No problems paying for landscaping or water there. A fantasy town, a movie set.
Traffic density is incredible. San Diego is now L.A. The city is a megalopolis. You don’t drive anywhere quickly.
Why do people stay there?
The weather. Every day I was astonished. The breeze–it’s just right! The sunshine–it’s perfect, not too hot! The humidity–couldn’t be better! The air–should be bottled. The ocean waves glisten. Aaahhhh.