Opinion – March 28

The American Dream Is still within reach

Owning a home can be a challenging and scary prospect, especially with the prices in San Diego. Some may even consider the goal of owning a home in America’s Finest City a daunting and unattainable task especially after foreclosure.

Gabe Del Rio (Courtesy CHW)

Gabe Del Rio (Courtesy CHW)

It’s not impossible for individuals to prepare to purchase a home after going through a foreclosure, short sale or bankruptcy. According to, since the housing crisis, more than 4.8 million borrowers have lost their homes to foreclosure and 2.2 million in short sales, while in San Diego, foreclosures peaked at 2,004 in the county in July 2008 during the “Great Recession.”

Many San Diegans don’t realize that individuals who encountered a foreclosure are considered first-time homebuyers after three years, if they haven’t owned property during that period. Individuals may also be eligible for a mortgage loan even sooner if the delinquency was due to the loss of a job.

The process may be overwhelming, discouraging former homeowners from reigniting their dream of owning a home, but with the right guidance and coaching the road to home ownership is closer than most imagine.

Here are six tips on how to get on the right track as a future homeowner:

1. Start fresh: Clean-up and re-establish your credit.

2. Reach out and get help: Consult an expert, take a class or work with a housing counselor.

3. Start saving: Set a realistic financial plan and start saving for a down payment.

4. Use S.M.A.R.T. goals: Break down your goal into achievable action steps, making it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

5. Do you homework: Get pre-approved for a loan.

6. Use technology to stay on track: There are many resources online including apps to help you accomplish every goal and ensure you stick to the financial plan you established. Some of the apps available include: Credit Karma, a free app that provides an estimated credit score; Mint, a free app that tracks and organizes all of your finances in one place; Trulia’s mortgage calculator, an app that calculates the price range you should look for when buying a house and Zillow, a free app that helps homebuyers figure out the best housing option.

For San Diegans, Community HousingWorks (CHW) is another resource at their disposal. CHW is a non-profit organization that provides free classes in financial fitness and home buying. CHW’s unbiased experts help individuals to create a financial health plan that is best for them. Along with helping individuals and their families purchase homes, CHW also helps future homeowners qualify for the loan to best fit their needs.

Owning a home in San Diego may seem like an impossible task to accomplish, however with the right tools, coaching and determination, owning a home again can be within your reach.

—Gabe del Rio is Chief Operating Officer of CHW, a nonprofit organization that helps people and communities move up in the world through opportunities to own, rent, and achieve.



San Diego Opera to shut its doors

The San Diego Opera will close following the last performance on April 13th, 2014. The closure of this venerable institution after 49 years was decided by a vote of the Board Members, 33 to 1. According to the General Director, Ian Campbell, the closure was necessary to keep the company from going into possible bankruptcy next season. I implore you to look into this.

It is our understanding that the company has no debt. If that is the case, the company could have at least tried to rework their financials. There are alternatives: renegotiate contracts with employees, do fewer productions, cut back expenses, seek new leadership, etc. None of these ideas were even considered with respect to any of the employees that have worked so many years with the San Diego Opera.

Only one round of voting decided to shut this marvelous company down. There are upwards of 400 people being affected by this decision, which include a combination of full-time staff, scenic studios staff, chorus, principal and supporting artists, directors, conductors, designers, productions staff, stagehands, wardrobe, wig and makeup, San Diego Symphony players and others. This doesn’t even include the local businesses, the Civic Theater and its employees, vendors such as music stores, voice teachers, etc. In addition, San Diego Opera offers educational outreach to thousands of students in our schools — both through attending operas, and through having musicians visit their school. San Diego would also be losing one of the top 10 opera companies in the country, a company we are all so proud of.

It is our fear that if the receivership is allowed to continue at this extremely fast pace, the assets of the company will be lost with no hope of rebuilding. The loss of this institution to San Diego is incalculable, not only to its patrons and its employees, but to the greater community of San Diego.

We ask that this situation be brought to the attention of the City Council and hope that you will join us in trying to keep this company moving forward. We are also asking that you go to and join us by signing our petition to SAVE SAN DIEGO OPERA.


—A group of concerned patrons (via email)


University Heights boundaries

Mr. Hutton:

I read with interest your article in the March 14 – 27th issue of the “Uptown News” [See “University Heights Community Organizations” Vol. 6 Issue 6]. The expanded blue area of the University Heights “sphere of interest” is troubling to me. I live just one block west of Texas Street and block south of Howard Avenue. The only purpose I can see for the [University Heights Community Association’s] territorial expansion is to add some critical mass to the influence of a small group of business people might have when asking for government “favors.”

My wife and I bought our condominium because it was in North Park. I do not want to be moved out of North Park.

Park Boulevard is the logical and historic boundary for our community and for its planning effort. Moving the line to the east as far as Texas Street serves absolutely no planning function that is beneficial to our household or our neighbors. Texas Street is the aorta of North Park! Our community must maintain absolute control of this vital element of our community and assure its use does not compromise the character that the residents North Park set for our neighborhood. Having the west side of Texas Street planned by UHCA and the eastside by North Park Planning Committee (NPPC) is a recipe for disaster. And what would be the transition south of the Texas and Lincoln intersection?

Merchants and residents above Washington Street and west of Park Boulevard have traditionally played a healthy role in planning and development deliberations for North Park. That can continue under the present procedures established by the City of San Diego for our neighborhood’s planning endeavors.

But this “Balkanization” does nothing to empower the people of North Park, not even those who live in the traditional boundaries of University Heights. The NPPC has ably led our whole community in our dealings with the City of San Diego. It is very active and has a proven track record of achieving the goals of our community. We have a voice that is respected and consulted with by all levels of city government, not only because it is reasoned and articulate but because it represents such a significant number of voters in the 3rd Council District.

I, for one, do not want to give up the favorable real estate appraisals we receive because we are in the vibrant and desirable community of North Park. I do not object to the efforts of a few business owners’ attempts to concentrate their investment dollars in their own puddle as they develop a new little commercial district and to impose their own assessment district on themselves. If those “frogs” want their own little pond with sole croaking rights, that is fine by me, but, please, have them get their water elsewhere! Leave the happy residents of University Heights east of Park Boulevard in the bigger pond traditionally known as “North Park” where they already have a history of effective leadership and where those leaders listen to the residents.

I do recognize the accuracy of your observation that the University Heights Community Development Corporation has its own agenda and has aggressively pursued that agenda. It is their right to do so for the commercial properties that voluntarily enter their assessment district and want to regulate parking and maintenance assessments (actions which can easily be done without leaving the NPPC). But they are a narrow special commercial interest and do not represent me, my neighbors, or long term community planning goals for a healthy, sustainable future for North Park.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Alan Bennett





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