Everyone does a people-to-watch round-up. But who do know that does a people-, places- and things-to-watch round-up, hmm? Following is a by-no-means-comprehensive, kind-of-off-the-tops-of-our-heads look at some of the stuff-n-things (from politics to art to music) that got our attention in 2008 and that we think will pique everyone's interest in 2009.
Jerry Sanders—With no reelection on the horizon and serious problems to solve, is the San Diego mayor ready to lead? Keep an eye on him to see if that's a roadmap he's holding, or a hanky to mop his sweaty brow.
Carl DeMaio—The new San Diego City Council member is just funny. Watch him in action—you won't regret it.
Sherri Lightner—Another new San Diego City Council member, she's already shown some maverick-y tendencies by supporting Donna Frye for council president and hiring a staff devoid of the usual City Hall suspects. The big question is: Will she be relegated to noisy opposition status like Frye, or will she do a better job than her more senior colleague of convincing others to see things her way.
Ron Roberts—With Donna Frye waiting for her chance to challenge Roberts in 2010, Republicans are pressuring the county supervisor to step down early and give his replacement time to build the power of incumbency prior to a major clash with Frye.
Bob Kittle—With the Union-Tribune on the verge being bought, time will tell if Kittle, the paper's conservative editorial-page editor and San Diego's longtime political agenda-setter, will be seen in the paper's opinion section or the unemployment line.
Norv Turner—Sure, the Chargers coach just made the playoffs, but shouldn't this team be better? Count us among those who miss Marty Schottenheimer's fundamentally sound Bolts teams over the Norv Turner Heart Attacks.
Sandy Alderson—The Padres CEO put together a roster that lost 99 games last year and hasn't done anything to improve the team amid payroll slashing amid a rumored sale to former agent Jeff Moorad. At the same time, Alderson and GM Kevin Towers failed to rebuild with youth this winter by trading superstar Jake Peavy. How long will Padres fans cope with a crappy team? Will taxpayers mutiny after financing Petco Park?
James Fowler—The UCSD political science professor's research on how genes influence political participation has been featured on The Colbert Report, Good Morning America and practically everywhere else. But nothing says “smarty pants” like being blurbed (along with colleague Christopher Dawes) in The New York Times Magazine's Year in Ideas issue. Is there a Wired cover in Fowler's future?
James Brown—Through the prestigious Harvard Graduate School of Design Loeb Fellowship 2009, the local architect is spending a year of study with nine other mid-career architects, artists and designers chosen from an international pool. He's focusing on border issues, and by the time he gets back to Public Architecture, the firm he co-owns with James Gates, they'll likely have some interesting new projects planned.
Sean and Stacy Kelley—The married duo, with the help of their partner, Jeff Faeth, are behind the roving, “nomadic” art shows of Sanctuary 143 and are setting up shop all over the city. They also recently launched a podcast that features mixtapes from local arts leaders.
Lynda Forsha—The former curator for MCASD was hand-selected to head up the new private Gagosian Gallery in La Jolla, and with national collectors on speed dial, we expect she'll be getting local artists a lot more national attention (and some much-deserved money).
The Soft Pack—The band formerly known as The Muslims has a residency in England and fans in local music legend John Reis and taste-making mags NME and Vice, so this is the year that San Diego music will no longer be synonymous with pop-punk and beach bros with guitars.
Chula Vista Bay Front—If the California Independent System Operator doesn't allow the closure of a waterfront power plant, the Chargers will have lost out on their last palatable location for a new stadium. Will this be the signal that they're ready to move to L.A.?
Lower Florida Street (North Park)—We suspect this portion of road is paved with some combination of black sand and Elmer's Glue. Watch for sinkholes.
The three half-built towers on Sixth Avenue in Hillcrest—When you see hard hats again, the economy must be improving.
South Park—If you haven't driven past Juniper Street lately, now would be a good time. It seems like something new is opening every day, whether it's a bike shop (Velo Culture) or eateries (El Camino and the upcoming Station Burger), the neighborhood is progressing without losing its independent, left-of-center vibe. And with tons of retail space available on Fern and 30th, we foresee more to come—recession be damned.
UCSD's music venues—The state-of-the-art Conrad Prebys Music Center is set to open in the spring with a 400-seat concert hall and a top-of-the-line digital recording studio. Meanwhile, The Loft is continuing to book great bands that would have otherwise played in places like Beauty Bar and The Casbah.
The Lux Art Institute—Lux recently purchased an adjacent piece of land that once was a daycare center and plans to use it to house expanded educational programs for schoolchildren. And with an expansion of the Institute and shows by some of art's biggest and brightest, Encinitas may be the next culture destination.
Community @ Martin Building kknd Flats—Owners LWP Group have equipped the hipster-targeted Bankers Hill residential development with free wi-fi in common areas, a revolving public art installation, a community garden, communal bikes and reusable grocery bags, monthly cultural happenings and more. Plans to spread the “Community” brand to other developments are in the works.
Alan Gin's Index of Leading Economic Indicators—Each month since 2002, the University of San Diego economics professor's taken the temperature of the local economy. If / when things start to perk up, Gin will spot it first: home.sandiego.edu/~agin/usdlei.
The Lines at City Offices—Budget cuts forced Mayor Jerry Sanders to fire a lot of staff. If that permit you applied for seems to be taking an extra month to get processed, you know why.
The Seals at Children's Pool—Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre used every foot-dragging trick in the book to save the seals. Will City Attorney Jan Goldsmith demonstrate an affinity for the pinnipeds, or should the seals head for friendlier shores?
The Municipal Unions—All five city unions, representing the cops, firefighters, attorneys, blue collars and white collars, are scheduled for new-contract negotiations this spring. With the city an estimated $54 million short for fiscal year 2010, will labor be part of the solution?
Eucalyptus trees—Not that glamorous, sure, but the Australian red gum lerp psyllid insect is killing these already shallow-rooted trees softly. And with removal of dead trees costing in the thousands and San Diego in the red, we don't expect this to be at the top of the city's budget priorities. That means lots of dead trees falling on canyon-adjacent homes in the future. Look out!
Aprovado magazine—Oceanside-based photographer Zach Cordner is launching this new 'zine that will combine auto, urban streetwear and action sports, but from a design-minded, artistic perspective.
Comic-Con—Pow! Hard to believe, but the ultimate nerd-fest is turning the big 4-0. Wonder Woman started dating the Boy Wonder and Batman traded in the old 'mobile for a shiny red 'Vette when they hit middle age. What tricks will Comic-Con have up its sleeve?
David Copley's Yacht—It's called “Happy Days,” and you can track it on www.yachtfinder.com. We doubt many other big-city daily newspaper publishers are puttering around St. Barts right now.
The LGBT community—The strength-in-numbers protests that followed the passage of Prop. 8 reminds us of Gandhi's famous quote: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith will champion another ferret-legalization law, arguing that the lithe critters can fill vacant city jobs. Replace low-shelved library books? Check! Clean out clogged municipal sewers and storm drains (wearing special ferret-sized protective gear, of course). Check! Spy on former City Attorney Mike Aguirre's house? Check and double check!
Home prices will be upside down by year's end, with owners offering free sets of steak knives to anyone willing to take the damned deeds off their hands.
Jesus will appear on a tortilla in San Ysidro, but it will be kidnapped by a Tijuana drug cartel. The Rock Church in Point Loma will pay $4 million to free the tortilla, but the cartel will accidentally deliver the tortilla to the Trader Joe's next door to The Rock. The holy tortilla will then be sold to a guy named Rick, made into a quesadilla and enjoyed with a glass of Two Buck Chuck, exactly as Jesus intended.
With attendance at Petco Park down and commercial projects teetering all around, expect the city's $26.8 million-and-counting Harbor Drive footbridge project to become Mayor Jerry Sanders' very own Bridge to Nowhere.
Shut out of the Obama infrastructure stimulus package, Mayor Jerry Sanders will team with City Councilmembers Kevin Faulconer, Tony Young and Todd Gloria on a major proposal to close off Sixth Avenue, 30th Street and Fairmount Avenue to auto traffic and instead shuttle people north and south via a ski-lift-like system.
A man will enter a Starbucks in San Diego, choose a Caramel Frappuccino from the menu, get in line, place his order and, while waiting for his coffee beverage, momentarily forget what city he's in.
Your Internet and cell phone usage will double. By the end of the year, you'll speak in text and chat abbreviations, using terms like “BRB” (be right back), “BTW” (by the way) and even “HOAS” (hang on a sec) in real-world conversations.
In response to the worsening economic downturn, Casbah owner Tim Mays will open a make-your-own-soup kitchen and live-music hangout for unemployed hipsters. Called The Grapes of Wrath Lounge, this retro-Depression-themed DIY venue will feature deco-industrial hobo camp decor, cheap homemade stews and wines and fuzzed-out psychedelic versions of Woody Guthrie songs, all of it prepared and performed by you and your friends.
Downtown's über-hot clubs (Stingaree, Envy at The Ivy) will finally realize San Diego is not like L.A. and Miami and start treating customers to more than $10 dollar well drinks. Adapt or die.