Spring 2016 Section 1

This category contains 11 posts

Growing up on the border

Rachel Quintana and her daughters pictured outside of their San Ysidro Motel room. Her children all attend Willow Elementary where almost half of the students are considered homeless.

Rachel Quintana and her daughters pictured outside of their San Ysidro Motel room. Her children all attend Willow Elementary where almost half of the students are considered homeless. April 16, 2016. (Photo by Megan Wood)

Armando and his eight siblings wake up to the sound of the trolley passing by their motel room window every morning, and attempt to fall asleep as it passes by throughout the night. They live at the Gateway In less than half a mile from the San Ysidro border crossing.

Considered the man of the house, Armando helps his younger siblings get ready for school in the morning and makes sure they all get there safely when his mother, Rachel Quintana, needs to care for her 6-month-old baby.

The family moved from Oakland to San Ysidro where they are able to visit their father who was deported to Mexico 10 years ago. Quintana said it was important that her children have a “part-time dad,” rather than not at all.

She said “safety-wise,” the area is not where she wants her children to grow up, adding that “anything goes” when you live so close to the border. However, living in less-expensive Tijuana was not an option because she wants her children, born in the United States, to finish their education in English.

CalWORKs provides Quintana with money to cover the motels monthly rent, but she picks up odd jobs like cleaning and recycling to pay for diapers, food and clothing.

Her children attend Willow Elementary, where almost half of the students enrolled are considered homeless.

Federally defined

The districts 5,263 students draw not only from the hilltop ocean-view suburbs and a historic core, but from miles of industrial yards that surrounds one of the busiest land border crossing on earth.

An auto repair lot in Otay Mesa. The high cost of housing in San Ysidro leaves many families finding refuge here. May 1, 2016. Photo by Megan Wood.

An auto repair lot in Otay Mesa. The high cost of housing in San Ysidro leaves many families finding refuge here. May 1, 2016. (Photo by Megan Wood)

The district has had the highest percentage of homeless students in San Diego County for more than five years. At the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, Student and Family Services Manager Veronica Medina reported that 1,692 of the 5,263 students attending San Ysidro schools were considered homeless.

The federal McKinney-Vento Act requires districts to report any students who “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” This means living in substandard conditions like shelters, trailers, cars, motels or most frequently, “doubled-up” with other families in single-family homes or living with extended family for financial reasons.

Citing numbers from the 2013-14 school year, a grant proposal written by the district in 2015 reported that 78 students were living in motels or hotels, 112 students living “unsheltered” in cars, motorhomes or trailers and 41 students living in shelters or transitional housing. 1,637 students were reportedly living “doubled-up.

Where discrepancies occur

Although there’s a standard definition of homelessness, it’s left up to district officials like Medina to interpret, which she said may be the reason for the district’s high numbers.

Districts are required to identify and report these students to the county, but there isn’t a standard process to do so. They can choose to identify homeless students by using registration forms, surveys or letting parents identify on their own.Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 1.56.54 PM

Michelle Walsh, the coordinator of student support services at Vista Unified, said San Ysidro’s high percentage was “surprising.” She said districts count homeless students “very differently,” emphasizing that students considered “doubled-up” must be in that situation temporarily, not long term, to be counted as homeless.

“If they’re doing it because of economic hardship, like they lost a job or had surgery, and they plan on moving out on their own, we would count it.” Walsh said. “Now if grandma needed help, or it was generational, we would not count it as homelessness.”

Leanne Wheeler, the state coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth Program, said it’s not easy to ensure the numbers collected by districts are correct. She depends on homeless liaisons like Medina to ensure an accurate accounting of homeless students, specifically in a “doubled-up” situation.

“I can’t speak for all districts, because there’s over 1,600 LEAs (local education agencies) in the state and I’m only one person,” Wheeler said. “That’s kind of my hope, that everybody looks at a doubled-up situation in the same way.”

She said families need to be counted as living “doubled-up” because of financial hardship, but there is no way to verify that on the state level.

Homelessness in the classroom

Willow Elementary School teacher Nancy Alvarado said she also has “mixed feelings” about the McKinney-Vento definition of homelessness. However, she said it’s beneficial for teachers to know if a student lives in substandard conditions to make sure students get the help they need.

“If I know kids are motel hoppers and I know that they’re not doing homework because they’re helping mom collect recycling to make money for dinner, it’s unrealistic for me to say, ‘Oh, I need a 500-word essay by tomorrow,’” Alvarado said.

Alvarado emphasized the importance of understanding the broad meaning of homelessness defined by the McKinney-Vento Act.

“Every once in awhile I will get a child that’s actually totally, completely homeless, as in living in shelters or cars.” Alvarado said. “Not all the children that are classified as homeless fit that description.”


Airbnb making waves in San Diego

More people are starting to put their sailboats and yachts up as short-term rentals on Airbnb. This additional rental option could advance boating access in the area and make boat ownership less expensive.


Mike Stanton shows how Airbnb guests are accommodated once they arrive for their stay. (Photo by Tori Tackett)

Founded in 2008 and based in San Francisco, Airbnb is a rental website where people looking for accommodations are connected with people who are renting their homes and spaces.

Among contemporary rental options such as houses or apartments, guests also have the option to choose from houseboats, sailboats or luxury yachts on Airbnb. Currently, the site has 32 boat rental options to choose from in the San Diego area.

Since the addition of boat rentals on Airbnb’s site, the Sun Harbor Marina has noticed some additional foot traffic.

Boater Experiences 

However, not everyone is on board with this new boat rental trend.

“I don’t think I could ever rent my boat out to complete strangers,” yacht owner Gill Moreau said. “I take pride in my boat and the thought of letting random people stay in it from time to time makes me uneasy … and I use my boat more often than most people so I don’t see the need.”

Airbnb host Frank Graham said he feels differently about the situation.

“For me, Airbnb has been a blessing,” Graham said. “I probably only get to use my boat about one month out of the year and the rest of the time it’s just sitting there. So far all of my guests have been kind and courteous and I like the money.”

The cost of maintaining a boat is just one of the factors that deters people from owning one in the first place. Now that boat owners are able to earn some extra money by renting out their vessels, the maintenance factor begins to diminish.

Boats exempt from certain taxes 

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According to Yacht Salesman Mike Stanton, about 30 percent of the boat owners live aboard their vessels. Here are some boats docked in Marina Village. (Photo by: Tori Tackett)

Unlike housing spaces on Airbnb, hosts who rent out their boats are not required to charge an extra fee for the transient occupancy tax, something that has been highly debated ever since Airbnb started listing in the San Diego area.

According to San Diego’s Office of the City Treasurer, the transient occupancy tax and tourism marketing district tax are only applicable to guests who stay less than a calendar month at a property.

Initially, issues arose because many Airbnb hosts failed to charge their guests the additional tourist taxes.

According to the city of San Diego, Airbnb hosts were expected to charge their guests the 10.5 percent transient occupancy tax as well as a 0.55 percent tourism marketing district tax. However, this was not always done.

Currently, the municipal code does not clearly define a short-term rental. However, there are some regulations that govern board-and-lodging dwellings, bed-and-breakfasts and rooming houses. There is nothing in the municipal code that mentions boats or yachts.

Some hosts were not aware of the tourist taxes and were uncertain about whether or not the municipal code defined their property as a “short-term rental.” Originally, the popular rental service did not include the tourist tax on the total amount of the bill.

Airbnb started collecting the tourist tax from visitors on behalf of their hosts in August of 2015.

The transient occupancy tax is charged in most states, which includes travelers in California who are renting for less than 30 days.

Other cities where Airbnb collects tourist taxes:

  • Chicago
  • Portland
  • San Francisco
  • Washington, D.C.

A recent survey of occupancy taxes by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that 20 states have lodging taxes that apply statewide.

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The millennial curse of the right swipe: Traditional dating may be a thing of the past

Millennials may be putting shame to traditional dating but they are being their own Cupids, taking the initiative and actively looking for a love that lasts no matter the sacrifices.

Long gone are the days of courtship, romantic gestures and hourlong phone calls with your beau. Instead, we have entered the era of geo-located dating apps, online profiles and instant matches, substituting traditional dating for a quicker more convenient way of finding one’s perfect match.

The cultural and technological shift to online dating has made apps such as Tinder, Happn, Bumble and Grinder go viral. According to Pew Research Center, 11 percent of American adults have used an online dating site or mobile app, with the percentage of young adults using dating apps almost tripling since 2013.

“Ever since smartphones started to play such a huge role in dating, it has significantly altered millennials’ view on relationships overall,” San Diego relationship expert Matthew Dalton said. “Now more than ever image and status have become huge barriers in the dating world that have tainted the authenticity of romance and relationships.”

The Tinder Era

The day has come where the phrase, “I think I saw you on Tinder,” is more of a common pickup line than, “Do you and your friends come here often?”


Tinder user swipes through potential matches in the San Diego area. (Photo by Cambria Mackey)

Dating apps are now creating a one-stop shop for people who are looking for either a significant other, fling or even a friend. With complete power in the users’ hands, they can select their preferences to find just what they are looking for and in a matter of seconds – without even a first date. You can swipe left, crossing off a local bachelor or bachelorette, and automatically watch as another possible match slides on to the screen.

According to San Diego dating coach Diana Thompson, millennials have become so dependent on the security of the second screen that the thought of meeting someone face-to-face causes them immense anxiety and fear.

“This is the new normal,” Thompson said. “Twenty-something-year-olds, and younger, have become so picky as to the specific traits and requirements their potential significant other must possess in order to even be considered an eligible partner in their eyes.”

“I’m not going to lie; the whole concept of online dating is pretty shallow,” said Max Patton, a Tinder user. “The first thing people look at is how hot they think a person’s profile picture is, and within a matter of seconds, they make a decision if they want to pursue a conversation or never see them again.”

The solution to finding ‘the one’ in a fast-paced world

However, some people they feel like online dating is their best and, sometimes, only option.

“With such a busy schedule, it’s hard to make time to meet new people; I think that is part of the reason why dating apps are so popular,” Patton said. “Even if I’m not actively going on Tinder dates every other night, just having a dating profile, I’m able to meet more people than I would normally be able to.”

Living in a big city such as San Diego, people might find the dating scene to be intimidating.

Happy couple credits Tinder for their successful relationship. (Photo by Cambria Mackey)

Happy couple credits Tinder for their successful relationship. (Photo by Cambria Mackey)

“In San Diego, there are attractive people on every corner; it’s difficult to just hope you’re going to meet someone who isn’t crazy, taken and doesn’t bat for the opposing team,” said Lacey Means, an active online dating app user. “I’ve given up on playing the waiting game, and at this point, I just want to meet someone I will have a real connection with.”

Means said she believes that by using dating apps, she and other millennials are more likely to meet someone they have a real connection with instead of wasting several Friday nights debating how they can fake an illness and cut out of their blind date before the first course even gets to the table.

Pew Research Center stated that 79 percent of users suggested that online dating was a great way of meeting potential partners, and 70 percent agreed that it’s possible for people to find a better romantic connection online than offline.

“I have been with my girlfriend for three years and our relationship started after matching on Tinder,” San Diego State University senior Ryan Loxe said. “People can hate on dating apps all they want, but they can’t deny that they work. I can honestly say thanks to Tinder, I’ve found the girl I may possibly spend the rest of my life with, and who can put shame to that?”

Online daters find their happily ever after  

More people are finding long-lasting relationships on these sites, advocating for the success of the right swipe and putting the alleged curse to rest.

“Some may call us the Tinder or hook-up generation, but I personally think we are the generation committed to finding a love that lasts, and who knows, maybe today I’ll be one swipe closer to finding the one for me,” Tinder user Andrew Patterson said.

Prom season’s biggest trend adds more pressure for high school students

Traci Barker-Ball knows high school students. She has worked at Poway High School for 33 years and took the position of student services coordinator 20 years ago. As the student services coordinator, Barker-Ball runs peer counseling, organizes events for mental wellness on campus and has one-on-one meetings with students.

‏Barker-Ball watched the evolution of prom from the 1980s to today. In the ’80s, how people got asked to prom was not a big deal. In the ’90s, an evolution began, starting with a more creative or public way of asking, Barker-Ball said.

Charlie Jackson, a math teacher at Poway High and a Poway alum, said that 25 years ago prom was still a big deal, but not quite as over the top as now, when girls are obsessed with the perfect match, and not less – with the perfect dress, one of Terani Couture type. He remembers helping his friends make big signs to ask a girl to prom, but it wasn’t as common.

Over the past few years the term “promposal” has gotten increasingly popular. The word is a combination of prom and proposal. The word makes how a student gets asked to prom into a life event, rather than just part of prom. The “promposal” has taken on almost as much importance as prom itself.

There is a new name for asking a girl out

“The promposal idea is not new,” Jackson said. “There is a new element of bigger and better because all promposals are very public.”

‏Colin Jensen is a senior at Poway High and is gearing up for the upcoming prom season. Last year, Jensen asked his date in a creative and funny way.

“There is not a lot of pressure to spend money; it’s more about trying to do what they like,” Jensen said.

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Spencer Vierra, Poway High, and his prom date, a Cathedral Catholic student, on the night she said yes to prom. (Photo by Alia Ismay)

‏Creativity is the biggest thing, Poway High junior Spencer Vierra said, but sometimes you have to spend money to be creative.

Vierra asked his date, who goes to Cathedral Catholic High School in Carmel Valley, with a sign that said, “I’m praying you say yes to prom with me” and brought a Bible with him. His date thought it was funny and creative, and it was cheap, Vierra said.

“There is a side of promposals that I really like,” said Jackson. “It encourages the boys to be creative and have fun with it.”

Public promposals are problematic

Many promposals take place on school property, during school hours and occasionally during class time.

Kristin Hartsfield, a junior at Poway High, said she hopes to get asked to prom this year. One of her friends was asked in front of a lot of people in library during school. The girl said yes, but after ran to the bathroom and cried because she didn’t want to go with him.

“Huge, public promposals, people don’t really like. People don’t want to say no in a public place,” Jensen said.

The amount of stress that girls feel about getting asked to prom has increased, because they are terrified of getting asked in a major way by someone they do not want to go with, Jackson said.

“I have seen a lot of girls get asked in public settings and say yes in the moment, but say no the next day because they already had a date or they felt it would be awkward to go to prom with the person who asked,” Barker-Ball said.

Twitter adds expectations and humiliation to prom

Social media has added another layer of pressure and humiliation because now everyone knows everything, Barker-Ball said.

‏There is an endless number of Twitter accounts dedicated to highlighting the best, failed and expensive promposals. There are many

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 8.52.20 PM

The @besttproposals Twitter account that posts promposal photos and videos from all over the world.

accounts dedicated to specific high schools. The twitter account @besttproposals has posted 771 tweets since August 31, 2014, gaining a following of 39,100.

‏Vierra agreed with Barker-Ball. Social media has made the dance and the promposal more about the pictures that people can share than the actual event, he said.

Social media makes everything massively public. Now you have people seeing the pictures who you don’t even know, some even from other schools, said Jackson.

“Social media raises the bar for guys and then girls expect or really want an elaborate promposal,” Hartsfield said.

In general is not good for high school students to have social media because they are not secure enough in themselves yet, said Jackson.

The best proposals are the ones that are a complete surprise, but boys have to get pre-approval that their date will say yes or they face very public embarrassment. There’s no risk anymore, Jackson said.

Prom season is always fun and exciting, promposals have heightened it some, but it’s still very exciting for the students, Barker-Ball said.

“Prom only happens once or twice in your life; people really do want to have that experience,” Hartsfield said.

If you are going to “prompose” make it a story that people will want to tell rather than an opportunity to share a photo. The story is always better, Jackson said.

Take the Poll: Promposals: good, bad, or crazy? 


California’s solar energy sector maintains momentum, growth


California’s goal to source 50 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030 comes with challenges, uncertainty. Rooftop solar panels at University of California San Diego. Photo by Hallie Hoffmann

California’s goal to source 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 comes with challenges, uncertainty. Pictured: rooftop solar panels at University of California San Diego. (Photo by Hallie Hoffmann)

Solar energy usage and development has steadily expanded throughout California, though not without political and economic obstacles. The California Legislature has mandated that the state source half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, which will require utilities to diversify their energy base in order to meet the state’s goals.

Utilities’ place in the solar energy scene

“There’s very much a good versus bad dynamic to this industry,” said Benjamin Airth, senior manager of renewable programs at the Center for Sustainable Energy, a national nonprofit organization. “We don’t want to frame this conversation because we all need to work together … California has very aggressive goals and it’s a balancing act of competing interests.”

Annie Tsai is an attorney for Ballard Spahr LLP, and specializes in financing renewable projects. Before that, she worked for Southern California Edison for almost a decade.

“The energy sector used to be very secure and stable — the future looked consistent. The technology, however, has changed very quickly and now we look at creating and using energy in a very different way. The landscape has changed dramatically in the last five years,” she said.

Tsai said when she first started at Southern California Edison, it was a very different company than it is today.  The standard model of utilities selling energy to consumers is undergoing a paradigm shift, and according to her, utility companies must adapt.

On the grid, off the grid

“We’re reaching a point when consumers can really unplug from the grid and source their own energy, and utilities don’t have a choice except to adapt rapidly,” Tsai said.

Tsai, Airth and Jason Wilhite all agree that one of the attractions to solar energy is the idea of being self-sufficient and independent of utilities — going “off the grid.”

Jason Wilhite, director of operations and cofounder of SoCal Solar, doesn’t agree with the idea that individuals can install solar panels and be “off the grid.”

“Yes, during the day you’re selling energy back to the utility or whoever, but unless you have a storage unit, you’re going to be buying energy from the utility at night,” Wilhite said. “People don’t understand that even with solar, they’re connected to the grid, and if there’s a blackout they’ll experience it, to.”

Matt Staggard from Generation819 shows a broken solar panel. Photo Credit: Hallie Hoffmann.

Matt Staggard from Generation 819 shows a broken solar panel. (Photo by Hallie Hoffmann)

His company, SoCal Solar, is different from others in that its customers are actually buying the solar panels rather than leasing them. By eliminating the need for a power purchase agreement, the homeowner is getting a better deal and bigger benefits, Wilhite said.

“Homeowners don’t consider what’s going to happen when they want to sell their house with leased solar (panels) on the roof. The new homeowner has to qualify to take over the lease, it’s not easy. At first zero down seems great but there are hidden costs,” he said.

Solar forecasting and storage is making the industry more attractive

Jan Kleissl, a mechanical engineering professor at University of California, San Diego, expects solar energy to become cheaper to store and more efficient and cost-effective to produce. One of the main obstacles facing the expansion of solar is the costs associated with storage.

“(Solar) is great during the day but we need to harness the energy and remove the variability so that it can be sold as a more typical resource,” he said.

His research focuses on solar forecasting — analyzing the sun, atmosphere and other information to determine how much output a solar plant can produce.

“We’re not really developing new technology right now; the focus is to understand state-of-the-art forecasts and make the grid work better so that there’s flexibility in the usage,” Kleissl said.

Wilhite’s SoCal Solar installs solar panels with the expectation that viable storage sources will soon be mass produced. “We’re leaving a space for storage units, we’re using components that will easily integrate with storage technology.”

One of the main problems with harnessing solar energy is that the storage units aren’t aesthetically pleasing, Wilhite said. He expects that to change with Tesla’s home batteries. Wilhite said he is confident that Tesla’s technology and creativity is going to help spur further development of solar storage options.

Airth, from the Center for Sustainable Energy, expects to see more money spent on financing and developing storage.

“Storage is a huge component in the future of solar energy…big banks and venture capitalists will focus on storage — it’s straight economics — and will spur research and development,” Airth said.

Solar for all income levels

Another critical component of growing the solar sector, according to evergreensolar.com, is the idea of community solar —installing solar panels on the roofs of apartment complexes and condominiums.

“I don’t own my roof,” Tsai said, “but we’re figuring out how to get around that problem and all go in together on a larger scale, so that makes it a more affordable option that isn’t limited to homeowners.”

California is implementing programs to bring down the costs associated with going solar. The Single Family Affordable Solar Housing program and the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing program (SASH and MASH) provide incentives to low-income community members to make transitioning to solar more affordable.

At San Diego State University, most of the schools' solar consists of panels on top of parking structures. Photo Credit: Hallie Hoffmann 2016.

At San Diego State University, most of the schools’ solar consists of panels on top of parking structures. (Photo by Hallie Hoffmann)

Airth said it has been exciting to see the solar energy market develop from its infancy; originally it was only considered an option for high-income homeowners.

Now, it has become a more inclusive, community-based industry, for people in apartments and condominiums.   Just five years ago, he said, solar was very expensive; the cost has gone down by over half as business and technology have grown.

“We can help drive market development through incentives; anytime there’s a good opportunity (the Center for Sustainable Energy goes) for it,” Airth said. “It’s about understanding the business development, the technology, the market and the policy, and getting funding.”

San Diego’s elder Filipino-Americans share their experiences

San Diego’s Filipino population has gone from small and scattered pockets around the county to a large and bustling community 145,000 strong.

Just as this generation passes on its knowledge and achievements to the next, the old-timers of San Diego’s Filipino community will pass on their history and heritage to younger Filipinos.

Whether it’s in the culture or the history of Fil-Am activism around the county, it’s important that old-timer Filipinos have plenty to pass on, according to Rey Monzon, director of San Diego State University’s Student Affairs Research and Assessment department.

“It reminds me of something (from) Jose Rizal,” he says. “I think it was something that you can’t go forward unless you know where you’ve been.”

The early Fil-Am community

San Diego’s Filipino-American community was definitely a more social one, where it was the norm for many Fil-Ams’ parents to be involved in some sort of community organization, Monzon says.

These community organizations, he adds, were created to help the Filipino immigrants of that time to network and connect with others from the same province and hometown, such as the Bataan and Cavite associations.

“My family was heavily involved in the community at that time,” Monzon says. “It was really dominated by first-generations.”


Anamaria Cabato speaks at a FAVA Hall open house about her experiences growing up with the building, April 9, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Raquidan)

Indeed, it was common for many of San Diego’s Fil-Ams growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s to attend events and gatherings held by the organizations that their parents or relatives were involved in.

And with so many Filipino community associations representing the different towns and provinces, dances and beauty pageants were held nearly every week in the same two venues.

For Anamaria Cabato, the PASACAT Philippine Performing Arts Company’s executive director, these clubs’ social events were the place to meet and play with other Fil-Am children.


“It was fun (growing up in the community),” she says. “Because my parents would go to these meetings – they were involved in these associations. So we got to meet other Filipino kids, and we would meet them at the FAVA (Filipino American Veterans Association) Hall.

“They had fun dinner-dances. All the Filipinos could fit in the FAVA Hall or the El Cortez Hotel. That was so popular in the ’60s and ‘70s.”

And FAVA Hall hosted a significant amount of events for San Diego’s Filipino community.

Growing up Filipino back then

Being raised as a first-generation Filipino-American back then had its ups and downs – where in general, Fil-Am youths didn’t need to worry as much about their futures, as their parents decided for them for the most part, according to Cabato.

She adds that in general, Filipino families are very hierarchical, with the parents on top and children following their wishes.

To her, these values led to a culture shock in college when she suddenly found herself on her own, away from her parents.

“Excelling was easy in high school, but when you go to a four-year institution, you’re no longer spoon-fed,” Cabato says. “You sort of have to do things on your own. And being raised (as a Filipino), your parents do everything for you.

“So you don’t know anything about the worldly stuff and how to take care of your personal problems like talking to the professor, because the stigma was if you go talk to your teacher, you’re not understanding and you have a problem, and something’s wrong with you.”

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Cabato discusses the difficulties she faced as she made the jump to college. For many Filipinos, simply approaching professors with problems is a challenge in and of itself. (Photo by Kevin Raquidan)

Nevertheless, many Filipino-Americans were already well-established in the community, and went through completely different upbringings.

Whereas parents like Cabato’s had a lot more say in their children’s life decisions, other Filipino parents like Rey Monzon’s and former SDSU Educational Opportunity Program counselor Sal Flor were more lenient with their children.

On the one hand, Monzon’s upbringing wasn’t exactly typical for Filipino families.

“My dad immigrated here in San Diego through the Navy,” he says. “That’s a very typical scenario (for Filipinos here). But my mom was actually born and raised here, and she’s half-Filipino and half-Mexican. So we had a different dynamic in our house unlike most first-generation family homes.”

This dynamic, Monzon adds, allowed for him and his siblings to have more open discussions with his parents – something that’s not normally done in typical Filipino families.

“We had a lot of freedom to do things,” he says. “We were out here doing this and that. But that wasn’t typical, especially in high school.”

And for Sal Flor, the son of a Filipino veteran of World War II, today’s Filipino notion of having the parents decide for the children was unheard of.

He says the reason was that there was already a generational gap between his parents, so in turn, he grew up immersed in all sorts of fields.

“My dad was 18 years older than my mother,” Flor says. “When you have that type of background you see a lot. Our parents were into bringing us out, so we all took judo lessons when were little kids.

“We all took piano lessons. We all played Little League, and two of us were paper boys. The world of work was always kind of pushed on us. We all worked through our lives.”

Embracing your roots

Still, despite her facing difficulty in making the jump between high school and college, Cabato found herself immersed in her roots as a Filipina, thanks to her parents’ heavily exposing her to their culture.

550 PASACAT Snap

Gemma Cabato, Anamaria’s daughter, teaches a Filipino cultural dance to the girls of PASACAT, March 30, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Raquidan)

“My mom always used to play Filipino records like Juan Silos Jr. and His Rondallas, and the Bayanihan National Philippine Dance Company,” she says, smiling. “My parents wanted to make sure that we were exposed to the culture, so they asked us to participate in the Filipino Women’s Club and learn cultural dances.

“We even performed at the House of the Philippines (in Balboa Park), one of the oldest Filipino organizations in San Diego.”

Even to this day, and thanks to her parents’ encouraging her to join, Cabato still serves as the executive director of the PASACAT Philippine Performing Arts Company, performing at all sorts of events around the community.

To her, being able to perform Filipino cultural dances around the community is an important act in and of itself, as it allows her to bring the culture to the spotlight.

“My generation, we’re definitely activists,” Cabato says. “I’m an activist in a different way … in preserving the culture, and making that as the positive contribution for our community, to help people connect to their culture, and for our audiences to enjoy and embrace our culture.”

This generation definitely has plenty of outlets to contribute to the community, she adds.

North Park shop showcases local talent with electrical box art


Art supply shop Visual operates around boutiques and other galleries at 30th Avenue in North Park. (Photo by Ryo Miyauchi)


When Jason Gould had the opportunity to provide public art for North Park, he wanted to paint murals for the community. Instead, the owner of North Park supply shop Visual had to settle for something smaller.

“(The community board) told me, ‘Well, we have these electrical boxes, and you can start painting them if you’d like,’” he said.

The small-scale project commissioned by the North Park Main Street organization eventually formed into the Visual Public Art Project, led by Gould. Since its beginning in 2013, the project has showcased and promoted the creative talent of San Diego artists throughout North Park and its neighboring communities.

One of the many electrical box art (By Ryo Miyauchi)

One of the many electric box art commissioned by Visual sits in 30th Avenue in North Park. (By Ryo Miyauchi)

North Park already had artworks on electrical boxes before Visual moved into the neighborhood in 2013, but the art had been neglected for a while before Gould took charge of the project, Gould said. As he got settled into the community, North Park Main Street asked Gould if he wanted to work on new artworks for the electrical boxes.

The project got off to a rather rough start, however.

“They had this crazy submission process,” Gould said. “They had this diagram of the boxes and artists had to design for them, and submit it to the board. I asked, ‘And what’s the budget?’ And they said they didn’t have any money.”

Gould worked around the process and began commissioning artists on his own, “guerrilla style.” Gould and his artists received positive feedback from the board and community members.

“Usually the sentiment is people asking what will come next?” North Park Main Street assistant director Jillian Wolter said. “People are actively asking about the program and wanting to know more, wanting to know which artists are coming.”

Project gains a following

The following for the electrical box art project has grown during the past few years, thanks to Instagram. Along with social media, the Visual store front has also been a helpful venue for Gould to network with local artists.

Frieda Gould, no relation to Jason, who creates street art as Kurznachzehn, stepped into Visual to buy spray cans during her first visit in San Diego in 2012. After she shared about her experience as a street artist in Germany, her home country, she was asked if she wanted to paint a few electrical boxes.

The artist now works at the supply store to assist the Visual Public Art Project in choosing which artists to commission to create artworks for new electrical boxes.

“I used to work with architects (in Germany), and that was more like a business,” she said. “It was like a man in a suit, now it’s with a man with the tattoos. We are like the managers, but on the other hand, we are artists, too. It’s always great to work with people that you can relate to.”

The Visual Public Art Project keeps the commission process flexible for the artists to give them creative freedom, Jason Gould said. He describes the general aesthetic the project members look for in an artwork as “urban contemporary art,” but the umbrella term covers many styles, from graffiti to pop art.

“It’s less traditional than what’s typically done, like landscapes, sunsets, palm trees and America’s Finest City type of stuff,” he said. “I try to give it more of an edge without going over the cliff with it for the community.”

Cool stuff. (By Ryo Miyauchi)

Local artist Don’t Trip worked on an artwork for the electric box in Granada Avenue in North Park. (By Ryo Miyauchi)

The Visual Public Art Project is like a free, open gallery for local artists, Frieda Gould said. The artists can gain exposure from their work showcased on electrical boxes throughout North Park. Community members can also be more familiar with the artists when they see their work in other events, Jason Gould said.

“It’s been cool to start recognizing some of the styles along the art I see online or on murals,” Wolter said. “I think it’s a slow process but it’s bringing some (reputation) to some of the local artists who have a unique aesthetic that they replicate in different ways.”

Spreading the art beyond North Park

After its success in North Park, Visual Public Art Project later expanded to work on electric boxes in Normal Heights, City Heights and along El Cajon Boulevard. Because of an increase in submissions, they now have to be more selective with their artists, Jason Gould said.

“I’m glad an entity like Visual supplies is taking care of logistics and distribution of artists for the boxes because I trust their eye and have a good pulse on the artists,” said Edwin Negado, owner of apparel shop Gym Standard on El Cajon Boulevard.

Frieda and Jason Gould are currently working to paint boxes in the College Area. The two have a new project underway to have artists paint 10 boxes on the campus of Platt College.

“I want to take (this project) to all of San Diego,” Frieda Gould said. “I want to do it for every neighborhood.”

San Diego independent bookstores thriving despite digital competition


Adams Avenue Bookstore in Normal Heights, pictured April 18, is devoted to emphasizing the importance of physical books. (Photo by Kaitlin Shantiai)

In the digital age, scrolling on a screen has replaced turning a page in many ways. But move over Kindle, independent bookstores are here to stay.

Verbatim Books opened its doors to the North Park community in January and, despite popular belief about used bookstores, employee Michael Hams says business is thriving.

“Since we opened, a lot of people in the neighborhood have been bringing in their books so it’s almost kind of like the neighborhood’s bookstore more than it is ours,” he said. “Everyone here is building it as much as we are.”

A community aspect — something digital booksellers and chain bookstores don’t have.


Source: Fortune Magazine

Borders, one of the first chain bookstores, shut its doors in 2011 due to heavily declining business. Its competitor, Barnes & Noble, is not far behind, currently closing down stores by the dozens.

The rise of Amazon, e-books and tablets such as the Kindle largely contributes to the fall of bookstores across the country. Digital books are convenient in this fast-paced world, but people like Hams believe there’s nothing like a real book.

“It’s that physical aspect of it. The smell, the feel of the pages — all the senses really,” he said. “I love when a customer walks into the store and says, ‘Ahhh, it smells like books.’”

Verbatim Books, San Diego’s newest used bookstore

Located on the corner of 30th and Granada, Verbatim Books is the newest addition to the North Park scene. Owner Justine Epstein worked at used bookstores for more than a decade before deciding to partner with co-owner Greg Theilmann and open their own store, simply because of their love for books.

A few weeks after opening their doors, Epstein and Theilmann invited the neighborhood to join them in the official grand opening of the store. The event, titled “Audio Books,” took place on April 6 and featured three local acoustic performers.

Attendees also got to enjoy craft beer from Mike Hess Brewing Company, in which all profits from the beer donations were given to City Heights Music School.

Aside from doubling as a bookstore and concert venue, Verbatim Books is different from other independent bookstores in that it is an exclusively used bookstore that doesn’t accept books in poor condition.

“It’s almost thinking of it like the difference between Buffalo Exchange and Urban Outfitters,” Epstein said. “Similar product but different price point.”

The bookstore holds thousands of books, genres ranging all the way from poetry to science fiction.

“The weird, unusual ones are my favorite,” Epstein said. “I think the most fun for us and our customers is when they come in here and find something they just had no idea existed.”

Take Janet Larson, a frequent customer of the bookstore, who spends hours searching the shelves for hidden gems.

“There’s just something about a bookstore like this that’s so nostalgic,” she said. “You can’t get this feeling shopping online.”

A drawback Amazon has picked up on.

Amazon to open brick-and-mortar store in San Diego

Once an online bookstore, Amazon is returning to its roots — but this time with four walls.

Last November, Amazon opened its first physical retail store, Amazon Books, in Seattle. Its next stop? Right here in San Diego.

Across from the Apple store in UTC mall, a large signage states “Coming this summer” followed by the Amazon logo. It also provides a link for potential employees to apply.


Amazon Books will open at UTC mall this summer, according to this signage pictured April 5. (Photo by Kaitlin Shantiai)

The store will presumably resemble the Seattle location, which doubles as a bookstore and showroom for Amazon products such as Kindle, Fire TV and Echo.

While many local booksellers may feel threatened by their new neighbor, the Verbatim Books family is staying hopeful.

“Competition is competition — it’s healthy and hopefully people will see the difference, even though it might take a while,” Hams said. “I feel like people will eventually come back to these places anyway because of that feel, that community aspect.”

Scott Emerson, a longtime employee of Adams Avenue Bookstore, also believes the power of community will overcome the power of novelty.

Adams Avenue Bookstore, one of San Diego’s oldest used bookstores

Joining the Normal Heights neighborhood in 1965, Adams Avenue Bookstore currently stands as one of the city’s oldest bookstores — but its doors are far from closing.

“We’ve been in the community so long that we have hundreds of regular customers,” Emerson said. “We buy books every day so customers know we’re going to have new inventory regularly.”

The bookstore specializes in academic subjects and currently has 50,000 books in stock, primarily used. Only about 1 percent of the books are new.

Aside from the books, there are other reasons customers keep coming back: two cats named Bartleby and Felixia who live inside the bookstore.


Bartleby hangs out at his favorite spot on top of the stairs at Adams Avenue Bookstore on April 18. (Photo by Kaitlin Shantiai)

“Customers come in just for the cats sometimes. They see the cats, pet the cats and they leave,” Emerson said. “We hope they buy a book but it’s OK if they don’t.”

The bookstore also holds talks occasionally, bringing the community together to discuss education-related topics. The employees and management strongly believe in educating others the old-fashioned way — without the help of a digital platform.

“More and more I’m hearing people tell me that they have grown tired of the Kindle and the Nook,” Emerson said. “They want to hold a book in their hands and they like the feel of it, as I do.”

Clockwork Coffee Shoppe caffeinates the College Area with locally roasted, quality beans

Situated on the corner of College Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard, between a small nail salon and a Chase Bank, an orange sign attracts attention to Clockwork Coffee Shoppe, a quiet study nook for San Diego State University students and passersby alike.

When Clockwork co-owner Gordon Smith first developed the idea, he had one goal in mind: to provide high-end coffee in the College Area.

“I knew I wanted to do a coffee shop that really focused on doing higher-end coffee, unlike other places in the area that are more like restaurants that serve coffee. I wanted to be the specialty coffee in the area,” Smith said.

An idea is born

Clockwork Coffee Shoppe Sign

Clockwork Coffee Shoppe, located in the College Area serves between 300 and 400 customers every day. (Photo by Megan Foo)

Having worked in cafes and coffee shops in La Mesa and North Park, Smith said he had an extensive background in brewing quality coffee and operating a coffee shop prior to opening his business.

“Although we had to learn how to manage a really small kitchen, coffee was always in the bag,” Smith said.

The concept for the coffee shop is based around the “On the Clock” deal, whereby a customer can pay $6.99 for an hour of unlimited coffee, $5.99 for the following hour, and so on, according to Smith. Customers still have the option of purchasing individual drinks.

The name Clockwork Coffee Shoppe emerged as Smith developed a business plan. Instead of naming the business Clockwork Cafe, as he had originally planned, Smith said he chose to put the word “coffee” in the name to reinforce his vision of focusing on the quality of coffee.

“It’s snappy, and it’s easy to brand,” Smith said. “It has the meaning of on-time and punctual, and it just worked out.”

Challenges of opening a small business

Smith described the process of opening a small business in San Diego as “terrifying.” Although he was confident in his idea, he said that he knew he needed help, and partnered with family member Laura Smith to open the shop.

In conjunction with Laura Smith, who had experience with small business startups, Gordon Smith moved forward with the project.

“Neither of us had opened a restaurant or any sort of cafe, so we had no clue what we’d have to do with the health department,” he said.

Despite his initial concerns, Smith said working with the health department was easy. Obtaining building permits during the renovation process posed the real challenge. The resulting construction delays caused the shop to open about five months late, Smith said.

Focusing on the coffee

The coffee used by Clockwork comes from local San Diego roasting companies, including The WestBean Coffee Roasters, Zumbar Coffee & Tea, Dark Horse Coffee and Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, according to Smith. On an average day, the shop has a house coffee in addition to coffee from four to five  other roasters. Smith goes to cuppings at local roasters in order to taste and select what he thinks is the best coffee to serve in the shop, always keeping his customers in mind.

“We’re a little bit of an oddity,” Smith said. “I don’t think there are any other coffee shops in San Diego that carry multiple roasters.”

The variety of coffee available at Clockwork is one of the reasons SDSU student Shoshauna Borowitz goes there.

“There’s always something new to try, and it always tastes great,” Borowitz said. “No matter which roast I get, I love when they do a pour-over instead of regular drip coffee, because it tastes so much better.”

In addition to providing its customers with variety, Smith said, Clockwork also provides them with quality. Their coffee is brewed from beans roasted only two to three days before arriving at the shop.

Once coffee beans have been roasted, they should be given time to rest, according to Heather Brisson, the head roaster at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in San Diego. This is important because it gives the coffee time to continue developing its flavors, she said. After the coffee rests, it is at its freshest between three and 10 days after roasting, she said.

Fresh coffee bullet points“After that, coffee starts to lose some of those subtle flavors, you know, the fruitiness, the chocolatyness, they just begin to mute a little bit and taste more like just brown water,” Brisson said.

Sourcing coffee from local San Diego roasters is something that Teal Cooper, co-owner of VendiBean, echoed when she described her business’s success. Although VendiBean operates out of a vending machine instead of a retail space, the taste and freshness of the final product is still something best achieved by sourcing coffee from local roasters, Cooper said.

“When we first began, we were using coffee from a Seattle-based roasting company that tasted OK, but not amazing,” Cooper said. “We recently ended up finding a good chocolaty, Brazilian blend through Swell Coffee Company , which tastes so much better and is a lot fresher.”

According to Smith, most of the local coffee shops roast their own coffee. While Clockwork does not roast its own coffee, it instead focuses on preparing the coffee well in order to provide the highest quality of coffee to the customers.

The customers keep coming back

According to Smith, about 80 percent of the customers who enter  Clockwork Coffee Shoppe on a daily basis are returning customers.

“The fact that we have a really high return rate of customers makes me feel like we’re doing something right,” Smith said.

student studying at table

Clockwork Coffee Shoppe’s proximity to San Diego State University, making it a popular study spot for students such as Denise Chang. (Photo by Megan Foo)

Smith attributed the high return rate to the quality of both the coffee and food at Clockwork. Despite having a “closet-sized” kitchen, Smith said, both Clockwork’s food and coffee receive positive Yelp reviews.

“We put out pretty basic stuff done simply and done well, and I think people respond to that,” Smith said.

Clockwork’s welcoming atmosphere is also something that keeps customers coming back. Borowitz said she used to go to Clockwork at least twice a week when she lived nearby, whether it was to get a cup of coffee before class or to sit and study. She lives farther away now, but still visits Clockwork to grab a cup of coffee and study.

“The people there are just really nice and personable,” Borowitz said. “They’ll say ‘hi’ to you and they’ll know your order if you come in often enough.”

Other SDSU students, such as Denise Chang, can often be found studying at the tables in the coffee shop. With its numerous seats and spacious layout, there is always a place to sit and study, according to Chang.

"What's next for Clockwork?" bullet points“Clockwork is definitely my go-to because of the tables and really good coffee,” Chang said.

What’s next?

Since opening in September 2014 with five employees and serving between 120 and 150 customers a day, Clockwork has grown to nine employees and is now serving between 300 and 400 customers a day, according to Smith. Success did not happen overnight, and it took almost a year for Smith and his co-owner to begin taking home small paychecks, he said.

“Most people hear about overnight successes, but if you throw enough effort at something, you’ll succeed,” Smith said.

In the future, Smith said, he hopes to open new locations across San Diego, and to expand the current location and potentially make it into a 24-hour spot without compromising the quality of the product — the key aspect of the business.

Rescuing unwanted pigs is Penelope’s Purpose

Stevie, a Vietnamese pig and also known commonly as a pot-belly pig, enjoys to lay in the shade beneath the trees, and away from other pigs. His black fur is coarse and his teeth poke out from his mouth, but only just enough to see the tips of the teeth. Stevie recently just regained some of his eyesight back from the weight he lost – the weight from being overfed causing his eyes to be covered with his own skin.

He was a family’s pet pig, and in June 2015 he was relinquished because his owners didn’t want him anymore. It was his second family, and they couldn’t handle his aggression issues with the husband —their choice was to give him up. He went to Penelope’s Purpose, which is a non-profit pot-belly pig rescue and sanctuary located in Ramona.

Two dogs live at Penelope's Purpose to protect the pot-belly pigs from coyotes at night. (Photo by Stephanie Wilson)

Two dogs live at Penelope’s Purpose to protect the pot-belly pigs from coyotes at night. (Photo by Stephanie Wilson)

The pet pig trend is on the rise with many social media pages and articles dedicated to owning a pet pig. And, with more and more people adopting pigs — from the weight to the size of the pig — they may not know what they are in for. Or, how to care for the animal.

Also, with the inconsistencies of city zoning ordiances with pet pigs, people may not know they aren’t allowed to have the pet in their neighborhood.

Now, pig rescuers and sanctuaries are trying their best to educate people and care for the unwanted pigs.

“Misconceptions of owning a pig are they are going to stay small and they are going to be just like dogs,” said Brittany Whissel, the founder of Penelope’s Purpose.

A place for unwanted pigs to grow

On a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, Whissel and her husband were at a farmer’s market, and they saw two pigs walking on a leash with their owners. It was a moment that would change their outlook on pigs as pets — and as animals, too.

When they returned to San Diego they adopted a piglet of their own. They named the piglet Penelope, and she’s the one who started the urge for Whissel to rescue pigs.

“So many people see them as a novelty and don’t truly do their research on what it takes to responsibly have a pig as part of their family,” Whissel said. “People don’t give these amazing animals enough credit or respect.”

Over time, Whissel’s love and understanding for Penelope and other pigs grew. She became involved in online pig communities on social media sites, and that’s when she saw the need to start her own rescue in 2014.

Volunteers donated supplies and built six habituates for pot-belly pigs at Penelope's Purpose, which includes a covered patio, a fenced in dirt space and a spot inside for pigs to sleep in. (Photo by Stephanie Wilson)

Volunteers donated supplies and built six habituates for pot-belly pigs at Penelope’s Purpose, which includes a covered patio, a fenced in dirt space and a spot inside for pigs to sleep in. (Photo by Stephanie Wilson)

Now, there is a one-lane road that leads to Penelope’s Purpose. The rescue and sanctuary is filled with mud, grazing goats, and most importantly, pot-belly pigs. Penelope’s Purpose rescues and rehabilitates pigs who are unwanted, neglected or found as strays.

At Penelope’s Purpose, there are nine adoptable pigs, and if they never get adopted, they will remain at the sanctuary their entire lives.

“Pigs are comfortable here, and they’re safe here,” Whissel said.

Whissel said she hopes her organization can give the pigs the opportunity to live they lives they deserve.

In her five-year plan she wants to incorporate more educational programs and opportunities for volunteers. And, even a therapy pig program for people with anxiety, depression and PTSD disorders.

Mini Pigs Actually Don’t Stay Mini

The term mini pig only exists when referencing a piglet because the piglet is still young and hasn’t reached its full growing potential until about five years old.

Whissel said there are false claims with “mini pigs” and breeders who try to sell the pigs to potential pig adopters:

  • Designer pet pig names such as micro, teacup, mini or pixie are just marketing ploys to make buyers think pot-belly pigs will remain small no matter the age.
  • Breeders suggest feeding pigs an extremely small amount of food, which stunts their growth.
  • Breeders will tell potential adopters the pig parents of a piglet are full grown when they really are just babies themselves.

And, often when pigs outgrow their owners, they are given up, relinquished or abandoned.

According to San Diego Humane Society spokeswoman Stacy Archambault seven pigs were taken to the San Diego Humane Society in 2015. The most common reason for their intake is they were found as strays. The pigs are housed only at their Escondido Campus where resources are available.

Whissel said she’s helped the San Diego Humane Society by taking a pigs into her rescue because of the abundant resources she has at Penelope’s Purpose.

Not just anyone can own a pet pig

Hammy, a timid, pot-belly pig at Penelope’s Purpose, was forced to leave his home due to a zoning ordinance in the City of Chula Vista. Hammy is just one of many pigs forced to leave their homes due to cities within San Diego County that enforce a municipal code not allowing the ownership of pot-belly pigs.

Hammy’s previous owners had to find a new home for Hammy, and after no success, the only choice they had was humanly euthanizing him, according to Whissel.

Hammy is the largest pot-belly pig at Penelope's Purpose, and he was one of the pigs at the rescue who was forced to leave his home due to city zoning ordinances in Chula Vista. (Photo by Stephanie Wilson)

Hammy is the largest pot-belly pig at Penelope’s Purpose, and he was one of the pigs at the rescue who was forced to leave his home due to city zoning ordinances in Chula Vista. (Photo by Stephanie Wilson)

But, a veterinarian working with the family finding a new home for Hammy contacted Penelope’s Purpose. Hammy was brought to the rescue in May 2015, and shortly after became extremely depressed after losing his family, Whissel said.

It wasn’t until months later Hammy opened up to other pigs at the rescue and his caretakers, according to Whissel.

There are inconsistencies of the allowance of owning a pet pot-belly pig, which include zoning ordinances and municipal codes in each city within San Diego County. Each city has its own different zoning regulations regarding pet pot-belly pigs.

Unincorporated cities allow two pet pigs, but there there are unincorporated cities that are half city zoning and half unincorporated – which means no pet pot-belly pigs are allowed in that home.

Whissel said potential adopters should call the zoning and code compliance department for their city and have the code pulled for the specific property they live at to check if they are allowed to own a pet pig.

Laurie Joniaux of San Diego Animal Services said they don’t enforce zoning restrictions when adopting out pot-belly pigs to owners because each city within San Diego County is responsible for regulating pot-belly pigs.

Life with a pet pig

Sydney Belio, a Lemon Grove resident, is an owner of a grey and black spotted pot-belly pig name Piggy Smalls. She is allowed to own a pet pig because of the city within San Diego she lives in.

“I always wanted a pig and my dad thought it would be fun to get one,” Sydney Belio said. “So, after he passed away I just wanted to do something to make myself happy.”

Piggy Smalls spends his days playing with toys and receiving love from his owners. He also loves to spend time napping in his pig barn outside, which has a patio attached, Belio said.

Belio said she loves having a pig, but her advice to people looking to adopt is to make sure to spend as much time training them as possible because without it, the pig may be hard to care for.

But, when the proper care is given and the pig is well-behaved Belio said there’s nothing better than spending time with her pet pig.

“There’s nothing cuter than him eating Cheerios or watermelon,” Belio said.


San Diego coastlines struggle through the storm season

Dangerous sea levels and wave runup have continuously threatened San Diego’s coastlines, and this winter, experts say El Niño conditions are the culprit.

High tides and surf have been stripping coastal habitats for decades — pulling sand, rocks and stones into the ocean and destroying natural water barriers, according to the California Coastal Commission.

Urban runoff and pollution have also plagued the seawater. Heavy storms have given rise to high levels of bacteria that often exceed the Department of Environmental Health’s water quality standards.

Mission Beach, Mission Bay and the cities of Del Mar and Encinitas have been particularly affected by El Niño complications, leading San Diego regional officials to issue frequent public advisories for high tides and poor seawater quality.

Bacteria plagues Mission Beach

Masaki Ansley (left) stands at his favorite surf spot with Mick Correri (right) at South Mission Jetty. Six years ago, Ansley says this sand area was four times larger than it is now. (Photo by Casey Hands)

Masaki Ansley (left) stands at his favorite surf spot with Mick Correri (right) at South Mission Jetty. Six years ago, Ansley says this sand area was four times larger than it is now. (Photo by Casey Hands)

Masaki Ansley, 23, and Mick Correri, 23, have been surfing South Mission Jetty every morning for 10 years.

After heavy rainstorms, urban runoff and pollution pour into the seawater, and Ansley and Correri have counted numerous times when they’ve become seriously ill after a storm.

“I can remember one day after a storm last December that was especially gross,” Ansley said. “The water was murky and green, and yellow foam was coming off the top of the waves. I paddled out and inhaled some foam and threw up in the water. I got sick for three weeks. It was all in my lungs and I ran a terrible fever.”

Correri said this winter season has been particularly bad.

“Debris and trash are almost too common in the water,” Correri said. “At one point, I was getting sick every other week and going to the emergency department all of the time. It makes you rethink how important certain hobbies are to you.”

South Mission Jetty was once home to small beach coves, but in the last five years, Correri said, several of them have disappeared completely.

Johnny Fay, head of the surfing program and yoga instructor at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center, practices yoga on a strip of grass where classes meet when the bay's bacteria level is too high to enter the water. (Photo by Casey Hands)

Johnny Fay, head of the surfing program and yoga instructor at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center, practices yoga on a strip of grass where classes meet when the bay’s bacteria level is too high to enter the water. (Photo by Casey Hands)

“There’s this one break where there used to be a road down to the beach, but there isn’t a beach anymore,” Correri said. “(Water) just crashes against the cliffs. You used to be able to see the sand at high tide, but now, even during low tide, you can’t see the sand anymore.”

Heavy rainfall has also put the Mission Bay Aquatic Center on frequent mandatory, 72-hour holds until the bay water is safe enough for members to enter.

“It puts a damper on the educational quality of this facility as well as people’s general happiness with our courses,” Johnny Fay, head of surfing program at the Aquatic Center, said. “Especially during this El Niño season, there’s a fear of nasty ear or eye infections, gastrointestinal illnesses, and things like that.” 

Cardiff’s coastline is in recession

The city of Encinitas developed a shoreline program to combat coastal erosion exacerbated by El Niño, in hopes of restoring its deeply affected beaches.

Kathy Weldon, shoreline program manager, says the city’s main goal has always been to protect the coast’s natural habitats by restoring shorelines, loss of elevation and loss of beach area — particularly in Cardiff by the Sea.

Kathy Weldon, program manager for the city of Encinitas, gestures to the riff raff the city built up around the parking lot at Moonlight Beach. Photo Casey Hands

Kathy Weldon, program manager for the city of Encinitas, shows the “riff raff” barrier the city built to protect Moonlight Beach’s parking lot. (Photo by Casey Hands)

Its current project, the Living Shoreline Conceptual Plan, aims to move more than 30,000 cubic yards of sand from the San Elijo Lagoon to a vulnerable, half-mile stretch along Highway 101.

This waterfront, between Cardiff State Beach and Encinitas’ historic Restaurant Row, has minimal sand left, and Weldon is concerned for the effect it will have on the beach and the highway.

“(The project) is focused on sea level rise and how to prevent it before something worse happens,” Weldon said. “It’s kind of a hybrid of approach with multiple benefits. So we want to create habitat for the birds and a habitat along the beach, and at the same time protect Highway 101.”

The sand will be used to create artificial dunes that can catch excess sea water, preventing El Niño-style “king tides” from destroying water barriers and flooding the highway, program reports state.

Sean Lee pulls the city's MoBERM (Mobile Beach Erosion Monitoring) with attached Spectra Precision (under sensor) across Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, Calif. (Photo by Casey Hands)

Sean Lee pulls the city’s MoBERM (Mobile Beach Erosion Monitoring) with attached Spectra Precision (under sensor) across Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, Calif. (Photo by Casey Hands)

Sean Lee, coastal programs intern and a University of California, San Diego student, has been collecting data from Cardiff State Beach and Moonlight Beach in Encinitas — both are “disappearing beaches” he said the city’s trying to learn more about.

Lee uses a data collection device called a MoBERM (Mobile Beach Erosion Monitoring) that includes a small piece of technology known as a Spectra Precision. He’s been using this tool once a month since October, 2015.

As Lee pulls the MoBERM across the sand, the Spectra Precision collects GPS data points; one GPS point is recorded every half second. This determines X, Y and Z coordinates that can be used to plot an elevation profile and yield the exact width of a given beach.

“So right now we’re trying to look at specifically how the area of the beach has been changing, how the volume of the beach is changing, how much sand is being lost or gained,” Lee said.

Sean Lee's polygram's on sediment movement at Moonlight beach from

Recorded beach area movement at Moonlight Beach between December and March 2016. Research conducted by Sean Lee, programs intern for the city of Encinitas. (Courtesy of Sean Lee)

After three months of data from this year’s El Niño season, coastal erosion has undoubtedly sparked high rates of sediment movement. But as the season ends, Lee said coastlines have already begun to improve.

“We found that the beaches experience significantly (less) erosion during the months where there were little storm events,” Lee said. “So during the month of February for example, the beach was able to recover…and retrieve the sand that it lost in the past months.”

Del Mar restaurants build barriers

Perry Ustick, general manager of Jake’s Del Mar, remembers a winter day in 1981 when water slammed into the restaurant, breaking glass and flooding the dining room with sand and seawater. The restaurant was brand new, and the storm was one of many to precede the El Niño of 1982-83.

Since then, the beach has lost more than 4 feet of sand and the restaurant has buried large boulders into its outer landscape for protection. The configuration creates a sturdy, reliable safeguard when hit by the force of waves.

This season, Ustick fears the space has grown smaller between the restaurant, the rocks and the waves. High surf has come close enough to hit a small strip of patio in front Jake’s, forcibly moving boulders yards away from dining patrons.

Ever since Jake's Del Mar configured these boulders in front of their restaurant, they've been protected from dangerous high tides and king waves during the storm season. (Photo by Casey Hands)

Ever since Jake’s Del Mar configured these boulders in front of their restaurant, they’ve been protected from dangerous high tides and king waves during the storm season. (Photo by Casey Hands)

“What we have, I am worried, because we have a lot of days where there’s literally no beach,” Ustick said. “I actually saw a family got pinned against the rocks from the surf coming up right out front. I ran down there to try and help and the lifeguard closed the beach for everybody that day.”

Next door at Poseidon Restaurant, large waves flooded their outdoor patio so regularly that they built a 40-foot seawall to protect guests and the building from further damage.

“We’re lucky that we’re set back enough from where we have our protective boulders set up to protect us,” Ustick said. “But out here, the disappearing sand area has also made the beach less popular, which has affected our business.”

Youth have a role in conservation

As this year’s storm season comes to a close, high rates of coastal erosion have left San Diego’s shorelines bare of sand and natural barriers — a pattern that is likely to continue indefinitely, regional reports say.

As more data develops on the issues, researchers are gaining a better understanding of how environmental problems can change natural landscapes over longer intervals, Lee said. He hopes this will better educate the general public.

Johnny Fay, of the Mission Bay Aquatic Center, believes it’s in the hands of current and future generations to be mindful of water quality and coastal erosion issues and our role as pollutant producers and managers.

“Luckily there is so much hope, potential and wisdom around the young people of today,” Fay said. “They’ve grown up in a culture that has been very concerned about the environment, and its bright young people who will be leading our way into the future.”


Youth sports: Checks, balances, more checks

As youth sports continues to increase in popularity, so do the costs that go along with being just one of the team. Gone are the days of paying a small registration fee for a child to become part of an organization that teaches them more than how to field a ball or throw a perfect spiral.

Todd Tolson has been coaching youth football for Santee Ravens Pop Warner for seven years and has seen the registration costs go up more than $200 per child during that time.

“The prices just went up to $425 this season,” Tolson said.

According to the Ravens website, this fee is for tackle football. If your child is playing flag football the registration fee is $375 and if your child is cheerleading, expect to pay $505 if it’s their first year.

Denise Klinshaw has been on the board for the Santee Amateur Softball Association for three years and is in charge of candy sales. She also has two children in Santee ASA. Klinshaw said registration fees are currently $130, but remembers it being around $75 when her girls first joined.

“It’s expected that it’s gonna go up,” Klinshaw said, referring to parents having an understanding that fees will most likely increase the more years spent in any given league.

Santee Pop Warner and Santee ASA are both nonprofit organizations, which means all the money generated from registration fees, candy sales or fundraising go directly to the leagues. The board members, coaches, assistant coaches and team managers work as volunteers and do not receive a salary.

What registration fees cover
untitled-infographicGenerally, registration fees cover:

  • Use of protective pads for Pop Warner (must be returned at the end of the season)
  • Helmets for Pop Warner (must be returned at the end of the season)
  • Game jersey
  • Pants
  • Game field rental charges
  • Practice field rental charges
  • Field maintenance, including new dirt every year for softball
  • Referees/umpires
  • Electricity
  • Insurance

One reason football registration is more expensive than softball is because of the insurance football leagues are required to carry.

“Insurance is nuts these days, especially with all the talk about concussions and long-term affects,” Tolson said. “That has caused insurance costs to go up.”

For Santee ASA, Klinshaw said money from registration fees can also go toward one big purchase a year.

“Last year, it was the pitching machines,” Klinshaw said. “Two were stolen.”

Because of the theft, the league had to cover the cost to replace both machines. This year, Klinshaw said the league’s big purchase will probably be to upgrade the scoreboard. It hasn’t worked for almost two seasons because someone stole the copper wiring that runs the scoreboard and it has not worked since.

The registration fee covers some, but not all, of the cost to have a child play a regular season for a sport, both Klinshaw and Tolson said.

Some parents cannot afford to have their child play a youth sport, but most leagues offer scholarships to help with registration fees and parents can pay it back by contributing in other ways.

“Instead of working one snack-bar shift, you work two and you also have to sell two boxes of candy,” said Mary Jean Hickman, a single mother who has received a scholarship for her son Wayne at the Escondido American Little League for two seasons.

When Hickman joined EALL last year, she said she emailed the president and asked for assistance.

“I’m low-income,” Hickman said.

The season had already started, but the league not only allowed her son to join, but allowed him to join free of charge. Since Hickman had her fees waived again for this season, she wanted to do something else besides the extra requirements set by the league.

“I’m the team mom because I wanted to give back,” Hickman said.

Snack-bar shifts and selling candy are two things that are required of every parent who has a child in any given league, but there’s a caveat. Parents can buy their way out of the shifts and out of selling candy. For the busy parents who cannot commit to these requirements, they need to be prepared to write another check.

Youth sports are big business
According to the Census Bureau, from 1990 to 2009 purchases of sports and related recreational goods by individuals and nonprofit organizations increased 264 percent from $74 billion to $196 billion.

Bag, gloves, cleats000000

Cleats and gloves are the most expensive gear parents have to buy. (Photo by Meghan Lanigan)

Some examples of equipment a parent should be ready to pay for are cleats, gloves and bats, and these are the bare minimum your child would need. Cleats range anywhere from $35 to $200 at a local sporting good store. Gloves cost around $30, however, softball bats and gloves can cost up to $400 each.

According to Klinshaw, the softball players are also responsible for their own helmets, which run anywhere from $19 to $100.

According to an article in Forbes magazine, youth sports has a $7 billion economic impact. Thirty-five million kids participate in youth sports and the costs associated with playing the game go well beyond purchasing equipment.

Instruction and teaching kids how to play the sport, and play it well, also comes with a price tag. When a family decides to enroll their child in a sport, the realization of how many checks need to be written may not fully resonate during the excitement of sign-up day.

Equipment now ranges from your standard bat and ball to equipment that provides instruction that can help your child be a star on the field. Virtual reality equipment has become a big seller and the money made by the corporations off these types of products is flowing in.

The iCube is one such example of VR technology that could give players an edge. One of its uses is to help players learn how to recognize different pitches while they’re at the plate. If they’ve seen the difference between a curve ball and a slider while using this device, they’ll be better equipped to handle the situation in real life. The Tampa Bay Rays and Major League Baseball just announced a partnership with EON Sports, the maker of the iCube, in April 2016 to begin using the technology.

This type of technology is becoming more affordable for athletes of all ages. According to the article, EON Sports sells the complete training simulation as part of a bundle package for $200.

This is just one example of the type of expenses that come up when families have children in youth sports, and with families on their own to purchase equipment needed for their child to play, parents can sign up their children for a sport without thinking what it really means for the budget.

Playing travel ball? Expect to pay more
When your child competes on a travel team, a whole new set of costs is incurred. Parents have to account for gas to get to the events, which can be hundreds, or even thousands of miles away. Hotel accommodations, food and extra maintenance for the vehicle driven to the games, all have to be part of the family budget.

Dell Bubar co-manages a youth travel softball team for the organization Power Surge. There are nine teams in the league, each with its own managers who are responsible for the monetary aspects of their individual team.

According to Dell, there isn’t just one registration fee paid up front, but instead, monthly dues are owed to the tune of $150 per month. Amateur softball seasons usually last about three-and-a-half months, but that is not the case with traveling teams.

Even though uniforms are part of registration fees, parents often have to spring for accessories such as socks and belts. (Photo by Meghan Lanigan)

Even though uniforms are part of registration fees, parents often have to spring for accessories such as socks and belts. (Photo by Meghan Lanigan)

“Travel ball is year-round,” Bubar said. “Right out of the pocket, the first month, it’s $650 to $700 a month just to start.”

This includes the first month’s dues, uniforms, equipment needed to play the game and special workout fees to have a defined program tailored to your child’s position. This workout is usually required as part of making the team.

The biggest expense that must be factored in when considering whether or not you want your child to play for a travel team is the cost of accommodations while you’re on the road.

“Two to three times a month you’re driving out of town,” Bubar said.

Kids learn more than how to play the game
Research shows the main reason kids play sports is because it’s fun, but what they’re learning goes well beyond knowing when to throw home or when to take a knee. They’re learning about sacrifice, commitment and what it means to be a team player.

“They learn friendships,” Klinshaw said. “They learn how to lose, how to be a good sport.”

Amanda Stanec, PhD, and a former board of directors member for Physical and Health Education, Canada, and founder of Move, Live, Learn, a consulting firm that “supports the sport, physical education and health sectors through a social justice lens,” published an article on five life lessons that children can learn from playing sports.

In addition to learning about commitment, Stanec also discusses how to communicate with players and coaches and how to handle the emotions of winning and losing and what kids can potentially take away from playing sports. Stanec also said in the article that learning to manage time effectively is another great way to teach kids about how to handle busy days.

“Every lesson that they learn on these fields are going to transfer to when they get older,” Klinshaw said.

According to Klinshaw, her daughters are also learning about friendships and thinks that particular aspect of having her kids play sports is important.

“It’s not always about winning or losing, but these girls have made friends and most of them will be friends for a really long time,” Klinshaw said. “And not only is it for the girls, I’ve made friends as a grown-up.”