It's no secret San Diego has the best weather. Each month we ask one of our favorite San Diegans:

What else makes this city great?

Pauli Faktor + Jason Smith  Designers,  X-Pollinate Studio,  Live: North Park •  Work: San Diego •  How Long: 10 years + 6 years

Where did you grow up?
Pauli: I was born in Odessa, Ukraine, which was still considered the USSR when my family came to the U.S. We briefly lived in Vienna and Rome, eventually settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I grew up in a suburb right on Lake Michigan. It was a bit of a culture shock to my parents, coming from this bustling European cosmopolitan city, but I loved growing up a Midwesterner. It was home to me.

Jason: We both grew up around the Great Lakes. I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I think our Midwestern sensibilities helped spark our friendship when we met in architecture school here in San Diego. Both Milwaukee and Grand Rapids are great post-industrial communities in the midst of an urban revival, so from the urban activist perspective, we’re both very loyal to our hometowns.

What brought you to San Diego?
Pauli: I initially came to San Diego for work in non-profit management after a short stint in NYC. At that time I had already begun to suspect that my scattered inquiries into all humanities — particularly socio-political and art-related subjects — would culminate in the study of architecture and design. So a year into my life in San Diego I made the shift, and spent three years in grad school at the “other” New School, in the “other” East Village.

Jason: I was ready for the next step in my education. I wanted an adventure and a city that was an unknown, with no existing social network. After architecture school at the University of Michigan, I spent a few years working in Ann Arbor, Detroit and Grand Rapids. Then came time to pick a coast.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
Pauli: Since launching our design practice last year, we’ve experienced first hand what it means to be creatives in this city. We’ve both been witnessing San Diego changing so rapidly — culturally and professionally — right in front of our eyes, and we feel deeply grateful to play a role in reshaping our community and environment.

Not to mention that on a personal scale, living here for the past decade has allowed me to gather and find my people. I’m now a part of what seem like unbreakable communities: my circle of friends, the yoga and meditation community, and of course the design community. Being a part of them is potent and meaningful to me.

Jason: Both of us are passionate about conducting ourselves and our business in a cross-disciplinary manner. We are interested in more than the aesthetic; we love the political and social implications of design. That’s one of the reasons we are interested in underutilized public space. Pauli’s thesis was all about finding strategies to enable the “re-citizenation” of the urban fabric by designing inhabitable urban installations. Last year she realized her first “alley intervention” in North Park (Editor’s note: the location of URBANIST’s 2017 print guide cover photo). This type of work is precisely what we find so meaningful about operating in San Diego – to actively take part in a dialogue of shaping San Diego and witnessing its evolution.

As far as Southern California is concerned, San Diego has been relatively under-invested. And that’s rapidly changing. It’s full of young, open-minded creatives who are passionate about entrepreneurship and taking chances with new ideas and that’s an ideal environment for us to be establishing a design studio in. We’re acutely aware of how rapid growth can displace people and bring inauthenticity to cities. And as San Diego continues to revitalize its urban core and surrounding neighborhoods, there is constant opportunity for new, intelligent strategies for revitalization to emerge. We’re committed to and excited to take part in it.

Melanie Michaud  Owner,  Graffiti Beach, Thread + Seed,
Live: Bankers Hill •  Work: South Park & Bankers Hill •  How Long: 6 years

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a town called Pleasant Hill in Northern California. I have always loved California so I knew I would never leave, but I wanted a change of pace and different scene. So after college I moved to Hermosa Beach to work for an advertising agency. I stayed in Hermosa for about a decade and combined my passion for advertising and fashion, taking a position as the Director of Marketing for a beachwear chain.

What brought you to San Diego?
I always knew I wanted to start my own retail business, so after years as a Marketing Director, I decided to make the big leap and start Graffiti Beach. Initially, I started out hosting pop-up shops in the LA area. After a couple years running pop-ups, I took on a temporary lease for a retail space on Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach. My next move was to secure a permanent lease for a brick-and-mortar store. LA was competitive, the rents were high, and I wanted Graffiti Beach’s home base to be in a place where it would shine. I scouted communities for awhile in San Diego and fell in love with South Park.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
San Diego offers a slower pace of living than LA but with all the perks…great restaurants, bars, beaches, and hikes. I also think that San Diego has a huge opportunity for independent retailers. The people here appreciate great design and style and support the ‘shop small’ movement. I am amazed at how supportive San Diegans have been to Graffiti Beach. This experience encouraged me to open a second shop in Banker’s Hill called Thread + Seed.


Christopher Puzio  Artist,
Live: North Park •  Work: Barrio Logan •  How Long: 13 years

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Paterson, New Jersey, home to poet William Carlos Williams, who was also my dad’s pediatrician. I grew up in the suburbs and along the Jersey shore. Big Catholic family. Springsteen soundtrack. Still go back twice a year to get my Jersey on.

What brought you to San Diego?
Family mostly. I lived in Boston ten years for school, then Detroit for three before relocating here. San Diego seemed a puzzle to me at first. I tried a lot of things while putting down roots here. I ran an art space for a bit, built a few houses, and was teaching design for several years.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
I’m active in the art and design community here and know from experience that, if you’re a creative type, San Diego has a perfect balance of professional opportunities and basic functionality. The culture here is very open and accessible once you know your way around, and the diversity of input and output is consistently inspiring. There are a lot of different scenes here and always so much going on. I’ve lived here for thirteen years now, so there is an extensive network of family, friends and professional connections that I rely on everyday to keep my little train on the tracks.The big bonus — when things get too hectic, I can be in the water, the desert or high in mountains within two hours drive.

Jesse Egan  TV Host,  Tonight in San Diego,
Live: Ocean Beach •  Work: San Diego comedy circuit •  How Long: 18 years

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Arlington, VA — a town about five minutes from Washington DC. It’s a spectacular city, dense and compact with museums and a metro train system that can take you everywhere. In a lot of ways D.C. is the opposite of San Diego. It’s not a relaxed beach town by any means, and weather wise it’s tropical jungle heat wave in the summer and frozen tundra ice age in winter.

What brought you to San Diego?
When we were kids, my best friend Anthony and I loved to explore. Growing up, we’d talked about going to California, and after graduating high school, to get away from the summer heat, we decided to go on a major road trip, going all over the country. He loved to drive, and we made a second cross country trek the next summer, to see San Diego, which we’d read had the best weather in the continental United States — the opposite of the steam room climate we’d grown tired of in DC. So we drove to San Diego, eventually moving to Ocean Beach, where I’ve lived ever since.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
I’ve had a fun journey in San Diego, and as long as this adventure continues I will continue to call it home. When I moved to SD, I worked a lot of jobs. I started out as a dishwasher, then bus boy, waiter, bar back, and bartender. In 2000 I started tending bar at Winston’s in OB and eventually became the GM. In 2006 we started a comedy open mic night Ocean Beach Comedy, and I started going up on stage. I did a joke about moving to San Diego to be a weatherman because it’s such an easy job. “Today in San Diego it is going to be… freaking sweet! Do you need me to even check the map? OK, you see this entire region here? It’s going to kick ass! That’s the extended forecast — write it down, it’s gonna be the same tomorrow! Uh-oh looks like we do have a warning, there’s a front moving in, of jealousy from the rest of the country. Enjoy your weekend San Diego!”

I did move here for the perfect weather, I love living OB near the ocean, the people are friendly, and it’s beautiful and relaxing. But I also came for an adventure and that adventure has continued. I work at Winstons, which is a really fun live music club where I’ve met some of the best people in my life. The crew there is like a family, some of whom have worked together for twenty plus years. Winstons is also where I started performing stand up comedy, which became a real passion that would replace my late nights of bartending with late nights of doing open mics. After a couple years I was accepted as a member of the Best of San Diego at the Comedy Store in La Jolla, and then in 2014 I won San Diego’s Funniest Person contest at the Mad House.

A lot of my comic peers have since moved to LA, I’ve stayed here partly because stand-up led me to working on Tonight in San Diego, a late night TV talk show in the style of Conan or Colbert. I started on the show as a guest performing stand up, then later joined the crew as a joke writer, served as the co-host for a season and now I’m the full-time host.

The show is filmed live in downtown San Diego at The Geoffrey Theatre off Broadway and first started airing on KSDY 50, a local cable access channel. Just this year we were picked up by San Diego CW6 TV and now the show airs Saturday nights at 11pm. It’s is really special to me and a big reason I stay in San Diego, because it’s come so far in three years and has been a labor of love, a team effort of all volunteers putting in an incredible amount of time and energy.

What keeps me here besides the heavenly weather is everything that we highlight on Tonight in San Diego: the talented personalities, the music, comedy, improv, sports, surf, culture, art, food, beer, of this beautiful place. And my girlfriend is here. I’m excited to continue the adventure, exploring & showcasing even more of what makes San Diego so special. I’m proud to call San Diego my home and it’s definitely not just for the weather. Wait, is that rain outside? I didn’t move here for this!

Hilary Chambers  Music Director & Midday DJ,  91X,
Live: North Pacific Beach •  Work: Sorrento Valley •  How Long: 20 years

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Manhattan Beach, just about two hours north of here. In the 70s and early 80s it was a mellow little beach town – we ran around with no shoes and went to the beach every day we weren’t in school. Our neighborhood rule was that you had to complete two years of Junior Lifeguards before you were allowed to go to the beach with no parents, so we all did that as soon as we could. I used to scrounge up $1.95 every day in the summer so I could buy a burrito from El Sombrero on my way to the beach.

Nowadays it’s pretty fancy: mansions,  celebrities, you name it. But my mom still lives in the house I grew up in, and my sister lives there with her family, so that rules. It’s great to visit when I can, even if I do trip out on how it has changed. I still hit El Som for a burrito every time I get up there.

What brought you to San Diego?
I moved to Denver for two years after college, and I was working at a station called KTCL when 91X called and offered me afternoons. I didn’t hesitate for a second. Growing up in Southern California, I knew all about 91X, so it was a no-brainer. I moved to Mission Beach in March ’97, and had my first day on the air at 91X a few days later, on April Fool’s Day. I was 24. Next April Fool’s Day will be my 20th anniversary on the air in San Diego, which completely blows my mind! I’m so grateful that I’ll get to celebrate that milestone back on air at 91X.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
It just feels like home now. I’ve lived in San Diego longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, and while sometimes I feel like I know it like the back of my hand, I love that there’s still so much to explore and so many new places to check out. Living near the beach, working at my dream job, raising my daughter here with all the good friends we’ve made over the years – I love this city!

Jessica Percifield  Founder & CEO,  San Diego Coffee Network,
Live: Rancho Bernardo •  Work: Coffee shops all over San Diego •  How Long: 8 years

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in small town America — wine lovers fondly refer to the area as the Columbia Valley. Before the grapevines moved in, it was mostly rolling wheat fields and apple orchards surrounding the Columbia River. I was born and spent many a summer growing up in Kennewick, WA (also the home of the Kennewick Man for those who know their anthropology). I went to school 45 minutes away in Walla Walla, at the foot of the Blue Mountain range.

Many cities in Washington State are named after indigenous peoples’ tribes. Walla Walla was named after the Walla Walla Indians and it is said to mean “Many Waters.” I remember swimming in the Blue Mountains, in a stream called Mill Creek, which was ice cold from snow melt during the 90-plus summers. Clear as can be, and before it was damned off its water was amazing for drinking. Or maybe I’m just romanticizing a bit.

Being in nature was a big part of my early years. I miss those open landscapes. They’re easy on the eyes, kinda like driving to the Birch Aquarium when you first glimpse the ocean on the ascent. This peacefulness just washes over you. Anyway, I get back home once every few years and take that long drive between cities and let the traffic jams and stresses of life roll off.

What brought you to San Diego?
Back in 2008, I was living in Los Angeles working for a “little” variable annuity company called AIG SunAmerica (now simply SunAmerica for obvious reasons). I was working with head-hunters to get back to the Northwest when I met my future husband, a biomedical engineer. He got an offer at a company in San Diego. I wasn’t sold, as I had my heart set on returning to Seattle.

Until we visited. San Diego has a different vibe than L.A. and way friendlier people. Gawd I remember hating L.A. I thought of it as nothing more than a concrete jungle with too many people who seemed to know that you actually ingest six calories when licking the back of a postage stamp. Who are these people? Who sits around licking postage stamps to get fat? Skinny people I guess, which actually explains why they’re skinny. In fact, the only thing interesting about L.A. to me now is their coffee scene.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
We’ve built a life here. We have friends, a community, a home. And more recently, our son was born here. We’re invested. Literally, we pay taxes. It would be nice to spend time between San Diego and the Pacific Northwest, but for now, San Diego is stuck with us.

And I don’t mind sticking around, especially since, as it turns out, there’s some amazing coffee and coffee folks here in our little sunny corner of the world. It will be cool to see how the coffee scene grows and innovates and really comes into its own over the next few years. And even more fun to taste what’s brewing. San Diego is Cold Brew City (#trademarkpending). I think for practical reasons cold brew will become one of the defining specialty beverages of our region (if it hasn’t already). It will be celebrated and enjoyed by locals as well as seasonal travelers. Coffee tourism will yield many benefits for locals throughout greater San Diego and Tijuana. So I’m especially stoked to follow the evolution of coffee here.

Stacy Keck  Photographer,  Stacy Keck Photography,
Live: Mission Hills •  Work: Mission Hills •  How Long: 16 years

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sacramento, a few minutes from downtown.

What brought you San Diego?
I moved to San Diego at age 17 to attend San Diego State University, living in the dorms my first year and forming some really solid friendships that continue on to this day. I’d say that they were the initial reason that I stayed here and, as time went on, I became more involved in the creative community around town through working in PR and volunteering for a local graphic design organization. I became obsessed with architecture and photography and began working on freelance photo projects for some of my artist and graphic-designer friends.

I traveled often, but never considered moving for good until I started dating someone who lived in Colorado. I moved to Boulder in 2011 for a couple years, and despite being so far away from the ocean, it was my friends and the creative community in San Diego that I missed more than anything. I’m not the first one to say it, but there’s just something really special about the way that we support each other here.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
It just makes me feel good. There’s just enough going on in terms of art, music, food and cultural events to be stimulating without being exhausting. I go to LA a couple times a month for work and fun, and to get a little jolt of energy — but it’s always nice to return to the calmer side of SoCal. Also, I love the proximity to the Mexican border, and have recently fallen in love with wine country in Baja. It’s especially photogenic — and the weather’s pretty great there, too. 🙂

Photo credit: Evan McGinnis

grampadrew  Musician + record label honcho,  The Flim Flam Revue + Flim Flam Phonograms,
Live: South Park •  How Long: San Diego native

Where did you grow up?
Born at Bay General Hospital in Chula Vista, we moved a lot, but as a kid I grew up mostly in Imperial Beach. I started high school at Mar Vista in IB, transferred to Serra High School in Tierrasanta and graduated from Bonita Vista in Bonita. I think my dad wanted me to have the navy brat experience of constantly moving. Except he wasn’t in the Navy and aside from a brief period in Anaheim and a couple years in Australia, we mostly just moved a few miles away at a time.

What has kept you in San Diego all these years?
I really love to travel, and I have been to amazing places around the world, but San Diego is just a beautiful city to come home to. No matter where I have gone, I am always excited to come home. I think one of the greatest things about our town is its proximity to so much geographical diversity and activities of all kinds. You have the Colorado River just three hours away. It’s about the same distance to the Joshua tree covered high desert or the mountains of Idyllwild and ski resorts of Big Bear Lake. I am sure there are other places this can be done, but I personally don’t know anywhere else in the world where you can snowboard in the morning at Mammoth and waterski that evening on San Diego Bay with the sun setting on one side of you and the city skyline on the other. I have done this just for the absurd point of it, but it was also glorious. I haven’t even got started on all the treasures of Mexico, and if you need a big city fix, Los Angeles. That said, as a San Diego native it is my birthright, and perhaps responsibility, to say I hate LA!

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
Is it weird to say the carne asada burritos and our taco shops? Southern California is known for its beaches, but as a native, I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I went. There is just so much else to do. My neighborhood and the surrounding burgs are obviously famous for craft beer. Our food culture is continually improving. And as a musician, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out our thriving and always growing original music scene. Walking distance from my home, I have a monthly residency where I host over a dozen songwriters and musicians at the Whistle Stop. The local music and art scene is like family to me. Bars like The Casbah, Bar Pink and the Whistle Stop…they are owned by dear friends committed to nurturing our artistic community.

In San Diego, I am surrounded by a fantastic network of family, friends and artists. Who knows where my life will take me? But no matter where I go, I will always call San Diego home.

Alfred Howard  Songwriter/Musician,  The Redwoods,
Live: North Park •  Work: Ocean Beach •  How Long: 16 years

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New Jersey. This is a fact I’ve attempted to keep in the closet, especially during the apogee of the Jersey Shore TV show. We are responsible for Bon Jovi and Snookie, two ills difficult for The Sopranos and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album to eclipse. Thank you for outing me.

What brought you to San Diego?
All the information I had regarding San Diego came from a guy named “Tricky Dan”. He said that San Diego was 70 degrees everyday and you could rent an apartment on the beach for $300 a month. This was 1999 and I hadn’t made up my decision regarding the Internet, so I did no vetting of his wild claims. I’m still looking for an affordable IB apartment built on a Native American burial ground where a triple murder took place so I can call Tricky Dan, Truthful Dan. I’ll keep you posted.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
I am antisocial. And the thought of meeting a new batch of humans to interact with sporadically frightens me so thoroughly. I’m currently writing lyrics for 9 different bands in town and the co-owner of an independent record label ( I love my friends and musicians, and the vision of me trying to meet a rhythm section like the one I currently work with, shouting over a live band in some new dive bar in some strange town, is the dumbest thing I can imagine.

Also, it’s not Jersey.

Shige Koike  DJ + Designer + Art Director + Branding Consultant,  Ideal Plus Co.,  http://
Live: Cardiff by the Sea •  How Long: 20 years

Shige has played music around San Diego for years — at clubs, restaurants and small underground parties like Bump! But Djing is just one of his many talents. As a designer and brand consultant he’s worked with clothing companies and restaurants including new East Village spot Tokyo Deli, and created the artwork and interior design for Tajima Hillcrest.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Chigasaki, Japan. It’s a midsize town with a laid back beach community. The city has a nice mixture of surfing culture and a little urban influence since Tokyo is one hour away. I loved growing up there and I’m thankful to have friends and family still living there.

What brought you to San Diego?
I started surfing when I was 11 and I was always fascinated by Californian culture. San Diego’s surfing heritage was appealing, so when I had an opportunity to go school in the US I instantly picked San Diego. I can say surfing and skateboarding videos were my main motives in moving here.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
I’m surely attracted to the fact that you are able to go from hanging out with family on the beach and surfing perfect breaks, to DJing at sweaty warehouse — on the same day. San Diego has a great mixture of urban and beach, work and play, friends and family. I have my wife and children who love being in San Diego. I’m surrounded and inspired by talented and creative individuals. I am fortunate to have all these today, and hope to grow with them.


Dang Nguyen  Beast of Bourbon, Co-Owner,  Bar Pink,
Live: University Heights •  Work: North Park •  How Long: San Diego native

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in University Heights, and went to school all along Park Blvd — Birney Elementary, Roosevelt Jr. High and SDHS. It’s no coincidence that I moved back to UH to raise my family. There’s a little bit of irony in the fact that I was running the pool at the Lafayette a few years ago, after having been kicked out that pool on a regular basis as a kid. It’s also funny that my first bar job was at Live Wire, and it was a gay/leather biker bar when I was growing up.

What brought you to San Diego?
My family came to the US as refugees of the Vietnam war in April of 1975. We were airlifted out of Saigon just before the city fell. We actually got out before the US consulate, and were the first group of refugees at Camp Pendleton. I was 8 months old at the time, and had my first birthday in the barracks on base. Naturally, we ended up settling in San Diego.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
The ocean, desert, mountains, and Mexico are a few reasons.

I love to fish, especially on the ocean. I’m also a bit outdoorsy, and San Diego is a great point of departure for outdoor activities. Not only are there plenty of local opportunities to explore, but the whole Pacific coast, southwest, and Baja provide more than enough places to discover.

Carly Ealey  Street Artist, Painter, Photographer, Co-Founder,  Cohort Collective,
Live: Golden Hill •  Work: Downtown •  How Long: 10 Years

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Palm Springs, CA and grew up on the mean streets of the Bermuda Dunes Country Club. I looked forward to summers the most, when my family would pack up and head to the beach to escape the desert heat. I always knew I would eventually move to San Diego — I was hooked on the lifestyle, obsessed with the ocean and fish tacos.

What brought you to San Diego?
After attending school in NorCal, I moved to LA for a bit then down to San Diego after a friend talked me into renting a beach house with her in Pacific Beach. It wasn’t a hard sell! We ended up living steps from the beach. It was a dream to roll out of bed, squeeze into a wetsuit and walk down those boardwalk steps to the sand and surf.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
Besides the beach and tasty waves, I continue to dwell in San Diego based on my commitment to continually growing the San Diego art scene. I see too many of my peers leaving San Diego for larger markets like LA or SF but my heart is here in San Diego. I really want to continue to develop the community of artists here. We’re doing that by throwing art shows via our collective, Cohort Collective, and through rad art projects and public murals.

Sonya Sparks  Owner,  Sparks Gallery,
Work: Gaslamp Quarter • 

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in San Carlos, a small residential community in San Diego. Nearby you can find Grossmont College, Lake Murray, Mission Trails, and La Mesa — all great places to be out and about. Locals know this area well.

What brought you to San Diego?
I came with my parents around age 4 when they moved back home after a couple of years in Michigan. I hear the weather played a huge role in their move back, along with family being in town. My grandparents (on my mother’s side) originally were stationed here when they joined the Navy.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
I travel often, and each time I come back to San Diego, I love it a little bit more. I miss certain things when I am gone: the dry warm air, palm trees, the warmth of the sun on my skin, the diverse array of local and international foods, our beautiful outdoor spaces, and the laid-back culture. I also love finding little pockets of history in our young town, which is why we chose the Sterling Hardware Building as the location for Sparks Gallery. It was a hardware store for decades, built in 1924. Before that, in the same location, there was a glass maker and carriage works, a small hotel, and a vaudeville theater with trapeze artists. We love to share the story of the space with our visitors. I feel that pairing modern local artwork with this historic space is a great contrast to show where we came from as a city, and how our local artists are interpreting their modern environment. It will be exciting to see what lies ahead for San Diego.

Brian Beevers  Owner,  Simply Local , Brian's Farmers' Markets,
Live: City Heights •  Work: North Park, Golden Hill, The Headquarters, UTC •  How Long: 17 years

Simply Local isn’t just the name of his retail business, it sums up the motivation behind all of Brian’s work. In addition to selling all-locally-produced wares in his North Park and Headquarters at Seaport Village shops, Brian operates farmers’ markets and recently took over producing the monthly Ray at Night art walk, revitalizing the event that features local artists, artisans, food and bands.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small farming town in central California, called Denair.  I was incredibly lucky to have lived the life of building tree houses, driving tractors (well before legal age to drive), and running barefoot practically everywhere.  I spent most of my time outside digging holes, catching frogs, and playing catch with my dad, or shadowing him while he fixed cars, built things.  At dusk my mom would yell at the top of her lungs out the back door to come inside when dinner was ready.  It might sound made-up or embellished, but this is all 100% true of my upbringing. Oddly enough, I longed to live in the big city.

What brought you to San Diego?
I came to San Diego for college, then after finishing college I lived in Washington DC and Boston for 2 years.  Eventually, San Diego called me back to be closer to friends,  family in central California, and the ocean.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
I have been introduced to some of the best people in the world right here in San Diego. For me, being in a place that people truly care about makes all the difference. Second to that, I have built my businesses here in San Diego. Continuing to serve the local communities through my farmers’ markets and my Simply Local retail shops is a joy to me.


*Photo by Chad Thompson

Ray Astamendi  Owner and Brewmaster,  Fall Brewing Company,
Live: North Park •  Work: North Park •  How Long: 16 years

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Agoura, California, just south of Ventura/Thousand Oaks.

What brought you to San Diego?
My sister went to SDSU in the late eighties, so we would come down and visit her frequently. I moved to Lake Tahoe for a while after high school. It was there that I began brewing, and I met a group of friends that were all from San Diego. After coming down with them to visit friends and family, I was convinced that this would be my home.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
I’ve spent most of my adult life in San Diego. I’ve spent time in the Bay Area, as well as Maui, but San Diego will always be home to me. I love the surf, the beer culture, the food, the people, and of course – the Padres! Other than my sister, who is still out in Maui, my entire family is here in San Diego. Now that Fall is up and running, I don’t see me leaving anytime soon.

David Fobes  Designer/Artist/Teacher,  SDSU,
Live: City Heights  •  Work: College Area/City Heights  •  How Long: 39 years

Where did you grow up? 

My dad was a physician in the United States Navy and we traveled around the country quite a bit until my identical twin and I were fourteen. Places we lived included: Detroit (my birth place), Honolulu, Bethesda Hospital where my dad was chief of pathology, Oakland and finally settling in Redlands, CA, where my dad entered private practice. I stayed in Redlands from 1968 to 1974, finishing high school and taking courses in art and architecture at local community colleges.

The Inland Empire was hot and smoggy and as teens we would put together about five dollars in change and hijack one of the neighbors’ VW Bugs and travel to the beach every weekend in summers, usually Corona del Mar and Laguna. All of us made pacts to move from Redlands and end up in beach communities. That’s when I first heard about San Diego and moving there became a goal.

What brought you to San Diego?

I knew I was an artist by the time I was five or six. I also was very enthralled with architecture. After taking courses in architecture that were rather dry and not completely accepting of my weird ideas, I shifted gears and started to study art. Although I was very good at drawing etc., I missed the challenge of design that architecture offered. I have no recollection of who told me about the program in Environmental Design at San Diego State University, but coming down to San Diego to visit the program in the spring of 1973, changed my life.

The Environmental Design program at SDSU was offered through the school of Art. Eugene Ray was the visionary head of that program and had established it in 1969. The program was a perfect fit for someone like me that was an artist with an interest in design. Courses like Environmental Prototypes, Synergetic Environments, The House and its Environment were all laboratories of experimentation in a radical shift in thinking about a holistic approach to design. Although not an accredited architecture program, the freedom of creativity that Professor Ray encouraged led many graduates from the program into a wide variety of professional design practices.

I became one of five young students that would help Eugene Ray build the iconic “Silver Ship” on Nautilus Street in La Jolla. I finished my degree in Environmental Design in 1978.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home? 

Right after finishing the “Silver Ship,” I was hired (along with my roommate and building partner Mario Lara), by Ken Kellogg to work on one of Ken’s projects. The experience of building challenging projects and gaining a reputation as a craftsman and problem solver, I began to become friends and builders for a variety of local architects in the early 1980’s, including Ted Smith and Tom Grondona.

I also started my own studio, building furniture in an old ware house on Island Ave. As an early “settler” in the downtown art scene, I was part of a community living and working in the shells of abandoned or derelict buildings and creatively building live/work spaces. Arts communities are built from networks of artists, collectors, museum staff and “players”. As I engaged in the community building process, my networks expanded and I felt early on that San Diego was a great place to work and was (in the 1980’s) relatively affordable for young artists. I was also a sax player for a variety of original bands in San Diego in the 1980’s and early 90’s, and made connections with musicians as well as being a part of what I would call the “creative hive” of San Diego.

Many San Diegens may remember Java Coffee House on 9th and G St. downtown. Douglas Simay had asked me to design and build the space out, when I was then living only blocks away. For many years Java and the galleries on 9th and G became a gathering spot for artists and arts players. Again my community expanded. I met my wife Rocio there twenty-eight years ago.

Building a life as an artist is a hard row to hoe, in any city. Artists can only survive in supportive communities that are collectively built. Although the “arts community” now is extremely diverse and far-flung, I still have a very strong connection to many of the same artists forty years out. I am still developing and forging new arts associates and through my teaching practice in The School of Art + Design at San Diego State, I now have the opportunity to mentor young artists.

San Diego weather may have been my original ideal for moving, but the climate of a creativity community is what has kept me here.

Angela Carone  Culture Reporter ,  KPBS ,
Live: Mt. Helix •  Work: College Area •  How Long: 10 years

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, a snow-bound town not unlike Buffalo, New York. It’s a rust belt city right on Lake Erie. Growing up, it had a lot of neighborhoods settled by European immigrants  – lots of Italians, Irish, and Polish, and a lot of Catholics. High school sports is huge, as is pizza, spaghetti, and beer.

What brought you to San Diego?

The job brought me here. I was living in Atlanta, Georgia as a freelance writer and public radio producer. KPBS was hiring an arts producer. I applied and got the job. I’d never been to California and I didn’t know anyone when I moved here. Packed up all my stuff and my dog and rolled across the southern US watching the landscape open up. It was amazing.

Besides the weather, why do you call San Diego home? 

Avocados. I love avocados. Do you know how expensive they are back east? I can pick them off trees here!

Miki Iwasaki  Artist, designer, educator ,
Live: Sherman Heights  •  Work: Barrio Logan •  How Long: 9 years

Where did you grow up?  Grew up in Redondo Beach, CA. Back then, it was what some parts of Ocean Beach and Mission Beach feel like now…laid back beach community.

What brought you to San Diego?  I moved to SD from NYC in 2005, my girlfriend at the time (and now wife) and I were looking for a change of life. While doing some soul searching in Bali, my wife found a job here and we decided to give SD a shot. We fell in love with it and decided to settle down here. We got married on Sunset Cliffs in 2010.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home? San Diego has a lot of opportunity and it’s not over saturated with layers of sociopolitical history. I believe that as a creative person you have lots of freedom here, but like anywhere else, it takes a strong vision and hard work.

Andrew Rowley  Videographer, Editor and Co-Owner ,  Rowlberto Productions,
Live: North Park  •  Work: University Heights  •  How Long: my entire 28 years

Where did you grow up?  Growing up I lived in a handful of spots around the county, but pretty much grew up in Rancho Penesquitos. As a kid I was pretty active in sports, baseball and football, then picked up surfing in middle school. Got my first video camera in high school and started to film my friends skateboarding and surfing around town. I loved to make little videos of all kinds and just never really stopped.

What has kept you in San Diego all these years?  Being born and raised in San Diego, I feel like a rare breed these days. It’s such a transplant city, but it’s perfect. I have been lucky enough to work for some great companies in town, like 91X and Slacker Radio, that helped launch my career in music and video production, but I’ve definitely been tempted to hit the road. As long as opportunities keep presenting themselves, I’ll stick around.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?  San Diego will always be home to me. Yes, the weather is nice, the Mexican food is the best, the waves are fun, but it’s really the people here that make it home for me.

Photo: Allison Don
Samantha Olliger  Executive Director ,  BikeSD ,
Live: City Heights  •  Work: All around the city, mostly in older urban neighborhoods  •  How Long: Almost six years

Where did you grow up? Middle East, India, East Coast (Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs)

What brought you to San Diego? My husband wanted to live by the beach so he could surf regularly, and we thought we’d give San Diego a try.

Besides the weather, why do you call San Diego home? The people here are some of the kindest and friendliest (after my decade in Philadelphia, this was a welcome change). I’m also really excited that the city seems to be turning its back to its auto-centric past, so it is really exciting to witness this transformation.

Jeff Umphres  Designer,  Pack Handmade,
Live: Point Loma, technically OB based on ZIP code but who's counting? •  Work: Point Loma is home base, although I'm on the go quite a bit so I typically work wherever I happen to post up with my sketchbook. •  How Long: I've been here about a year and a half sort of. I left for a bit, now I'm back!

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Scripps Ranch, the suburban eucalyptus forest adjacent to Miramar, right up the 15. It smells nice when it rains there; also, I think it’s the foggiest place I’ve ever lived in San Diego. (I was going to say ever but San Francisco has us beat by a long shot.) My parents still live there and my Dad has one of the most amazing gardens I’ve ever seen.

You’ve left and come back. When did you move back and why?
I moved to Middletown, right up the street from Starlite, about 3 years ago. At the time I was pretty bummed about moving back to San Diego. I was living in Portland, which I’d built up in my mind as this dream city and I really didn’t want to leave; awesome coffee, tasty beer, an overabundance of food trucks and bicycles as far as the eye could see, who could blame me! I had recently finished my degree in architecture so I was pretty set on finding a job doing anything even remotely related to that. Unfortunately, in the wake of the recession there was little to no work available. So, I started putting the word out in different cities and lo and behold, I found a job designing staircases here in San Diego and here I am!

Besides the Weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
San Diego is a really kinetic city, things are constantly happening (for better or worse) and that makes me really excited! There are about a thousand reasons to love this town but here are my top five, in no particular order:
Community Spirit. Need to rally people? No Problem! Heck, we even support the Chargers!
Beer. We’re kind of killing it right now.
Nature. Beach 5min, Mountains 60min, Desert 90min. Camping anyone?
Food. A burrito a day keeps the doctor away! (Or something like that…)
Bicycling. OK, its not the best (yet) but I just biked down the west coast and based on my experience it’s pretty darn good, so get out there and roll around!

Devra Gregory, Dev as MJ
Devra Gregory  Michael Jackson Impersonator,  Dev as MJ,
Live: South Park •  Work: As an entertainer I go where the gigs are, all over the city and also out of town. My other biz is massage therapy, I work at home and in clients’ homes anywhere in the SD area. •  How Long: I've lived in South Park almost 4 years.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Chula Vista, attended a private school through 7th grade then went to Hilltop Junior and High school. I left San Diego when I was 19 to study dance in New York, I came back a few years later, then moved to San Francisco, then LA. I traveled for years as a dancer, lived in Florida for a while then came back to SD in the mid ‘90s. I got work out of town again and left for 4 years to work in the Caribbean. I’ve been back since 2000.

Besides the Weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
My family is in San Diego and now I have quite a few circles of friends, my women’s ritual circle, acquaintances and fans of my entertainment work here. (I’m a Michael Jackson impersonator!) I like the mix of SD both as a big small town and a small big city. There are great quality performing arts and theater, and good dance studios, which I would miss in a place more remote. I love being close to nature and there are so many lovely places to visit even just in Balboa Park, or a short drive to Cleveland National Forest. My home in South Park feels like I’m not in the middle of a city because I’m in a canyon and I love waking up to birds singing and wind in the trees!

Devra Gregory will be performing her show, Woman in the Mirror, A Dancer’s Journey, at White Box Live Arts on April 19th at 7:30 pm. There will definitely be some MJ love so get your tickets in advance!

Justin Hudnall, So Say We All
Justin Hudnall  Executive Director,  So Say We All,
Live: I've been bouncing around between Golden Hill, the East Village, Hillcrest and the College area since I moved back home in 2008. My heart's in East County. •  Work: So Say We All's office is located in the illustrious Space 4 Art in the East Village. •  How Long: So Say We All has been producing shows all over San Diego since 2009.

Where did you grow up?
San Carlos was where I did my growing up and schooling but I spent most of my free time running around East County, getting into the scary kind of trouble, fighting off boredom and waiting for the day I could get the hell out. At 18 I moved to New York for college, all set to light the literary world on fire, and all I ever wrote about was East County. Go figure. You only learn how much a place has defined you after you’ve left for its opposite.

Besides the Weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
When I came back here in 2008, I expected the trip to be a brief stopover between overseas deployments. I was an aide worker with the UN back then, after I found the hard way that art alone rarely pays the bills. Some of my writer friends and I began staging storytelling shows to tickle our egos, and we must have hit a nerve because the audiences came and kept coming, growing bigger than we were prepared to stay on top of. We thought about creating a collective, putting our muscle behind supporting what we believe is an arts and culture renaissance taking place in San Diego. Creatives were forging the city’s identity and painting it as more than just a theme park for the military. Around that time, some guy at a party said to me that it was a good idea but it would never work here. That’s what really sold me on creating So Say We All. Turns out, he was wrong, I was right.

Photo by Rachel Bellinsky.
Check our our calendar for monthly So Say We All events.

David Adey  Artist,
Live: Point Loma •  Work: Little Italy •  How Long: 18 years

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New Jersey, 20 minutes from NYC.
When did you move here and why?
I came to San Diego in 1990 to attend Point Loma Nazarene University. I had a friend who attended PLNU, and after seeing pictures of the oceanfront campus I was fixated. Having never been west of Philadelphia, Southern California seemed foreign and exotic. I moved into Young Hall, a frisbee throw from the water. I’ll never forget arriving on campus for the first time and heading down the hill to Sunset Cliffs. The first person I met was my new roommate and we were in the water within minutes. The first swell of the fall was like a scene from a movie. I skipped my classes and sat on the cliffs all day.
Besides the weather, why do you remain in San Diego?
I’ve been involved in the art and design communities here now for over a decade and many of my former students are deeply involved as well. There is a sense of community and support that I don’t think you find everywhere. A couple of years ago, a museum curator came to San Diego for a few days to do studio visits for an exhibition she was putting together. She thought it was funny that we all knew each other and basically knew her schedule. I saw her again several weeks later and she mentioned how impressed she was that almost every artist she visited gave her the name of another artist she should meet with, and how different that was from her experience in LA.

Kathryn Kanjo,  Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego,
Live: Scripps Ranch •  Work: I work in both our flagship building in La Jolla village and at our downtown site by the Santa Fe depot. •  How Long: 2 years

Where did you grow up?
I am a second-generation Southern Californian who grew up in Redlands.
When did you move here and why?
Great cities sustain great museums. My profession landed me in Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Antonio, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. I first came here in the early Nineties to be the assistant curator at MCASD. At that time I lived in La Jolla and, later, Leucadia before moving away. Now, 15 years later – having been a museum director for 12 of them – I am lucky to be back at MCASD running the curatorial department. MCASD is a tremendously respected organization. Amazingly, it is almost 75-years old, and 75 years of cutting-edge art makes for some exciting art history, all written here in San Diego.
Besides the weather, why do you remain in San Diego?
San Diego is a great combination of things. It is enough of a city and enough of a small town. It has that vacation-vibe but is anchored by the research heft of UCSD and innovative companies like Qualcomm. I think all of these facets make it an appealing place to live during different points in one’s life – student, single, professional, parent.

Photo: Marissa Parsons Photography

Lisa Kennedy  Owner/Creative Strategist/Event Producer,  LandMarK Events (corporate and social event design),
Live: Little Italy •  Work: Little Italy •  How Long: I moved my residence and office into a two-story loft in the Merrimack Building a year ago.

Where did you grow up?
Great question. I grew up in Galesburg, IL, born in Appleton, WI, and from Rancho Bernardo, CA. Rancho Bernardo gave me a sense of community by enabling me to find entrepreneurship and security as an individual. I started a company at 15 years old called Lysa’s Morsels, specializing in chocolate chip, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies. An example of local merchants that purchased my product were a chocolate company, travel agency and stationary store. The companies that supported me where independent owners and saw the value in promoting self-motivated individuals. In retrospect, I started my company in 2007 with the same goals and objectives from my teens.

When did you move here and why?
My parents moved our family to Rancho Bernardo in 1985. According to my mom, because of the school district and according to my dad, the weather. When I moved out of the homestead I explored many areas in San Diego and have found that Little Italy offers it all – Planes, Trains & Ships.

Besides the Weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
Since I grew up in San Diego I intermittently felt the need/urge to explore other cities. I have lived in Chicago, New Zealand and Los Angeles, but I keep coming back to my roots in San Diego. San Diego isn’t just about the weather, however it doesn’t suck. It is about the individuals that are creating a community of greatness. I am in San Diego to make a difference for generations to come, focusing on everything San Diegans have to offer in art, music, food and culture.

Scot Chisholm  Founder, CEO,  StayClassy,
Live: Little Italy •  Work: Gaslamp •  How Long: 1 year

Where did you grow up?
Hingham, MA (20 min south of Boston on the South Shore)

When did you move to San Diego? Why?
I moved to San Diego in 2004, immediately after graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I drove out with my brother and Dad, and they dropped me off with two high school friends who were already living here in Ocean Beach. I moved out for a change of pace from the East Coast and originally only planned on staying for a year. The day I moved in, there was a pizza shop opening on my street, so I walked in and applied for a job. The owner questioned my motives after seeing my engineering resume, but I ensured him that this was exactly what I was looking for. The next three months were highly enjoyable and consisted of slinging pizzas, and helping to build their business. At one point, a guy from Booz Allen Hamilton came in to order, we struck up a conversation, and he ended up hiring me. I tried to work the pizza joint part time, but eventually phased out to focus on focus on management consulting for the next three years. A year into it, I started StayClassy on the side with a few friends.

Besides the Weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?

Our company, StayClassy has been headquartered here since 2006. I’ve also since started a family here as well, and had a baby boy named Roen last October. I view San Diego as one of the most up and coming cities in the country, and the technology startup scene, of which we are a part, is starting to pick up. Our company takes pride in calling San Diego home, and let’s get serious, with a name like “StayClassy” we aren’t going anywhere.

David Malmuth and Pete Garcia  Partners,  The I.D.E.A. District,
Live: Del Mar (Dave), Bankers Hill (Pete) •  Work: Bankers Hill •  How Long: We’ve been working in Bankers Hill ever since we started working on I.D.E.A. District, about a year and a half ago.

Where did you grow up?

David: I grew up in Southern California. I was born in L.A. and lived there until I was 18, and then I was in Northern California and the Midwest for a while. I came back to Southern California 25 years ago, and I’ve been living in San Diego for the past 16 years.

Pete: I was born and raised in Cuba and came to the United States by myself at age 13 in 1961.

When did you move to San Diego, and why?

David: I’ve had a love affair with San Diego for most of my life. My dad had a business down here, he was running a steel mill in Mexicali. When I was very young, we lived in either Mexicali or Calexico, and in the summers we had a place in Point Loma. My folks split and I ended up moving to L.A., but my dad stayed in San Diego. So I had been visiting San Diego in various forms for 50 years.

Pete: I lived in Florida and got an engineering degree from the University of Florida. Then, for a while, I was in business with my father and I decided the state of Florida wasn’t big enough for both of us. So I opened a map of the United States and I had three criteria: it had to be warm, it had to be on the ocean, and it had to be as far from South Florida as possible. And guess what? That was San Diego. I came here in 1973 and I’ve been here all along, doing projects throughout the US and Latin America. I lived in Bankers Hill for 15 Years.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?

David: This is a city that has great natural gifts, but it also has the potential to become more than just beauty. We believe that because it’s a relatively young city, there’s huge potential and opportunity for people to influence its trajectory. It’s very motivating to have a chance to participate in the maturation of a city that I think can be a model for 21st century, creative, economic development. It has great intellectual and creative horsepower. Sometimes we’re not all working together, but with I.D.E.A. District, we think we found a way to get all of that horsepower working together and we think we can make a difference in the way that this city grows.

Pete: I’ve been here since 1973, so I’m woven into the fabric of the community. I have designed and built many institutions in San Diego – buildings in San Diego State, UCSD, power plants, hospitals – and I’m very involved in community service. It’s a wonderful, unique city. We are a bi-national region and we’re at the doorsteps of the Pacific region – it’s very local and very international at the same time.

Leslee Schaffer  Executive Director,  San Diego Architectural Foundation,
Live: Golden Hill •  Work: Downtown/Golden Hill •  How Long: 15 years, with the first 5 and the last 10 bookending a 6-year stint in L.A.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Rhode Island and lived there until I was 9, when my Jewish mom – who we’re convinced had gypsy DNA coursing through her veins – moved us to Tampa, Florida. My first case of culture shock.When did you move here and why?

I was introduced to sailing, and spent a few seasons “working” (i.e. playing) on a charter boat, island hopping throughout the U.S. and British Virgin Islands during the winter and heading back to my Ocean State roots in Newport, RI for the summer and real life. Then, I was lured to San Diego by my sister, who had moved here a year earlier and fallen in love with the place, and thought I would too. She thought right. 

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?

Can’t beat the proximity to an ocean (a non-negotiable). Then there’s the desert, mountains, L.A. (love it) and the all-important presence of family and friends. Aside from those selling points, the evolution of art, architecture/design, music and food/restaurant scenes since I first arrived have been profound. San Diego is getting to be known more for its movers and shakers, forward-thinkers and growing culture than for its island-time sleepiness and natural splendor. It continues to evolve and intrigue, and I can’t help but wonder how much more awesomeness will come out of our community in the next few years.

Pall Jenkins  Musician,  Black Heart Procession,  http://
Live: Bay Park •  Work: BHP's studio SDRL in Kearny Mesa •  How Long: 35 years

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Chula Vista and went to Hilltop High. Growing up in Chula was a dream and a nightmare. I could write a book about it. It’s close to the border. Good tacos. Back when I was young, you might get stuck with a knife if you were walking alone in the wrong area. But it also has nice, safe areas; you just get to see it all. Tom Waits was from near Chula (he also went to Hilltop); same with Jim Morrison, Vinyl Communications and Bob Barley. Bob Barley was a pioneer in Chula and even ran for office. He would have punk shows in his backyard and ran a record label and store, but it had to close because this was long before punk was cool and manufactured in sweatshops for Hot Topic. Great old days! A cool thing about Chula Vista now is Dominik Cruz, who trains out there and holds the Bantamweight belt in the UFC.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?

Let me start by saying that I walk around and all these happy people make me sick in their swimsuits and sunglasses. And I don’t have a very attractive body, so it just makes me feel worse. If I ever move, it’ll be to a place where people wear more clothes. 
But I have great friends here and I love to play music with them. The music scene has lots of talented people. I have the opportunity to tour, so I still get to enjoy other cities and countries. We have great food and nice places to enjoy the day. I go to shows at Casbah and Soda Bar, and when I was younger I used to go to the Ché Café. I sometimes go to Hamilton’sTower BarStarliteTurf ClubRivieraWhistle Stop and Livewire. But most of the places I go to drink now I will not tell you about because I want to be able to enjoy them!

Kory Stetina  Co-founder,  LoveLikeBeer,
Live: Normal Heights •  Work: University Heights, a short bike ride from home at 3rdSpace. •  How Long: How long: 25 years (with a 4 year hiatus in Phoenix and London)

Where did you grow up?

My parents moved us to Encinitas (Olivenhain) from Mission Viejo when I was about 2 years old. I had a quintessential ’80s childhood in coastal suburbia: skateboarding, bike racing and epic outdoor laser tag battles. We were pretty much like the Goonies, but with regular, everyday adventures instead of treasure hunts.

When did you move to the city and why?

The decision to move me here in the beginning was not mine obviously, but I support the decision retrospectively. When it became my choice later on in life (circa 2002 after some time away), I knew there was no other place I wanted to be. Sure, free rent for a few months at my parents’ helped, but when my friend toured me around and caught me up on the creative bloom occurring in neighborhoods like North Park and Hillcrest, this new version of San Diego I was seeing really felt like home, perhaps even more so than before. That sense of belonging and the feeling of community I experience here have not faded and the urge to jump to other flourishing cities like Portland or San Francisco has never grown compelling, despite my love for them and all they have to offer.

I’ve always really appreciated San Diego’s ability to stay fun and relevant, yet simultaneously grounded and down to earth. We seem to be able to match much of the creativity and ambition of many larger, perhaps better known cultural cities, but we tend not to take ourselves too seriously and this keeps the city from consuming itself and becoming tragically hip or ridiculous. Perhaps it’s that bit of beach culture permeating at all times that continually insulates the city and keeps it casual, no matter how adventurous or bold we are at the exact same time. It’s a very comfortable environment for me.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?

Given this week is San Diego Beer Week, its pretty hard not to mention that first and foremost. Even without this ten-day, “week-long” blowout, I’d already be mentioning that the city’s food and drink are a major force in my decision to be here, but it’s inescapably clear this time of the year. San Diego is the heart of the craft beer renaissance, and I feel very lucky to be here witnessing it. I sense it as being very historically and culturally significant.Besides the city’s talented brewers who inspire me year-round, there are many local chefs and restaurateurs here that capture my heart with our classic, big and bold west coast flavors. Combine those huge flavors with some of the best beers in the world and produce that can be easily sourced locally, and you have a pretty rare and dynamic combination. It’s also getting easier and easier to dine artfully here as a conscious consumer regardless of your particular inspiration (vegetarian/vegan, organic, local, etc.), and that’s very exciting to me. We’re becoming more demanding as consumers, both in the sophistication of our palates and in our awareness of a larger perspective. I can’t see myself leaving because I really want to stick around to see where this all goes.

I also have a special connection to the music scene in San Diego, with its subtle yet consistently significant place in punk and rock history. We’ve had some incredible musicians and bands call our city home and create a great place to see live music, even if on a whim.

And although I can’t mention the weather, let’s just say I love the fact that I can regularly play Frisbee outdoors, and easily maintain a raised bed of veggies and homegrown hop vines.

Kevin deFreitas  Architect,  Kevin deFreitas Architects, AIA,
Live: Point Loma •  Work: Point Loma. My commute is 7 steps and 2 skips in a northerly direction from my front door. •  How Long: 18 years

Where did you grow up?
Born and raised in beautiful Escondido. Only lived in one house, with one address and one phone number until college.

Why did you move closer to the city?

I have always loved cities. Studying architecture in Berkeley and Florence, Italy completely sealed the deal. When Kara, my wife, and I graduated from college we headed for the Big City, renting a bootlegged loft at 13th & F where our son John-Paul was born. An incredible opportunity came up to purchase our first home, a 5,800 square foot, dilapidated warehouse on the reincarnation block at 10th & K, where our oldest daughter, Madeira, was born. My dad had just retired as an elementary school teacher, and he has an awesome set of tools so we put them to work with copious amounts of elbow grease, rehabbing the circa 1921 motor pool brick building into a spacious loft for our family, plus two rentals.

We felt like pioneers since there were no families with young children living downtown (at least voluntarily) at the time. We had a swing hanging from the 22-foot tall ceilings, played rousing games of indoor Wiffle ball, and saved up for our big annual splurge, a 14-foot tall, Noble Fir Christmas tree. We installed kid carriers on the backs of our bikes and rode all over downtown. Our children felt like landed gentry. They learned to swim in the swanky tropical paradise called the Marriott pooland joined the elite of downtown’s homeless at the Nordstrom café promptly at 7 pm, where we enjoyed severely discounted “day old” pastries and 50 cent coffee on the outdoor terrace, soaking in the impressive display of city lights and views down to Mexico.

We stayed downtown until about halfway through the construction of Petco Park, which was literally 60 feet away across the street. All the city services that ran through the footprint of the ballpark needed to be relocated. This work took place when demand was at its lowest to minimize disruptions to local businesses – from midnight to 5 am. We learned that in the still quiet of the night, city workers only drive in reverse. Kara was pregnant with our third child, Juliet, and after a couple months of sleepless nights listening to the constant chiming of the backup alarms on city vehicles we decided it was time to consider another neighborhood. Kara teaches at Point Loma Nazarene University, so that is the direction we headed and have been there ever since. The experience downtown was magical. When we go downtown, it has been so utterly transformed that it is hard to recollect how our old stomping grounds looked back in the ’90s. Absolutely amazing.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?

There is a pile of reasons our family continues to call San Diego home, but here are my top 5:

1. I am one of five siblings and Kara is one of four, many who also live in San Diego. Along with both sets of parents and +/- 13 nieces and nephews, the gravitational pull of a large extended family we love and enjoy is simply too strong to abandon.

2. San Diego is an extraordinary landscape. The topography is interrupted by numerous canyons that break up the urban grid to introduce these irregular little fingers of nature throughout the city. Our house backs up to one of these canyons, where see skunks, raccoons, opossums, flocks of wild parrots and, on rare occasion, foxes and coyotes.

3. As an architect, the city is relatively new. We don’t have the heavy and oppressive historical baggage of older, more established cities like Chicago, San Francisco or New York that dictate patterns, style and solutions. There is a culture of casualness, experimentation and freedom that professionally is incredibly inspirational.

4. I love the fact that San Diego is a huge small town, and I never apologize for this condition. The place is knowable, which is an opportunity, not a fatal flaw. Attend a Padres game and you will run into several people you know. Meet someone new and toss out a few potential mutual acquaintances and there is bound to be a hit. This sense of community is what makes a place home and is the reason I will be buried in this city I love so much.

5. I can’t resist a really good taco shop, like Lucha LibreLas Cuatro Milpas or La Fachada.

Howard Blackson  Principal + Director of Planning,  Placemakers,
Live: North Park •  Work: North Park •  How Long: Nine years

Where did you grow up?

I’m from San Diego and grew up in Spring Valley back when it was on the edge of town. We moved just before high school and I earned my undergrad degree from University of Texas, and then my Masters in Urban Design from the University of Westminster, London. I have lived in the South Park end of North Park for the past nine years. It’s the neighborhood where my mom grew up.

Where do you work?

Fortunately, I work from my home office and hold my meetings at Vagabond. For public events, Sam Chammas not only opens Whistle Stop, but he also gives 25% of the bar tab to support the event and non-profit groups.

Why do you continue to call San Diego home (Besides the Weather)?

Because this is where I’m from… it’s as simple as that. It’s fun to watch our city learn how to be urban again, and one day East Village’s condos, Little Italy’s restaurants and Gaslamp’s bars will coalesce with a great urban waterfront to form a world-class city. Culture takes time to cultivate. I’m watching with great interest as our old surf, sun and sailing culture begins to add beer, bikes and breakfast to the mix.

San Diego will only get better with age as it is still a relatively young city and with a long history of people scratching out a living here. My neighbors are an eclectic mix of highly educated scientists, hip entrepreneurs, developers, environmentalists, new retirees and long-time residents who can age here due to their really low property taxes. My kids, fourth generation San Diegans, get to grow up with sand between their toes and freckles on their noses, being raised by a working mom who looks great in a bikini. I am very fortunate to be here today.

Phil Beaumont  Director,  Museum School of San Diego,
Live: Sherman Heights •  Work: Bankers Hill •  How Long: Since the Sun Cafe was still the Sun Cafe

If you’re not from here, when did you move here and why?

After doing four years in high school in Orange County, I came to look at universities in San Diego. When I drove down the 163 through Balboa Park, I figured, if the freeways look this nice, it must be nice all over. Quick first impression that didn’t steer far from the truth.

Why do you continue to call San Diego home (Besides the Weather)?

It is far enough away from L.A., yet close enough to Tijuana; lodged between a desert and an ocean; a whole string of friends who immerse themselves in a variety worlds…music, art, food, architecture, education, hoops, humor and life; the tourists who travel thousands of miles to visit our wee town that reckons it is a city, including the one I married; and the the Museum School, to which I seem attached at the hip.

Jared & Jonathan Mattson  Musicians,  The Mattson 2,
Live: Cardiff •  Work: We're musicians. We work everywhere. •  How Long: We've been performing gigs in the greater San Diego area for 10 years. Our parents would even drop us off at gigs some times.

Where did you grow up?

We grew up in Encinitas. Skating, surfing, music. Lou’s records, Rico’s Taco Shop. Pretty good place to live.

Why do you continue to call San Diego home (Besides the Weather)?

For some reason San Diego is an unsuspecting city for good culture. Its rad underground music scene, great food (Mexican,) and great record shops and clothing stores put it over the top. Plus, the rich skateboard culture has always inspired us. And we know the area. It’s a good thing to know a city like this.

Its not a New York or LA, but it doesn’t need to be. Those already exist. San Diego is its own thing.

Danielle Gano  Owner,  Elle Communications,
Live: South Park •  Work: Barrio Logan •  How Long: 5 lovely years

If you’re not from here, when did you move here and why?

I moved here 9 years ago in pursuit of sunshine and a college degree. Like any confused teenager who hasn’t found themselves yet, I was looking for the perfect place far from home to do just that. I’d never been to San Diego before the day I moved here, but in my mind it was heaven on Earth and, it turns out, it is.

Why do you continue to call San Diego home (Besides the Weather)?

Since launching Elle Communications a few years ago, this city has also proven to be incredibly supportive of young entrepreneurs and, for that, I am eternally appreciative. I opened a second office in LA last summer and spend three days a week in the hustle and bustle of that great big city, but every Saturday morning I fall in love with San Diego all over again as I head back down South on the Surfliner. I’m quite sure that there is no better way to spend a weekend than Coronado Dog Beach, garden projects in my yard, Urban Solace or Farmhouse dinners and Sunday morning at the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market topped with a Joe’s on the Nose Aloha Latte.

Ron Miriello  Owner,  Miriello Grafico,
Live: San Diego and Italy •  Work: Barrio Logan •  How Long: 4 years

Tell us where you grew up. If you’re not from here, when did you move here and why?

I started in New Jersey and got torn away to Denver when I was nine. I stayed there through Colorado State University years, one of which I spent in Tuscany, where I fell in deeply love with Italy. Now I spend as much time there as I can. San Diego + Italy = a good mix for me.

Why do you continue to call San Diego home (Besides the Weather)?

We just finished working on a branding initiative for San Diego, where we did a deep-dive into this question- What makes SD special?  It came down to moving the perception of San Diego as a place to “lay-back and check-out” to a place “to lay-back and CHECK-IN”. Great ideas emerge when we’re in a positive place in our minds and hearts, surrounded by beauty and friendly, collaborative people. That’s the essence of the idea behind the moniker we developed – San Diego | Where Ideas Emerge. It was special to turn our branding brains on our home. That’s also a main reason I stay here. Plus, I have a great community of creative friends that I enjoy co-creating with. That’s what led to the 100 Worlds Project sculpture show at JETT Gallery running through March 26.

Terri Beth Mitchell  Designer at PR1ZE, Former Event Director at TEDxAmerica's Finest City,  Pr1ze,
Live: Hillcrest •  Work: Hillcrest •  How Long: 3 years

Where did you grow up?

I’m from a far away land called the Midwest. I took the military enlistment route out of town, and was stationed at another location in the Midwest for several more years. After the Air Force, I did the exact opposite – I went to art school. I hung out with the art kids, sketched hairy naked girls in drawing class and found my calling as a designer – gaining the confidence to escape the landlock (both physical and mental).

Why did you move to San Diego?

To decide where I wanted to move, I got a big map of the world. I closed my eyes and threw a dart at that map. The dart landed somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean. So I chose San Diego instead. I felt SD had room to grow, and room for me. Everything about it exuded positivity and a way of living I had never experienced before.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?

First of all – the rent. I love the challenge it presents every month. Will I, or won’t I? Keeps me on my toes.

Actually, the first time I had ever been to San Diego – and California, even – was the day I moved here in August of 2007. I packed my car full of the only possessions I was bringing with me, and as I drove west on the 8 into SD, I felt like I was entering a paradise. Turns out I was. When you stop referring to the town you grew up as “home,” and start thinking of your current address as such – you know you’ve found your place. There’s a certain newness about San Diego that I appreciate. We’re still young, still hopeful, still growing. Still evolving. There are possibilities unseen. I relate to that, and I hope I always will.

Marco Li Mandri  President of New City America,  Executive Director of the Little Italy Association,
Live: Kensington •  Work: Little Italy •  How Long: Since 1995. However, I am native San Diegan.

Where did you grow up?

I am a native San Diegan and went to public schools from Kindergarten through getting a BA at UCSD.

Why do you continue to call San Diego home (Besides the Weather)?

My wife Laura and our five kids, plus my and her family are all here. The San Diego/Tijuana region has tremendous potential but has never lived up to anywhere near the City it could become. We have consistently underestimated the people of this region and their desire to become a major urban area. Little Italy is one of the best examples of managed urban neighborhood redevelopment in California – and it happened here in San Diego. The weather is nice, but I actually prefer the weather in the Bay Area to San Diego.

Tim Pyles  Disc Jockey,  FM 949,
Live: Rolando Park •  Work: Middletown and Mission Valley •  How Long: Since 1985

Tell us where you grew up. If you’re not from here, when did you move
here and why?

I grew up in La Jolla after very short stints in Garden Grove and West Covina near LA, but I originated from Minneapolis, Minnesota, my birth state. My time in San Diego began when I was just four years old, my parents landing in La Jolla (or The Jewel,) where they still live to this day.  Growing up in one of the most beautiful places in our county was pretty darn good. I’d say my favorite place in LJ would have to be Marine Street, a sublime beach spot! La Jolla was my youth, but the city became my playground after High School. I had a Vespa and a parka– we went everywhere! I loved growing up in LJ, but felt it was sheltered from the rest of the city, I had to get out!

Why do you continue to call San Diego home (Besides the Weather)?

When I was younger, it seemed that all the creative types wanted to get out of San Diego. Move to NY, SF or LA, anywhere but here!  I’ve always loved this town. It still has a charm that no other city offers. It’s a big city with a small town vibe. But change is happening and a transition from the old guard to young energy is taking over.  We have so much to offer now, music, art and culture. From art galleries to new music venues, this town is hot. People are moving here and making it better. I still can’t believe we are the Micro-Brew Capitol of the country! The eye’s are on us from Beer to Wavves, as in the band, not our beaches, although they are pretty nice too…

Joel P. West  Musician,  The Tree Ring,
Live: Golden Hill •  Work: Golden Hill •  How Long: 3 years

Where did you grow up? What brought you to San Diego?
I grew up in the Oregon rain forest where my father was the director of a summer camp.  It was beautiful, quiet, and miles from any town. I moved to San Diego because, like any teenager, I was sure that anyplace opposite to where I lived would be superior.  I was into skateboarding and music so I fled the rainy farm town where I went high school to attend college in a sunny coastal city.  I didn’t realize that I would end up not really caring about all of the things an outsider thinks that Southern California is and instead finding community with some amazing people that have compelled me to work hard on creative projects.  And the funny thing is, now that I’ve settled in, I watch the weather report anxiously for rainy days and escape to the mountains as often as possible.

Why do you continue to call San Diego home (Besides the Weather)?I call San Diego home in spite of the weather because it’s got big city perks but feels like a small town in a lot of ways.  I can ride my bike anywhere I need to go and I see the same friends all day, all over.  We don’t have a thousand amazing artists, musicians, restaurants, shops or venues, but we have some good ones and they are well-appreciated.  People here are thoughtful and inspire me to do meaningful things and I don’t think that could ever be traded for cooler bars, different scenery, or anything.  The tightly-knit creative community here is supportive rather than competitive and if you want to start something, people will rally behind you.

Grant Barrett  Editor, Author and Radio Talk Show Host,  A Way With Words and Voice of San Diego,
Live: University Heights •  Work: Point Loma •  How Long: 3 months!

Where did you grow up? What brought you to San Diego?
Born and raised in Missouri, and then spent most of 16 years in New York City, most recently in Brooklyn — though that includes a gap in the middle I spent in the US Virgin Islands and another gap I spent in Paris.My family moved to California last year so I could work alongside some folks in a startup, but this year, we’ve moved to San Diego, where I’ve joined the folks at and I can now, finally, record face-to-face alongside my radio partner, Martha Barnette, for our radio show A Way with Words,

Besides the weather, what else makes this city great?
Not sure, we’re too new. It sure isn’t the driving. Perhaps a secret great trait is the nature that pops up within the urban areas; hummingbirds, seagulls, snails on walls, and strange fruit that I’ve never seen before. Heck, even the nuisance of cleaning up the date trees in front of our house is pretty cool: fruit falling from the sky!  Neat.

Lady Dottie  Singer,  Lady Dottie & The Diamonds,  http://
Live: Golden Hill •  Work: Everywhere •  How Long: 15 years

When did you move here and why?
I grew up in Alabama and came to San Diego twenty-some years ago via Atlanta, Georgia and New York.

Besides the weather, why do you remain in San Diego?

When I was a little girl in the cotton fields I saw a plane flying overhead… it was flying west and I said someday I’m flying to California… and here I am. I never looked back. I found diamonds here.

Sam the Cooking Guy  Cook,  Sam the Cooking Guy,
Live: Carmel Valley •  Work: San Diego •  How Long: 20 years

When did you move to San Diego? Why?

We ended up in San Diego 20 years ago, after a series of hops around North America. We went from Vancouver, to Toronto, to Denver, to Colorado Springs, to Phoenix and then here. We could have landed anywhere, but San Diego became home because my wife’s brother and his family lived here– and family is a good thing. Well, in my case it’s a good thing.

Besides the weather, why do you remain in San Diego?

There’s no reason I need to be in San Diego for my work– the stuff I do (TV and books) can pretty much come from anywhere. I choose to call San Diego home because I can’t think of anywhere else I’d want to live. Oh sure, there’s a lot of places I love to visit– but in terms of a livable existence none come close. And besides the weather, San Diego is starting to become a cool place to live, eat and just hang in. Other cities are cool, but the people are often a bunch of d-bags. I really love the attitude of the people here.