The overall experience of living in the San Diego region has improved during the past year in many respects while other areas have yet to make that improvement. That’s according to the newly released “Quality of Life Dashboard” from the Center for Sustainable Energy’s Equinox Project. The annual report tracks everything from air quality and the economy to housing and efforts to fight global warming.
Air quality: thumbs-down
The air that San Diegans breathed this past year wasn’t the same quality it was the year before, with the total number of unhealthy air days increasingly slightly for both sensitive groups and the general public.
Climate change: thumbs-up
There are currently nine cities in the county that have adopted the pledge to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions so-called climate action plans, including San Diego, Chula Vista and Escondido. At the same time, five cities are in the process of adopting such a blueprint to outline cuts in emissions from a wide variety of sources, such as transportation, development and electricity generation.
In the final quarter of 2016, unemployment was 4.4 percent. The biggest gains were in real estate and construction. Business services continued to make up the largest chunk of employment with nearly 240,000 employees.
San Diego’s venture capitalists boosted about $1.5 billion into the economy last year, which is a $580 million decrease from 2015.
Renewable energy: thumbs-up
Adoption of solar power continues to grow. Last year, there were nearly 30,000 new installations. That’s significant when compared with the 2010 figure of fewer than 3,000. San Diego Gas & Electric’s sales of green power jumped from 35 percent in 2015 to 43 percent last year.
Residential electricity use: thumbs-up
San Diegans are clearly remembering to turn off the lights when they leave the room. The average annual residential electricity usage dropped 3 percent between 2015 and 2016.
Housing cost: thumbs-down
To nobody’s surprise, the dream of home ownership in San Diego County isn’t getting any easier. The median price for a single-family house increased more than 7 percent from 2015 to 2016. San Diego still isn’t as crazy expensive as the San Francisco Bay Area as their homes are still the most expensive, but the San Diego region ($568,000) beat out places such as Los Angeles ($519,280) and Sacramento ($314,940).
Car commuting: thumbs-down
Commuters in the region are driving about the same amount as they did in past years — about 28 miles a person per day. But they’re sitting in traffic longer — about 18 hours last year, nearly 1.5 hours more than in 2015.
San Diegans drive more miles than any other major urban area in the state, including Los Angeles.
Beach water quality: thumbs-down
Pollution at the county’s beaches is a longstanding problem — especially in the South Bay, where raw or partially treated sewage from Tijuana regularly contaminates shorelines. Residents are also advised not to swim at any beaches 72 hours after it rains because runoff from the urban environmental washes into rivers polluting beaches and bays.
Last year, the county’s number of closures and advisories increased to 92 beach mile-days, up from 81 in 2015. Beach-mile days are calculated by multiplying the number of days impacted by the length in miles impacted.
Carlsbad and Solana Beach had the most pristine shorelines last year, while Mission Bay and Border Field State Park suffered from routinely polluted conditions.
Water use: thumbs-up
It’s no secret that the drought had a big impact on our beautiful state and San Diegans did their part during this dry time by cutting residential daily water use by 15 percent last year. That’s a decrease from 96 gallons a day per person in 2015 down to 82 gallons a day in 2016.