Fans of Coastal San Diego

This site is for the many fans of coastal San Diego, those who have lived here for years, as well as those new to the area. Here you can learn more about the different communities, the many things to do and places to visit in and around San Diego, share your experiences, and ask for advice and recommendations for restaurants, shopping, visitor activities, places to live, and more! Buyers thinking about moving here will find lots of information to help, too!

Monday, October 30, 2006

To Grill or Not to Grill

I am a purist when it comes to grilling, at least I was until I moved to San Diego from Boston 18 months ago.

I love eating grilled food (and most any food, for that matter, especially sweets), and outdoor grilling is a favorite pastime. I guess I learned to grill from my father many years ago, and I have ALWAYS used charcoal. Despite the fact that it takes longer to get ready, and you have to plan a bit in advance, I stoutly refused to entertain the idea of buying, and using, a gas grill. While I prefer warm sunny weather, I've grilled in the rain and the snow (when we lived in Minnesota people used to grill outside in their parkas when it was 20 below), although back East I tended to stop grilling once the really serious winter weather set it.

The house we bought here has an outdoor gas grill, but I remained firm that I wanted to continue the tradition of charcoal grilling. I took the plunge one evening last year when I ran out of charcoal and forgot, so was forced to engage the gas grill. Despite my misgivings, and the fact that the flavors are different (and, I think, it is more complicated and challenging to cook over hot coals than a gas grill you can regulate), I have grown to enjoy the gas grill, although not to the extent that I will give up my Weber. Sometimes I do both, depending on what food I am fixing and how much. I guess it's a small thing, but be able to grill outdoors year-round is just one more thing that makes me a fan of coastal san Diego. How about you?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Carlsbad, CA - My Current Home

Carlsbad, CA – “Village by the Sea”

Carlsbad is a coastal San Diego community, located about 35 miles north of the city, offering a broad range of housing, activities and scenery for its residents and tourists. I moved to Carlsbad 18 months ago from Boston, and wanted to share why I love living here.

This town of approximately 95,000 has grown dramatically since its incorporation in 1952, when there were 7,000 residents. Covering about 42 square miles, the town has annexed communities around its original core during its history, the most well-known being La Costa (the area known best for the world-famous La Costa Spa and Resort (below, right) possibly the best known US spa in its heyday, and a former playground for the Mafia and the Rat Pack), so in addition to Olde Carlsbad and “the village,” Carlsbad includes other the well-known residential areas of Aviara (site of the Four Seasons Aviara Resort - happy hour on the terrace is sublime, overlooking the lagoon and ocean), Calavera Hills, and Rancho Carrillo (named after preservationist Leo Carrillo, who owned a ranch in southeast Carlsbad that is now a historical site).

Carlsbad offers diverse, beautiful scenery for all to enjoy: about 8 miles of coast with beautiful beaches (the best known, perhaps, being South Carlsbad State Beach), dramatic hills just inland, offering beautiful ocean and panoramic views of the coast and back-county, and several lagoons (the well known Batiquitos Lagoon, a tidal wetland and wildlife preserve bordering the south end of town, Aqua Hedionda and Buena Vista).

The main reason we bought in Carlsbad was the housing. Although less expensive than its southerly neighbors, the median price for a detached home is currently $774K, and it is almost impossible to find a detached home under $500K, unless it is manufactured housing; prices rise as high as around $7million, although the typical high-end home is in the $2 - $4million range. You get more land with housing, in general, and the homes, for the price, are larger. “Old” homes were built in the 60s for the most part, and there are many subdivisions that have been built since the mid-90s, some of which are gated, a number of new developments in the midst of construction and new sales (e.g., La Costa Greens, La Costa Ridge, La Costa Oaks, Bressi Ranch), and one planned development under review. The town also offers several 55+ communities, a range of assisted living, skilled nursing and Alzheimer’s facilities (Glen View being the best known), and multiple apartment complexes, including 2 new facilities (351 units) being built to meet affordable housing requirements. Because of the topography, there are many different vistas - of the lagoons, the ocean, hills, back-country, distant mountains, and evening lights.

The services and activities the town offers are impressive, and appeal to a broad range of residents and visitors. During the summer there are 10 free jazz concerts (TGIF Jazz in the Park), a 20-year-old series that rotates among 3 of the town’s largest parks, drawing several thousand people to wine and dine while enjoying jazz, blues or latin music. The Friends of the Arts Commission also supports the terrific Cannon Art Gallery, with 5 – 7 shows per year, each of which includes a free reception and a family activity day. Art Splash is a large outdoor arts fair in the village and the town also has several craft fairs and a large business expo.

Carlsbad also has an excellent reputation for its schools, with a territorial crossover to the San Marcos schools, depending on where you live.

Other well-know attractions include The Flower Fields (acres of gorgeous flowers from March until May - top, right) and Legoland. Carlsbad has its own airfield, Palomar Airport, and The Coaster (train) services 2 stops in town, enabling easy access to San Diego and towns in between. Motorists have the choice of several major roads and the 5 for access north/south and east/west. Tourism is a mainstay of the town, and visitors can select from rental units, hotels and several campgrounds along the beach to enjoy their stay, or for more upscale living, enjoy La Costa and the Four Seasons Resorts. Golf enthusiasts will appreciate the world-renowned facilities at both resorts, and shoppers can enjoy and tremendous arrays of stores along El Camino Real, in the Village, the Carlsbad Preimum Outlets, and upscale shopping at The Forum.

Despite its growth and a significant corporate presence, Carlsbad retains the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere of a beach town (see South Carlsbad State Beach at right) with a wonderful year-round climate and temperatures that rarely go above 80 (summer) or below 50 (at night in winter).

What more could you want?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Can't Find Anthing to Do? Try This...

There is so much going on in San Diego and surrounding areas, especially as we head into the holiday season. I will share a few things that I have discovered over the next few weeks, but first let me point you to the events calendar for November.

This is a huge list of things to do - hopefully some things that you are not already aware of. Why not try something new?? Have guests in town - this will give you some ideas for showing them why YOU are a Fan of Coastal San Diego. Enjoy!

Got some ideas of your own? Please share them with us!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Going to the Gym

I like my gym. Kinda a funny name, tho'...Frog's, in Encinitas. And I like going to the gym...well, most days. I tend to be pretty active, but also spend a lot of time in front of the computer. Going to the gym is a great stress reliever for me, not to mention keeping me somewhat in shape (which gets harder as I get older). I am an avid spinner (4 spin classes per week) which helps when I don't get out on my bike (which isn't often these days). I'm pretty pleased that with my eating habits, which have improved since moving to CA, and my exercise routine (5-6 days per week) I am probably in the best shape I have been in since high school.

I like my gym because of the variety of programs they offer (3 types of yoga, spin, pilates, aerobics and other conditioning classes, personal trainers), the type and condition of the equipment, and the overall atmosphere. It's only 3 miles from my house so that's the reason I chose it. I have heard good things about LA Fitness and 24-Hour Fitness as well, in case you are looking for a club.

Didja know?
In any given week, an average of 2.3 million Americans are on a paid vacation!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Red or White...hmmm

As a chardonnay drinker, being in California has been great. While some people are not fond of oaky chardonnays, or prefer red over white, I tend to like them, and have enjoyed trying the wide range of whites we have here (many, I have found, never make it into the liquor stores back east, although you could find them in restaurants). I have also begun cultivating a taste for reds...something which has eluded me for some reason. I have developed a fondness for Zinfandel (red, not the white), particularly from the Tobin James winery in Paso Robles (we have yet to visit there but have heard great things about this fast growing wine region, especially the zins that are coming out of there).

In terms of places to buy wine, there are several I like. For a good selection of wines, champagnes and a variety of other beverages, Beverages and More (a.k.a. Bev Mo) is a favorite. Not a fancy store (with locations all over the area) but some great bargains. We order on-line then go pick up the order.

For a more upscale wine shop, try The Wine Loft in South Carlsbad at the Forum. While the selection is not huge it is excellent, and the staff is knowledgeable, plus they have great tasting events.

Another shop we discovered in Carlsbad off Faraday is called the Carlsbad Wine Merchants. Cathy, the owner, has an outstanding knowledge of wines and enjoys helping those of us who are not so learned to develop our taste for both reds and white. They have weekly tasting events (some events require RSVP) and a terrific selection, plus a regular on-line newsletter.

Lastly, there is a great wine store downtown in the Gaslamp area called the Wine Bank - tremendous selection of wines and champagnes at some of the best prices around, with helpful knowledgeable staff. Definitely worth a drive. You'll find it hard to not buy at least a case.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More on Housing in San Diego - Part 3

It's been a little time since I shared my thoughts about the housing here in San Diego, so after a stiff cup of coffee and allowing myself some time to wake up, I decided to write a bit more on this subject.

1. Mello-Roos - well, what the heck is that? First time I saw this in the MLS when I started my California home search back in Boston, and it said "no Mello-Roos." I wondered what was missing? Was this a good or bad? I had never seen a Mello-Roos before; was it unique to Southern California? Do they import them? Or do they grow wild? I did some on-line research to figure it out, and learned it was a fee you sometimes had to pay in newer subdivisions (often in undeveloped areas) where a Community Facilities District has been created. The CFD allows for financing to cover the costs of certain improvements (e.g., streets, sewers and other basic infrastructure, police and fire protection, ambulance services, schools, parks, museums, etc.). The Mello-Roos, a special tax, is collected from each resident in order to pay off the financing; the tax is not based on the value of the property. And that could be in addition to a Home Owner's Association (HOA) fee. The good news is that the Mello-Roos will stop in the future once the bond (if issued) is paid off, although sometimes a reduced fee may be levied to cover the cost of maintaining the improvements.

BTW the name comes from the co-authors of the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982, Senator Henry Mello and assemblyman Mike Roos.

2. Subdivision Names and Gated Communities - Getting used to all the subdivisions and the names has taken some time. It certainly helps you to keep track of where certain people live, or to give directions, or to figure out how much money someone has or if they are worthy of being your friends, and as a Realtor you want to sell in certain subdivisions if you can. What was so different is the sheer number of them, and the manner in which the names are emblazoned on the gates on some fancy stone edifice at the entrance. And if this is a gated community, this is where they hide the electric eye that lets in residents, or the magic keypad that will allow visitors to gain entrance if you are lucky enough to have been given the secret code. Or, if you are REALLY lucky, you have a guard in a nice little gatehouse who decides if you can pass or not, depending on the kind of car you drive or who you know. Certainly there are subdivisions in the Boston area, as well as gated neighborhoods, and condo buildings have names, but New Englanders tend to be a bit more conservative, so you don't see the blatant advertising quite so much.

3. Views (SEE PHOTO ABOVE, looking at the Batiquitos Lagoon and the Four Seasons in Carlsbad) - amazing how different the views are here as compared to the Northeast and the many options (panoramic, city lights, ocean, lagoons, greenbelts). It's not just the ever-present greenery and palm trees, which are such a pleasure compared to many months of gray and brown ugliness during Bostonian winters (although the foliage changes in fall cannot be matched here!!), but the hills and mountains as well. Having a view absolutely becomes a much more important criterion than in New England, and ties into increased value as well, of course. With the topography and all the trees in the Boston area, you just don't get the types of long-range views you do here. Here, so many more homes are oriented toward the ocean and have views, even though distant ones. And it certainly plays a much bigger role in marketing. Of course having a view can be marred by having to look at or listen to the freeway. And they build homes and condos right along the Massachusetts Turnpike and other highways (that the East-coast word for freeway) back East too, so if you DO have to look at traffic, why not at least have a great view!

After all that, my brain is tired, plus it's time to move on to other things on the to do list. More later...

Neighborhoods in San Diego

One of the things I have grown to like about San Diego are the neighborhoods - not so much downtown (since I am not really familiar with it) but more so the area near where I live in Carlsbad. I will share some thoughts on different neighborhoods going forward, but I first wanted to share a few observations from my experiences back East.

Boston is known as a city with distinct neighborhoods (Beacon Hill, South Boston, the South End, Back Bay, Chinatown), like New York, and as you walk from one to the next you notice that each has a unique feel - some are ethnically based while others are not - but each one is different, and appeals to people for various reasons, with distinct architectural styles, restaurants, artisanal shops, churches and people. San Diego, as a much newer city, does not have the history of the New York and Boston neighborhoods, and one might argue, due to the rapid growth of tract housing and gated and master-planned communities like San Elijo Hills throughout Southern California, that San Diego lacks unique neighborhoods. However, while unlike communities back East, I would argue that you can find such areas even within the urban sprawl that characterizes the West Coast. And, I suspect, you would hear the same from people who live in these neighborhoods. The other interesting thing that is so different here is that the surfing culture and its history have a strong presence in a number of San Diego communities (such as Leucadia and Cardiff-be-the-Sea), giving these areas a distinct feel to them that remains despite the continued growth along the coast.

Do you have a favorite neighborhood or area you would like to share? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

More Shopping in the San Diego area

Here are some more tips on shopping in the San Diego area that I learned about recently.

There are a couple of areas that are great to explore if you are planning home improvements, inside or out. There are a number of stores offering a wide array of services and products for your home (furniture, decor, stone, home furnishings, design services and more). The first is Moreno Boulevard in San Diego, just off the 8 and near the 5. Located along this stretch are places like Hauser Furniture (patio stuff), San Diego Kitchen and Bath (also have a store in Encinitas on the Coast Highway), Concord Lighting, Unique Stone Imports, and a custom shutter store, Shuttermart.

Another great area offering a broad range of stores is Miramar Road in San Diego. Here you will find Mission Valley Pools, a custom store for interior/exterior doors, wine cellars and ironwork called Old World Door, Outrageous Rugs, a Sofa Design Center, a marble, granite and stone store (MGM Stone), a huge Rustic Furniture Warehouse, and an artisan quality fine furniture store named Hacienda De Isa Galeria.

IKEA, located off Friars Road in San Diego, offers a wide array of furniture, home furnishings and everything for the kitchen and bedroom at very affordable prices. There are also several stores in the Orange County area (see the website).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Exploring Little Italy in Downtown San Diego

For an afternoon, evening, or perhaps even a full day of fun and good eating, try exploring the Little Italy area of San Diego. Located just east of the airport, this area is concentrated along Kettner Boulevard (heading into town) and along India Street (heading out, with most of the restaurants on this street). There are lots of neat shops (home furnishings, pottery, clothing), artist studios and galleries, restaurants and cafes, a nice park (Amici Park), and other things to explore. Parking is fairly easy to find (but watch your meter, except on Sundays) and the area is just off the 5 and easy to access. On the weekends you can also find many open houses at the condo buildings in the area, in case you are thinking about living there too! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Gardening in San Diego

One of the things I like about San Diego is the year-round greenery, flowers and tropical vegetation. While Boston is beautiful in the spring, summer and fall, I always found it depressing in the long winter months when everything turned sort of an ugly gray/brown, except for the pine trees. Because of the weather, fruits and vegetables are plentiful all year and are reasonably priced, especially at some of the farmer's markets, unlike other parts of the country.

Gardening here can have its challenges, despite how beautiful it is and being able to garden all year. Because of the warm weather you can grow pests all year too (unlike during the winter back East). I have never see as many ants anywhere else I have lived as I have here, and the termites, while not garden pests, can be especially problematic around your house, as everyone here knows.

Another big issue is the soil. We have lots of clay, which is practically impossible to dig in when it is hot and dry, and which turns into a sticky, flowing mess when it rains. While there are a few plants that seem to like it OK, for most you have to engage in some pretty significant soil enhancement in order to grow anything, at least in our area (soil buster, nutrients, fertilizers). In some cases it is simply better to just dig it up, cart it away, and bring in new soil, which many people have done. Learning what grows in what kind of soil has been a good learning experience, albeit a bit frustrating. And understanding the growing seasons which are so different from the East and mid-west has taken some time.

It's been very helpful to have some good nurseries and garden shops nearby that we like, for plants, flowers, fountains and pots, pest control (organically and otherwise), fertilizers, and expert gardening advice. Several we specially like include Green Thumb in San Marcos, Evergreen in Oceanside and other locations, Sunshine Gardens in Encinitas, and Armstrong Garden Center (Carlsbad, Encinitas and other towns).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


One of the things I noticed once we moved here was the number of helicopters flying around. Yeah, that sounds strange, I suppose, but they are more common here than back east. Certainly we had the traffic reports from the sky, but out here you get televised views of freeway chases, in addition to the standard patrols! How cool is that!! And they pre-empt TV for this (well, at least I have seen it in LA). The only other place I recall being where there were more helicopters was Sao Paulo, Brazil - every tall building there has a heliport, and most of the high-ranking executives and rich folks travel by helicopter because of safety issues (it's harder to kidnap someone in a helicopter), and for convenience.

The highway patrol here seems to have plenty of these air vehicles to shlep around in, and survey activities from the sky - you often see them nearby, circling around. And so do the local police, or maybe it's the state police - we recently had one flying over our house in Carlsbad around 9 at night with the lights on, scouring the ground, and someone on the broadcast system asking anyone to call the police if they spotted an elderly gentleman with Alzheimmer's who had walked away from a nearby assisted-living facility. This certainly seemed like a wise thing to do, but a new experience none the less.

I also clearly live in the traffic lanes of helicopter commuters (I assume coming from and going to Palomar Airport). They fly overhear multiple times a day and at night. And of course there are the frequent Coast Guard copters flying along the coast, and the occasional military helicopter from Camp Pendleton (you are more likely to see them in training operations when you drive along the 5 to or from LA).

On a related note there is lots of hot air ballooning around here. We can see them from our house, sometimes 8 or 10 at a time in the distance (I often see the RE/MAX balloon). There are a number of places where you can go for balloon rides in and around San Diego. Could be fun....

Dessert in San Diego

I just learned about a new dessert speciality restaurant/catering service in North Park called Heaven Sent Desserts (there was a great article in the Union-Tribune today). Haven't been there yet, but given my penchant for sweets, you can bet I will.

While we're on the subject of sweets, the Forum in Carlsbad has a great chocolate shope called Chuao (there are other locations too, or order on-line). Great truffles and a nice selection of desserts. Coincidentally, it is almost next to
Coldstone Cremery.

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

Sunday, October 08, 2006

More Shopping in the San Diego area

If you are looking for great bargains on furniture, art, kitchen stuff, books, glassware, and just about everything else, the Estate Sale Warehouse in Oceanside is a MUST SEE...multiple times. They get new things in weekly, and because the pricing is so good, most things disappear pretty quickly. You can furnish a house or apartment pretty easily and inexpensively. Yep, there is some stuff that probably will not appeal to anyone, since they buy up estates, but sifting through is part of the fun. I understand that Tuesdays are one of the best days since new things often come in on Monday and the pricing is done then.

There are a couple of shops, the larger one has a broad range of good quality furniture and just about everything you can imagine, whereas the nearby smaller facility has higher-end furniture and collectibles, as well as a garden room. Plus there are a bunch of other thrift/second-hand, antique and other shops within walking distance, or a short drive away. Some of the best pricing I have seen around.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Well, it's Friday, and that means lots of different things - the start of the weekend OR the end of a tough week (depending on your "glass half empty/glass half full" mentality), party night (or the first one), time to go out to dinner, and for many, hitting the freeways to head somewhere.

There is a noticeable increase in the Friday traffic around here, especially on the freeways. Seems like morning rush hour has just eased and the Friday afternoon rush begins. The trip from LA to San Diego (heading south) can get REAL ugly, and many folks from LA head to SD for the weekend, as well as to points south of the border. During racing season in the summer at the Del Mar Racetrack the traffic in the Carlsbad-to-Del Mar can really be nasty even in the middle of the day. Restaurants and night clubs are far more crowded than during the week, and even going grocery shopping can be a major headache.

Sunday is the reverse traffic wise, as everyone heads back home, most going north, it seems, to LA, adding perhaps an hour to the normal drive. Overall it's not so bad now that schools are back in session, and the weather has cooled a bit...a nice respite from the summer.

Need some ideas? Check out Trip Advisor or 10 Best as a starting point.

Whatever you are heading out to do, this Friday, or any Friday, enjoy and be safe.

“What life means to us is determined not so much by what life brings us as by the attitude we bring to life; not so much by what happens to us as by our reaction to what happens.”
Lewis Dunning

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cars in San Diego

A few thoughts about the cars here in San Diego, especially from the perspective of someone from the East Coast. First, there are LOTS of them...but that's not news to anyone. Traffic gets pretty bad, especially on the freeways at rush hour, but Boston can be pretty hairy too (was just there last weekend and had a reminder of the Boston rush hour traffic) - if you have ever been in downtown Boston and stuck in gridlock, you know what I mean. And I imagine many of you have heard that at least in LA there are more cars than people - pretty scarey thought. Not so in boston - there isn't room to park them.

There seems to be many more BIG cars here - Bostnonians need SUVs for the snow, but out here it seems to be more for show, and tearing up and down the freeways at 80+ mph. And I've noticed many more high-end cars in general - beemers, Mercedes, Jags, and a few Bentleys, Maserati's, Rolls, and Ferraris to boot. And in general cars are newer. In Cambridge, MA where I lived most recently, the mark of a true Cantabridgian is driving a 20+ year old Volvo (or something similar).

The other difference is that more people in California drive cars with vanity plates (and far more in LA). Some are fun, others are business-like and probably reflect the nature of the driver's employment or are for advertising, some describe the drivers, and some are a bit more obscure. I noticed this right away when we arrived but for some reason have started paying more attention - I was so impressed I even joined the trend myself. As you can see above, mine is SELS HMZ - betcha you can tell what I do for a living!

Saw INKED recently - big SUV being driven by a guy with tatoos on the arm. Also saw WAN IT, CA THNDR (on a new Thunderbird convertible), SCUBA, MY MIKEY, and RSFBRAT (someone from Rancho Santa Fe, I expect). Will add to the list as I see them.

What vanity plates have YOU seen?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Al Fresco Dining

One of the things I particularly enjoy about the weather here in San Diego is that it allows you to eat outside for most meals, if you so choose, and for most of the year. The heat lamp business must be thriving in California, as just about all restaurants that have any outdoor seating have them, so even on chilly winter nights it is possible to dine outside (we use ours at home from November to around March). It often reminds me of Europe (e.g., Paris, Venice, Rome, Florence) where residents enjoy meals and people watching as much as possible year-round in the many cafes, restaurants, trattorias and bistrots along the streets and in the piazzas. (The photo at the left was taken from an on-line listing for George's at the Cove in La Jolla)

There are lots of restaurants here that take advantage of the weather, and the views - lagoons, ocean, sunsets or simply town and city life. I certainly can't tell you how many places offer the pleasures of outdoor dining but there are lots! I previously mentioned a couple of favorite restaurants in "Things to do in San Diego Part 1"- Le Passage in Carlsbad Village has a charming back patio; Indigo Grill in Little Italy provides outdoor seating at its street corner location to watch the city go by. There is a great on-line Guide to the Good Life ( that lists many outdoor dining options.

Outdoor kitchens are also popular here and becoming more in demand, especially in higher end homes. You don't find too many properties where there isn't evidence of outdoor cooking and dining, and elaborate gas grills, refrigerators, sinks, storage cabinets, bars and huge counters are pretty common. Barbecues Galore is one store in the area that caters to those with a fondness for dining al fresco; Home Depot also offers a large selection of furniture, grills and other accessories for enjoying outdoor meals, and Simply Outdoors specializes in pre-engineered modular outdoor kitchen spaces so you can build your own. I have seen kitchens about as elaborate as one sees inside at some properties, including high-end furniture, plasma TVs with surround sound, complex stereo systems, dramatic lighting, fireplaces and wood-burning ovens, and more. The separation of indoor and outdoor living is becoming much more cloudy (not a pun on the weather).

And if you just don't feel like cooking in your outdoor kitchen, contact Mobile Waiter - there are 250+ restaurants in the San Diego area that will deliver meals to your home. Or for a more luxurious treat, try one of the Personal Chef services where cooking will be done for you at your home...sort of your own personal restaurant!

Jeff Dowler (RE/MAX Associates): Real Estate Agent in Carlsbad, San Diego County, California on