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The most unaffordable housing market

 February 17, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Speaker 1: (00:03)

Good morning. I'm Anica Colbert. It's Thursday, February 17th, San Diego, the nation's most unaffordable housing market, more on that next, but first let's do the headlines, California. His indoor mask requirement is gone. And this week the governor is reportedly set to announce his endemic plan. Dr. Eric topple from the script's translational Institute has reviewed the governor's endemic plan. He says, it's good but wishes. It went further on vaccinations and new technology.

Speaker 2: (00:37)

I don't think that word endemic helps us at all. I, what we should be thinking about is do we have the virus in containment? Are there very low levels? And what are we doing to keep it that way? Once we get there, we're not there yet. We're still not anywhere. Uh,

Speaker 1: (00:54)

Close transitioning to an endemic phase is also recognition that the virus isn't going away it's official. The price of gas in San Diego is now at the highest it's been in almost a decade. The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in San Diego county rose 1 cent on Wednesday to a record high of $4 and 73 cents. The previous record was set in October of 2012. Lawsuit has been filed against the city of San Diego, opposing its vaccine mandate for city employees, a citizen's group called reopen San Diego filed the suit on Tuesday in federal court. The group alleges that the mandate will exclude an entire category of individuals from meaningful participation in city government by barring unvaccinated, city officials and volunteers from attending city meetings and doing business and city buildings. Last month, a similar lawsuit was filed in San Diego superior court by local first responders and a group called protection of the educational rights of kids from K P B S. You're listening to San Diego news. Now stay with me for more of the local news. You need. San Diego is known for its perfect weather and diverse scenery, but it's costing renters and homeowners, a pretty penny, a study reports that San Diego has the nation's most unaf housing market. K PBS's Tanya thorn has more

Speaker 3: (02:29)

Talk to any San Diego resident, and they'll be sure to tell you, San Diego is not cheap. The cost of living is getting more expensive. And so our homes, a recent report by a Texas company suggests San Diego tops. The list of nation's most unaffordable housing markets. The report conducted by Ojo labs looked at median home prices and local incomes. The median home price in San Diego rose 14.3% in January to $764,000. When Ojo looked at the median home price and local incomes, it took San Diego's unaffordability score to the top of the list, surpassing San Francisco.

Speaker 4: (03:08)

The we've. We've also seen a major deterioration in the affordability of home ownership in San Diego, which was not particularly affordable to begin with, but got a lot worse during the pandemic.

Speaker 3: (03:20)

Jeff Tucker, a senior economist was Zillow says household incomes. Aren't increasing as fast as home prices.

Speaker 4: (03:27)

Not yet seeing, you know, the, the major increases in salaries and incomes to kind of match that increase in the cost of homes. That's why as a share of people's income, the cost home ownership in San Diego is getting wildly unaffordable right now.

Speaker 3: (03:43)

Christopher Thornberg with beacon economics says affordability. Isn't the root of the conversation. It's the lack of supply.

Speaker 5: (03:51)

If you had more houses for sale, that price would go down. If you had more apartments for rent, that price would go down. Well, how do we have more supply? Well, we do everything that people in San Diego don't want to do. You need densification, you need, uh, uh, uh, high limits taken back. You need to have, uh, more land being used for housing.

Speaker 3: (04:16)

Thornberg says many industries find San Diego attractive, and that's helping drive the increase in prices. Tonya thorn KPPs news.

Speaker 1: (04:33)

Lots of people adopted dogs during the pandemic, and they may have gotten used to letting those dogs run off the leash at parks and school fields. But now a new program is aiming to put those dogs back on a leash with costly citations for dog owners, K PBS's, Claire trier reports,

Speaker 6: (04:52)

Sierra Dockery spots him from the parking lot, a loose pit bull running around a fenced in basketball court. She parks her SUV and hops out, especially

Speaker 7: (05:01)

The basketball courts. There's a couple signs that I see right now that mandate and dogs have to be on a leash. So we'll go make that contact.

Speaker 6: (05:10)

The dog's owner is not happy to see Dockery with

Speaker 8: (05:14)

Your dogs.

Speaker 1: (05:14)

Yeah. Do you mind just putting mom in a leash really

Speaker 7: (05:17)

Fast? I'm gonna enter the basketball court area.

Speaker 6: (05:19)

Dockery listens to the woman with a calm and gentle demeanor, but stays firm. She writes a ticket which could end up costing her almost $300.

Speaker 8: (05:29)

Good job. Good job. You're doing a great job. Helping families and friends.

Speaker 6: (05:35)

Just another day at the office for Dockery who looks a lot like a police officer in her tight bun, Navy blue uniform and utility belt, but her employer, isn't a police department. It's the San Diego humane society. She's part of a new park patrol enforcement program. The humane society started in 2021 to address a pandemic era problem. The number of scoff law, dog owners ballooned during COVID.

Speaker 7: (06:02)

And then once they reopened, I feel like people kind of flooded back to the parks and beaches. Um, and people had that love of outdoors. Once again,

Speaker 6: (06:11)

The humane society is now giving out about 200 citations a month. That's a fivefold increase from early in the pandemic about a third, went to parks and Pacific beach and ocean beach. And Dockery says they pay special attention to school fields.

Speaker 7: (06:28)

Some specific joint uses have become, let's say like unofficial dog

Speaker 6: (06:33)

Parks, that creates problems with dogs, digging holes, or leaving poop, the kids step

Speaker 7: (06:38)

In. And then of course, with off leash dogs, there's always that risk of someone being attacked, a dog being attacked, someone being bit.

Speaker 9: (06:46)

And all this sudden, you know, this dog, you know, jammed on hair.

Speaker 6: (06:49)

That's exactly what happened. Tolen Hernandez three year old daughter Alba at trolley barn park in university Heights,

Speaker 9: (06:56)

Wind up in the hospital. Uh, she was traumatized.

Speaker 6: (07:01)

Alba had to get stitches and now struggles with a deep fear of dogs. People insist their dog is friendly and well behaved, but Alba doesn't know that

Speaker 9: (07:11)

It really change, you know, our whole family dynamic, right. And the way, um, we spent our free time because we really, again, we couldn't come here, you know, because again, dogs were on lease and then just going to any other park, we found that, um, it happens the same

Speaker 6: (07:33)

On a recent Wednesday evening. Several dogs run freely at a field in allied gardens. That's also being used for kids soccer and baseball games. Marty Marcus lets his dog Ellie off leash and she barks and runs in circles. As he talks

Speaker 10: (07:48)

For the most part, we to come down here, do control their dogs. Um, yeah, mine is barking a lot. She wants to run and play. And yeah, she did has bumped into you a few times. But outside of that, most of the dogs down here are reasonably well behaved.

Speaker 6: (08:01)

Marcus says he does worry about getting a citation.

Speaker 10: (08:05)

Dogs still needs exercise. And there are very few dog parks in the area.

Speaker 7: (08:10)

This dog's digging a hole actively

Speaker 6: (08:13)

Back on her patrol, Dockery rolls through a busy park and spots. Two people watching their dogs run off leash.

Speaker 7: (08:21)

Um, they're looking at it and not doing anything.

Speaker 6: (08:24)

She drives up to the young couple hops out and writes them each a citation.

Speaker 7: (08:29)

Do you know of a few dog parks in the area? Yeah. Okay. Cuz yeah, there's like one literally down the street. It's about three minutes from here, Keith, the

Speaker 6: (08:36)

Couple cheap ly accepts their $300 tickets and promises. They won't break the rules again. Claire trier, KPBS news

Speaker 1: (08:49)

California's battle against single use plastic waste continues this week. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would limit the types of packaging online. Retailers can use K C R W's Kayley Wells reports

Speaker 11: (09:03)

When online shopping grew during the pandemic. So did packaging a report last year from the wildlife advocacy group. Oceania says Amazon's plastic waste spiked nearly 30% in 2020. Although Amazon disputes that that plastic takes centuries to degrade the new bill would require big online retailers to stop using common plastic packaging. By 2024, small businesses would have more time to transition by 2026. If this measure passes, retailers would have to use packaging that's reusable, recyclable or biodegradable. It's not the first time California's tried to do this. A similar bill died last year when a business coalition, which included plastic companies said eliminating the packaging could lead to more damaged stuff and spoiled food. This time around the proposal excluded some perishable foods like produce and meat. I'm Kaylee Wells in Los Angeles

Speaker 1: (09:58)

Coming up. San Diego has the highest water rates in the state. We'll have that story just after the break From summer like heat to winter cold with rain and snow. San Diego county has seen it all over the last few days. K PBS reporter John Carroll looked into the reasons behind our wild weather

Speaker 12: (10:49)

With a high of 91 degrees. Saturday was a record breaker in San Diego, the hottest February day since they started keeping records, but then big changes on Tuesday with high winds, heavy rain at times, snow lightning and even hail in some inland areas. National weather service meteorologist Alex tardy says it was due to a very cold system. Moving down from the Arctic.

Speaker 5: (11:14)

It definitely packed the punch. Um, it didn't bring up an atmospheric river. It didn't bring up any moisture from the tropics, but it brought a lot of cold air. And what that means meteorologically is a lot of instability.

Speaker 12: (11:28)

Tardy says another much more mild Santa Anna will develop Wednesday night into Thursday. John Carroll, KPBS news

Speaker 1: (11:38)

Data officials are predicting dire statewide drought conditions this year, which could mean more water use restrictions. Although San Diego has gone a long way towards insulating itself from water shortages conservation efforts combined with projects like the desalination plant in Carlsbad, leave the county in a better position to weather a drought, but it also leaves us with some of the highest water rates in the state higher than Los Angeles county. Joshua Emerson Smith is a reporter with the San Diego union Tribune. He spoke with K PBS midday, edit host Maureen Kavanaugh about the current water policies.

Speaker 13: (12:16)

San Diegos have seen their water rates creep up year after year. About how much more are we paying in comparison to LA?

Speaker 14: (12:23)

Well, our wholesale rate, which for untreated water, which is $1,474 an acre foot right now, and an acre foot is about an enough water to cover an acre foot deep. That's about $400 an acre foot more than what they're paying in LA. So quite a, quite a bit more.

Speaker 13: (12:42)

And of course, that kind of trickles down if you would, to the consumer and

Speaker 14: (12:47)

Absolutely

Speaker 13: (12:48)

San Diego has always been at the end of the pipeline for state water supplies is that the county water authority has launched its own water projects.

Speaker 14: (12:58)

Yeah, that's part of it. We're at the end of the pipeline when it comes to delivering water from the Sacramento bay Delta in the Colorado river, but we've also had a little bit of bad blood with our wholesaler, the metropolitan water district of Southern California after, uh, dust up in the early nineties over drought restrictions. And ever since then, the water authority here in San Diego has been looking to develop its own supplies for water and use less and less of the met water.

Speaker 13: (13:28)

Tell us about the projects that it started and how they add to our water bills.

Speaker 14: (13:34)

Well, it it's everything from the raising, the San Viente dam or the Han dam to other emergency storage projects to perhaps most notably the Carlsbad desalination plant, which, uh, has some of the highest water rates, uh, around.

Speaker 13: (13:53)

And apparently after taking on whopping debts to increase the water supply, the county found itself up against a decrease in demand. How did that happen?

Speaker 14: (14:04)

I mean, no one really saw this coming to be fair, but since 2010, so over the last decade, demand for water from our whole sailor has decreased 40%. It's hard to overstate how significant that is. A lot of it is due to conservation. So people have ripped out their lawns with turf rebate programs, mandatory drought conservation during the last, uh, drought was pretty significant. So people are just using less water on top of that. Local retail agencies are developing their own resources, which is largely recycling projects. And so that means that they're also demanding less from our water wholesaler here in the region.

Speaker 13: (14:56)

Even though the county's water projects may help us get through droughts without a water shortage, there are San Diegos who can't afford to pay their water bills right now. Is there any plan to help them?

Speaker 14: (15:09)

Yeah, I mean that, that's the big issue, right? We have farmers who are saying they can't afford the cost of water and we've seen demand from the agricultural sector drop pretty severely, but now increasingly low income folks and even middle income folks are saying, they're having a hard time paying their water bills. And this is something that state and local officials are grappling with because it's hard to design these projects, uh, given the state rules around increasing water rates, you can't just increase water rates to redistribute the funds. So we're trying to figure this out. The state, the answers probably to come from the state in, in terms of relief programs, but it's one of those issues where we see, we see it on the horizon. People are increasingly unable to afford their water bills. It's pretty significant.

Speaker 13: (16:05)

It certainly looks like we'll have a lot of water and we certainly may need it as the effects of climate change increase. So could these high prices be seen as an investment in the future?

Speaker 14: (16:17)

Absolutely. Uh, right now we're in a situation where ironically, it seems like we have more water than we need than we know what to do with, even though we're in a drought, but going forward, this could pay dividends. Uh, we could see increased reliability in to decades to come. The question is what will the cost of that be?

Speaker 1: (16:40)

And that was Joshua Emerson Smith, a reporter with the San Diego union Tribune. He was speaking with KPBS midday edition host Maureen Kavanaugh. And just before you go, we do have one more local story. The eSports team at Hoover high school has a new space to play. K PBS speaks, city Heights, reporter Jacob heir takes us there

Speaker 15: (17:13)

An already thriving eSports team got a recent upgrade at Hoover high school, not in a video game, but in real life, the club has a brand new space on campus dedicated to competitive gaming. And it's fully stalked with high-end computers, gaming chairs, headphones, and a lot more,

Speaker 16: (17:29)

I'd say the most popular game that's running on right now, at least in this eSports is still rocket league, super smash bros and ball

Speaker 15: (17:38)

Club captain in Hoover high school, senior Henry Quang says the new room is a huge improvement from before.

Speaker 16: (17:45)

Honestly, it's been amazing. I remember I first joined the eSports club here at ho during my sophomore year and we kind of have like a little, uh, underground, I would say, dun area. And we usually play on the school computers. We never kind of had that, uh, luxury of trying to build one

Speaker 15: (18:04)

For every sports team. There was a coach for Hoover high school's eSports club. It's Jack Wetzel, who also runs the robotics club and teaches math and computer science at the school. He's been in charge of the program since 2016.

Speaker 17: (18:18)

I think the eSports is, is, is just any digital sport and ranging from anything from chess to these competitive first person shooters. But if I was gonna say what it is here at Hoover, it's really a community and it's it's about student having a safe place where they have like-minded people to collaborate and, and be friends with

Speaker 15: (18:39)

Hawaii, says eSports, provide him an escape from real world difficulties while spending time with his friends, which has been a challenge since the pandemic

Speaker 16: (18:47)

For my sophomore year, I was pretty lonely. I would say during the pandemic, uh, didn't really have anything to talk to. So I would always just play games and having social interactions on there.

Speaker 15: (18:58)

Hoover high is just one example of the blossoming eSports scene in San Diego. San Diego state is about to launch a new certificate program called business of eSports, which is open to people of all ages. Newton Lee will be one of the professors he sees e-sports in line with social media platforms, but says they offer competition for all and are more inclusive than traditional sports.

Speaker 18: (19:20)

It doesn't matter if you are black or white or a kid or, or old man, old woman, physical, disabled, or you know, physical, strong, fiscally strong. They all can come compete in the same game. To me, that is truly amazing. You cannot see that in any fiscal sport.

Speaker 15: (19:37)

Wetzel says the new room is just the start. They already have competition set up with other schools from around the area and he plans to try to make eSports a lettering sport in high school,

Speaker 17: (19:47)

High school eSports league is that the national, um, organization that's helping gather everybody together. And they're the ones that actually host those games. And then from there, the colleges are looking on those websites to see which teams are scoring highest, which ones are doing well through the competitions. Um, and then on top of that, there's actual scholarships from high school eSports league

Speaker 15: (20:10)

Professor Lee says the future of eSports is very bright. In fact, he sees the new SDSU eSports program and other similar educational offerings as a gateway into the science technology engineering and mathematics fields.

Speaker 18: (20:24)

So it makes them especially high school students. More curious about, well maybe, you know, I'm not going to be professional gamer, but I can design your hardware or, oh, I'm really good in art. I can do animation. So that's something that they may not have thought of if they have no eSport.

Speaker 15: (20:43)

Professor Lee says one of the biggest challenges for the eSports industry at the moment is the need to introduce more women. But he says it will be difficult because of a number of players creating a toxic environment for women in online gaming circles. That being said, there are efforts underway, such as creating more collaborative and less violent video games to bridge the gender gap and open the virtual door on eSport to all Jacob bear KPBS news.

Speaker 1: (21:14)

And that's it for the podcast today as always, you can find more San Diego news online@kpbs.org. I'm Anica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

A new study reports San Diego is now the nation's most unaffordable housing market. Meanwhile, the San Diego Humane Society started an enforcement program featuring "park patrol" officers after the number of off-leash dogs ballooned following the end of the pandemic lockdowns. Plus, a new report looks into the cost of water in San Diego and offers analysis of why rates are so high.