Perspective on Real Estate

August 14, 2002

August 21, 2002

August 28, 2002

The evolution of a vibrant city

Memory is the passageway to the future -- though not always dependable. My memories about this region have been filled with how long and how deep the real estate recessions have been.

It took relatively long periods for the economy to recover here, for it had too little diversity. Real estate developers went from severe market saturation -- too much overbuilding and standing inventory -- to temporary equilibrium. Seldom has this market been a steady, dependable, consistent marketplace.

This decade is different; only our name remains the same. San Diego is unique in that Mother Nature has blessed it with great climate, attracting more than vacationers searching for sunshine. The San Diego region is the finest that nature can offer mere humans, in terms of lovely summer days, cool summer evenings and rainless picnics and weddings. This produces a great number of high-income people who may dislike Los Angeles, but have grown to love this place in spite of growing L.A.-type traffic jams, but with a charming trolley and commuter system that actually works.

In short, regardless of the myriad reasons, this region has evolved in the new century into a global place where investors, vacationers and businesses wish to cluster. The amenities are also myriad and need no repetition from me.

In addition, downtown has become truly unique to California, almost Toronto revisited. Toronto's core was a friendly civic center/downtown, surrounded with attractive neighborhoods, with few if any "slums." It became an admired, safe environment, with evening activities as a plus. Its cultural attributes became one of North America's finest. Regardless of the possible malfunctions of its present society, it points the compass for a modern city to become lovely in most ways.

Downtown San Diego, more than L.A. or any other Southern California city, is becoming prominent as a marketplace and a place to live, shop, recreate, work and be entertained. As I look at our changing skyline, walk the Embarcadero and Little Italy, visit offices and workplaces, and spend money at growing retail facilities, I can compare it with any other city and find it outstanding.

I know that we will see more roller skaters, bikers, walkers and runners and a vibrant 24/7 place.

San Diego also has business people and a booster organization that cares for it, takes pride in it, and adds to its community. My buddy Gary London just moved into it from North County and joins workplace with live-space. We have traveled a long distance from the first high-rise condos to present high-rise diversity, mostly done by out-of-state believers in our economic viability. Weekly residential sales, as catalogued by builder-statesman Sherm Harmer, have been astounding in consistency and impressive volume. We have had more depth than any booster ever believed possible, and all the time the consistent, professional ethic of CCDC as a primary anchor/monitor.

Downtown is synonymous with the economic vitality of the entire region, much more important than most suburbanites appreciate. "I never go downtown, so I really do not care what happens there", is too often the mind-set.

Fortunately, complete strangers -- global investors and business people -- have fallen in love with this place, and it is more than infatuation. One major reason is that we care for the place, want it to be better, complain about malfunctions that other populations ignore in their cities.

In addition, we are environmentally sensitive, imperfect and complete failures at providing affordability -- but the latter is more due to supply/demand ratios and belated political attention than any conspiracy among builders, lenders and politicos.

These groups will learn that their workers are not just the high-rise office-clan, but also commuting, vital service workers who need and deserve attention and expanding supply of rentals and ownership units. Again, the solutions are difficult and will require thinking, generosity, sacrifice and creativity. Only then we will become America's finest city.

Goodkin, an international real estate adviser and strategist, has been a housing analyst since 1956. He can be reached at

August 14, 2002

August 21, 2002

August 28, 2002