Tuesday, April 14, 2009

San Diego

Greetings from the heart of downtown San Diego, and when I say heart, I mean right in the middle on Broadway next to the Hall of Justice. I can see the water from my room. They have lots of boats. The military? BIG boats, seriously big boats.

The place is terrific, featuring interesting looking cafes, pubs, restaurants, breakfast places, delis, fancy white table cloth places, bookstores. One can walk to Ralph's, a full blown 24/7 grocery store including all alcohol and a particularly excellent wine selection. Lots of wine. Pedestrians are really obedient of the walk signals at intersections. The intersection could be completely dead, no cars coming from anywhere, yet people wait patiently for the white go ahead. Hey, when in Rome, so I waited too. Perhaps they know something I don't. If I was going to get hit by a truck, I would have before birthing the behemoth. The maintenance of the city is top of the line, with clean and flawless streets and modern trains and trolley cars. San Diego clearly has the distinctions of competent downtown and economic development.

Always looking to try the path less taken, instead of staying at one of the many $200+ hotels all around me, I opted for 500 West, an interestingly progressive place that took over the now historic downtown YMCA building. The bathrooms are shared (not at the same time) and the rooms are TINY. We're talking teenie weenie with itty bitty bed, laptop sized desk, small wooden micro-closet, and a padded cube thingy for a chair. Add an overhead light and a mirror on the wall, and you now know everything in the room. While my research grant would actually cover the costs at the fancy places, I felt like staying here. The whole week will cost the price of one night at the others.

I think the concept is a great idea, and it ties perfectly to my (3/08/09) Inflection post about downsizing products to serve true and not inflated customer need. Let's be straight, what do I really need? A secure space to sleep in reasonable comfort, and a private room to shower and shave. Note, as this "hotel" does, that while the two should be very close (the same hall), they don't have to be the same.

Now, 500 West does have high speed Internet. My frugality has limits.

I suppose everyone knows Ted Kennedy gave the Obamas a doggie. The Republicans are meeting to discuss what's wrong with it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should have a brewski at the Yard House. Their selection of on tap brew is incredible.

4/14/2009 10:03 AM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

Oh, I get it. X4mr is at the AERA conference. Imagine a boatload of brainiacs converging to talk about stuff like "Situated Cognition in Mathematics" or "Knowledge and Critical Pedagogy."

If I'm not mistaken, Republicans have in fact criticized the dog. They are really looking ridiculous, and this tea party nonsense is a total crock. Speaking of taxes, x4mr, tomorrow is April 15.

4/14/2009 11:49 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

Whenever we are talking about Tucson's downtown "redevelopment", I always think of San Diego because I lived there for 20 years.

I love the picture of Obama running with "Bo." The criticism he has received so far has been from those who expected him to get a shelter dog to set an example.

No matter what Obama does, there will be a chorus of criticism from somewhere, apparently.

4/14/2009 11:51 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

Oh, my gosh, have the Republicans actually criticized the dog?

4/14/2009 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey x4mr!


Why don't you have a "spot the clothspeak" contest. Whoever correctly identifies the most cloth buzzwords wins a twinkie. Or a compliment (as long as they respond with a compliment to their compliment giver). There are lots of cloth buzzwords in this piece.

4/14/2009 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Robish said...

There's nothing wrong with a lot of the words that are staples of the clothspeak vocabulary.

The problem is a lack of follow-through with implementation.


are the buzzwords from the Citizen column.
I agree with the points the column made, but they ruined it by quoting Laura Shaw.

Laura Shaw, head cloth-weaver at the TREO Cloth Institute: "From an economic development standpoint, we're in good shape."

4/14/2009 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Robish said...

San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter should have been the model for Tucson's downtown redevelopment, on Congress.

Balboa Park could have been the model for the museum campus they wanted to do on the west side, but ran out of money for.

Downtown San Diego had a lot of new residents move in, but that only happened after the city made the area a lively destination. It didn't happen the other way around, as the Rio Nuevo people always thought. Now Downtown San Diego has all the elements, so they can continue to build synergy. (I know, I know, a Cloth-y term, what can I say?)

The streetcar that x4mr loves to mock will be helpful to the redevelopment of Congress.

Good to see you post again, Liza.

4/14/2009 2:51 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

Thanks, Robish.

What San Diego's downtown had that predated the entertainment and residential areas was a very significant business community.

For a number of years (in the 80s), the downtown office space was overbuilt, but it was gradually occupied. Then came shopping (Horton Plaza), entertainment, more office buildings, and then the residential buildings.

I can remember when there wasn't much to do downtown except work.

San Diego's Trolley (light rail) is also interesting. The first Trolley just went from downtown to San Ysidro on the Mexican border. I think that's about 12 miles. Now, of course, it has been expanded to cover much of the city and it has become a real mass transit system.

San Diego definitely had much more of a downtown than Tucson before they started their redevelopment. Given that it was already a place where people worked, they had that base as a foundation for all of the subsequent growth.

Because of what I saw happen in San Diego, I have always felt that Tucson's first challenge in building a downtown is to develop a downtown business community. The shopping, entertainment, residential areas, and light rail have little purpose without it unless all you care about are tourists and retirees and people attending conventions. And we should know by now that the tourism, convention, and retiree business is not enough to sustain a big city downtown.

4/14/2009 4:49 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

As always, Nav is spot on about where I am. It's the annual convention of the American Educational Research Association, and the San Diego Convention Center is incredible, as are the buildings and the environment around it.

What continues to strike me about these highly cerebral gatherings is the diversity in terms of both ethnicity and gender, and obviously it's a group that has transcended such biases. You see super sharp white women, Hispanic men, black women, Asian men, Indian (India) women, on and on, all of them extremely well educated.

And THE BOOKS. Geez Louise for literally thousands of books on display like what Nav suggested. Tons of publishers from Cambridge, Stanford, Harvard etc., but also others like Paradigm Publishing, as well as educational software like Methodspace.

The title of the conference is Disciplined Inquiry: Education Research in the Circle of Knowledge.Shifting to the job commute piece in the Citizen, it actually follows up on a 4/7/09 piece by Teya Vitu referencing the same Brookings Institute study.

The study is at:


I think the study is okay, comparing the denser pre-automobile cities like NY, Chicago, SF, Boston, to post-auto post-freeway cities like Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, LA, that spread out all over creation. The study explores some the implications of these differences.

Applying it to Tucson occurs to me as rather lame since a 10 mile radius pretty much includes the whole town. Of course the commutes are small. Well, in Superior, AZ, every job is within a three miles of downtown. They are poised creative class recruitment and economic prosperity?

Obviously Robish knows more than I do about such stuff. One thing is clear - TREO is a farce.

4/14/2009 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Robish said...

The data for Tucson is easily explained by the presence of the University of Arizona campus. Twelve thousand faculty and staff, plus people working in retail and supporting businesses on the perimeter of the campus, one mile away from downtown, but not in downtown.

Liza is right about the importance of a business base. Most cities of Tucson's size have a downtown with tens of thousands of office workers, with corporate headquarters, or at least significant regional offices for private companies. The majority of downtown Tucson's employment, scarcely more than 10,000, is in government.

Jobs are so important for so many reasons, but as it relates to housing, it's obvious. It is much easier to sell downtown living to people who already work there.

The city and county never cared much about private-sector downtown employment. For every condo development that the city made a big deal about, that would have added 60 new residents, the downtown lost several hundred office workers because the county displaced them.

San Diego also, like other large cities that grew large in the early 20th century, has lots of buildings. Tucson hardly has any inventory of buildings in its downtown, old or otherwise, to renovate and turn into offices, lofts, or cool bars.

I would say that downtown lacks a "built fabric" to work with, but the word "fabric" is rightly suspect in these parts.

4/14/2009 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Robish said...

Petco Park is a great place to see a ballgame, too, and it's very cool how they built the stadium around an old brick structure that is now part of the left-field stands.

After the game, you step outside, and you are at the gateway (literally) to Gaslamp Quarter, with all the bars, restaurants, and people-watching.

Very similar to the experience you get at Tucson Electric Park on Ajo Way, except you have nothing to walk to, but can drive home past a hospital, a couple of jails, and a gas station.

4/14/2009 5:37 PM  

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