06.05.22: Train station exit

For years, San Diego was one of my favorite cities to visit on business trips. It was clean and walkable. But I was surprised how much the city had changed in the six years since my last visit. 

Three of my favorite things come together

When I’m walking through a city with my camera there are three things that draw me like a magnet: train stations, indoor locations with large windows to provide natural lighting, and arched passageways.

With the Santa Fe Depot, San Diego’s train station, I hit the trifecta.

We were visiting San Diego in 2018 and I had some free time to chase photos one afternoon. I saw the train station, walked in and took a look around.

When I looked back at the doors I had entered I saw how the daylight through the windows was providing beautiful natural lighting. And I really liked the arched doors beneath a very large arched window.

So I grabbed the shot.

For years, San Diego was one of my favorite cities to visit on business trips. It was clean and walkable. But I was surprised how much the city had changed in the six years since my last visit. It still had the nice weather, but much of the “clean and walkable” description no longer applied.

First, the city had been invaded by rental electric scooters from a variety of companies. People could download an app, find a scooter location and rent it on the spot and pay for the amount of time used. That sounds great … until you consider where the scooters are left when the rider is finished. The sidewalks are filled with scooters that had been discarded. When we weren’t dodging people riding scooters we were stepping over discarded scooters. It made walking from point to point difficult.

Second, the homeless problem in San Diego has exploded like it has in many other California cities. We saw people sleeping on sidewalks or in temporary cardboard structures leaning against buildings throughout the downtown area and along the bay.

An example: We had a dinner reservation at a nice restaurant, but when we arrived there was a man asleep in a ragged sleeping bag on the sidewalk outside the restaurant entrance. The only way to reach the entrance was to step over him.

I asked the restaurant manager if he had contacted city authorities to have the man moved. His facial expression showed frustration, then he told me the story. Every day for a couple of weeks the man would arrive right before dinner time and take his place on the sidewalk, then fall asleep. The manager had contacted the police as well as city officials and had been told there was nothing they could do because the man was within his rights to sleep on the sidewalk in that spot. It was public property.

The manager said he was running a small business with about 30 employees on his payroll, paying city and state taxes (which are high in California), but had to watch as potential customers bypassed the entrance to his restaurant because a homeless person was sleeping on the sidewalk and blocking access to his business.

He shook his head and said, “You know, it’s really frustrating that his rights seem to outweigh my rights as a tax-paying business owner, but that’s the position the city has taken.”

I’m not a public policy expert, but it seems taking the “he has a right to sleep there” position does nothing to address the plight of the homeless.

Then there was our hotel, a nice Marriott property, that was selected as a target for a work stoppage by the national hotel workers union. Picketers stood outside the entrance day and night, blocking access and chanting. San Diego police were there to be sure nothing escalated but because the sidewalk was public property the picketers were within their rights to stand right outside the door.

San Diego used to be one of my favorite cities to visit, but after the 2018 visit I’m in no hurry to return.

Arched windows and doors mark the exit from the Santa Fe Depot, the train station in San Diego.

Arched windows and doors mark the exit from the Santa Fe Depot, the train station in San Diego.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Oct 5, 2018 1:00 PM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF-S10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM 
  • Focal length: 10mm
  • Aperture: f/4.5
  • Shutter: 1/1000 second
  • ISO: 640

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