Transforming San Diego

Cars and I have never gotten along.

For one, we got off on the wrong foot. Until I got a car when I was 17, my urban Los Angeles childhood was functionally suburban. Although I grew up in the beating heart of a huge city, there was no way to experience it since I was more or less confined to the quiet residential streets where I lived.

The joy of finally having a car was tempered by my great nemesis: traffic, which still inspires me to poetic heights of profanity. Sitting miserably in traffic, I can feel the precious moments of my one & only lifetime slipping away in the most banal manner possible.

But what’s ultimately most aggravating to me about cars is that they’re totally unnecessary. There is no good reason why our cities should have cars and plenty of good reasons why they shouldn’t.

In 2008, the World Heath Organisation estimated that between the years 2000-2015, car accidents around the world would kill 20 million people and cause 200 million serious injuries. Cars, of course, also spew loads of pollution, which also kills people and causes all manner of health & environmental problems. That’s a lot of death and suffering for a transportation system that sucks to use.

Cars also make our cities much less interesting places to live. The density of cities like New York and San Francisco—which are far less car-dependent than San Diego—is precisely what makes them more vital and creative; sprawl is fundamentally stultifying.

Sprawl also chews up an insane amount of land, which should be criminal in a bioregion as singularly gorgeous as San Diego. Consider that one thousand people could comfortably live in a car-free town the size of an average commuter parking lot (with ample open space in the heart of it).

Modern Times exists to make extraordinary beer. But it’s also an actor in the life of this city. It has a responsibility to shape its own environment, to constructively engage with the city upon which it relies. One of the ways it will do that is by helping to transform San Diego into a better, more livable place.

San Diego should look like this:

Los Angeles (!)

And like this:


And like this:

Caddaques, Spain

If that seems far-fetched, it shouldn’t. There’s no reason why San Diego can’t look like those pictures; it’s simply a matter of creating the will to transform strip malls and auto parks into human-scale buildings and car-free streets.

But’s it not just that San Diego should be the most gorgeous, walkable, sustainable city in the world; it should also preserve the unbelievably beautiful land that surrounds it. Due to an absence of vision and an excess of greed and laziness, huge swaths of San Diego County’s almost unimaginably stunning and irreplaceable land has been converted into a sea of asphalt.

This is what San Diego looks like without sprawl:

Laguna Mountains

And like this:

Mount Woodson

And this:


We should save as much of what remains as we can.

So that will be one of the social missions of Modern Times. If you think you can help, get in touch. Obviously we’re not going to be giving away cash anytime soon, but we’ll do what we can to leverage our beer and our space and our voice to help.

If you’re interested in learning more about the problematic history of cars, what the alternative might look like, what you can do to help locally, and who you can give your money to, just follow the links.



Fri, 03/15/2013 - 08:45

Yes, I really like what you have to say. BUT...Do you belong to any of the Community Planning Groups? You attend the meetings? Do you advocate for higher density? For lower parking regulations in front of your businesses? For affordable housing? For better and more mass transit? Do you the know the name of the city planner of your community? do u work for community "buy in" for your proposed changes? Do you talk to developers and Real Estate people who have vested interests?

Do that and then get back to me.

Emily Brown

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 11:21

Given explanation seems like your journey of having and buying a car was really memorable and amazing. And yes I am interested in learning more about of the problematic history of cars, and the alternative might look like. Thus I will like to keep visit given link also share it with automobile engineering students whom I am serving dissertation writing help with pass guarantee at Dissertation Help in UK, as I know how they all are crazy for car.


Fri, 03/15/2013 - 03:07

Congratulations and welcome to a new beginning.

We're obviously working on transforming San Diego by redesigning it to be more livable and more of a place where people can be neighborly and functional, civic members of society - a city where many just happen to get around by bicycle :)

Modern Times

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 03:09

You guys are doing great work. Let's talk about what Modern Times can do to help.

Liz Malloy

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 02:28

Well how 'bout that. Oddly enough, know a person quoted in that article.


Fri, 03/15/2013 - 01:03

Come up to LA for the CicLavia, April 21st: and see how it's done. Maybe you can organize one in San Diego.

Modern Times

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 01:13

I think it's a false dichotomy. Here's a sentence that I edited out of the post for length: "The irony of density & pedestrian access is they're often ignored because they're low-tech. Politicians and urban planners prefer shiny objects like subways, busways, HOV lanes, and other enormously expensive solutions to the simple problem of people living too far apart."

So no, I don't think we should throw good money after bad. Our streets need to be completely redesigned and rebuilt. I groan every time I see local politicians cheering on a repaving job. It's money that would be far better spent transforming our infrastructure rather than maintaining a failed infrastructure.


Sat, 03/16/2013 - 07:27

Good Morning Modern Time,

Great post. Great initiative. Great insight (everyone else).

We're here at your disposal as well. The 1:1 Movement works to create the cleanest, greenest, healthiest, and most vibrant (culturally as well as economically) San Diego possible through positive bottom-up, top-down educational programs and corporate support. In other words, we're rebranding and demystifying the term "sustainability" in efforts of including everyone in the conversation.

Let's chat.


Fri, 03/15/2013 - 10:39

Wow, I've been following along because of the beer (and this is better than any reality TV) but this is fantastic, thanks for sharing. My day job involves pushing for much of what you are preaching, smart growth, better/mixed land use, more transportation options etc.

The new Anchor brewery should be an interesting look at brewing in a very urban setting, mixing with other uses etc while still maintaining a large manufacturing facility.

Modern Times

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 10:42

Thanks AJ! Glad to hear you're on-board; we need more people like you pushing to make it happen. I spent 6 months looking for a site as close to the heart of the city as possible. I hope we see a trend of breweries moving closer to the center and being a part of the urban fabric.


Fri, 03/15/2013 - 10:56

Amazing thing is there used to be a trolley that ran directly up Park Avenue. Where the heck did that go? How much better connected would this town be if that were still in place? What about creating a car-free roads between Downtown and Hillcrest? New age businesses would clamor for those areas, from bike shops to breweries to bars and restaurants. Make it happen Filner!

Mike Beebe

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 10:57

Some of the better beer spots around town offer small discounts for patrons who ride that could be an enticement for the tasting room. Given your proximity to the Old Town Transit Center maybe offer the same for mass trans riders. Be green, get beer. Win, win. Just a thought.

Modern Times

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 11:28

Agreed all around. I've met with Mayor Filner and he's very much on board. But he can't do it alone. He needs San Diego voters to help create the political will with the city council and the board of supervisors and the various bureaucracies that govern San Diego transportation. We finally have a mayor that's committed to reducing our car dependence; we just need to help him achieve it.

Modern Times

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 11:29

I've seen that and I think it's a cool program, but I have something of a moral objection to discounts. So we're going to find a bunch of other fun ways to support folks who walk, or take transit, or ride their bike. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I was really impressed by East End's annual bike ride. That's something I'd love to replicate.

Liz Malloy

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 11:45

Kickstarter to get a more extensive trolley system in San Diego? (Kidding .... Kind of). Mass public transit is probably the thing I miss most about the East coast, aside from family, friends and all the mushy stuff.

David Lizerbram

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 12:14

"Puts on Omar Passons mask" One of the issues here is the city's vast amount of deferred maintenance. Should we put our energy and $$ behind sexy new transportation options or focus on repairing the streets and the ancient, decaying infrastructure beneath them?

In some cases that's a false choice - throwing money at streets reinforces a century of questionable decisionmaking - but at the moment, the roads, bridges, water lines, etc. do need to be maintained. Not only for safety reasons, but because deferring maintenance ends up costing more in the long run.

So, I guess all we need is a comprehensive, progressive, short-medium-long-term plan that makes sense and that we can afford and that includes all the stakeholders from A to Z and that everyone thinks is totally cool!

Cervezeros cra…

Sun, 03/17/2013 - 04:11

[...] Transforming San Diego if you think the liquid poetry and social catalyst of good beer can have anything to do with [...]

Robin Barden

Sun, 03/17/2013 - 04:17

The marriage of good beer and better place thinking prompted me to blog, which doesn't happen very often:

And if you want to talk about both better places and better beer in Barcelona, you might also be interested in:

Thanks for a post that's given me a kick today.

Modern Times

Sun, 03/17/2013 - 07:31

Very cool! Lots of cool stuff on your blog. Thanks for the write-up!

Mike Strickland

Mon, 03/25/2013 - 07:22

For a posting that has virtually nothing to do with beer, this is a great read worth sharing. A related peeve is that many of this city's fine craft breweries are located in far-away industrial parks not at all conducive to public transportation -- unlike your establishment, which looks to be just a stone's throw from a trolley stop.

jo jo

Wed, 04/03/2013 - 08:33

+! to Tony. I'm so sick of all this "This is what San Diego should be" and all this blogosphere utopian BS that if you write about something and 1000 people "like" it you will succeed. One of the best things about a democracy is the opportunity for normal people to participate in the process. Not enough people are willing to spend their free time sitting through boring planning meetings and commenting on epic EIS/EIRs that come with these projects. But, these documents and meetings are very open to the public, and put some time in and you'll see return for your efforts.


Wed, 06/12/2013 - 10:01

People are reclaiming industry, by making products that are high quality and doing so as entrepreneurs. Along with this revival of American craftsmanship is the longing for community, for purpose, for dignity and a sense of place, all of which the automobile oriented sprawl destroyed.

I like that you have stepped out of the corporate mold and are taking a stand to promote healthier alternatives to the mid-late 20th C. slob urban model. And your high standards of taste, design and integrity are already making me a fan of Modern Times Beer.


Wed, 10/03/2018 - 09:49


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alex juvion

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 10:53

There are lots of death and suffering for a transportation system and also spew loads of pollution, which also kills persons and reasons all manner of health & environmental problems. So it’s our duty to make our cities interesting and clean to live.

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