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Stories by Thomas Larson

Sorrento Valley lacks stickiness

In August 2018, many of us were aghast at a news story, summed up in the Union-Tribune’s webby headline, “Three dead in wrong-way I-805 crash in Sorrento Valley that shut down freeway for 6 hours.” ...

November 21, 2018
Little Italy’s big — massive redevelopment

The Little Italy I love has always been its sumptuous food and sensual people, both of which, despite the nouveau riche takeover of late, remain as present and prosperous as ever. That Little Italy is ...

January 17, 2018
Downtown San Diego's C Street: the manifestation of our vitality and gloom

It’s decision day in the city-council chambers, Two Broke Girls vs. Billions. Call it a classic smackdown between local architectural preservationists who want to save any Spanish Colonial Revival building (and think someone should pay) ...

San Diego’s top 12 philanthropists

San Diego’s richest person is someone I’ve never heard of: Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer. The Rancho Santa Fe resident owns a 7 percent stake in the family business, Cargill, a purveyor of grain and agricultural commodities ...

April 19, 2017
The oldest things in San Diego

Cemetery The thing about the dead that haunts us, in addition to having lost them, is that they are here, in the ground, buried or scattered, bones or ash. Their remains are marked, heralded, and ...

August 31, 2016
Noisy Margaret Noble seeks friend not foe

Every scene in a drama, according to the late director Mike Nichols, is either a fight, a seduction, or a negotiation. He added, as a footnote, the same is true in life. The thrill, or ...

The photo is not the boss of Kim Reasor

No one ogles the industrial vistas of Southern California. Those unsightly realms where giant cranes stipple the skyline. Where ship containers are stacked unemptied of their new Curvy Barbie dolls for Walmart. Where thickets of ...

June 1, 2016
Between words and images

Now open at Cedar and Kettner downtown is yet another San Diego monument to the commute: a $24 million, trolley-side, ten-story (three levels below ground, seven above), 645-space parking structure, bestowing parking slots on County ...

February 3, 2016
I don’t know why I’m a musician, because I don’t really care about music

Joe Garrison is a musical survivalist. The 64-year-old jazz and new music composer has shaped his artistic life to favor more beginnings than ends. Like his hero, Igor Stravinsky, he’s learned that to reinvent himself ...

December 23, 2015
Before 16, Sherry Sotelo became adult in San Diego's juvenile court

Emancipation is designed to support kids, not to relieve parents.

July 22, 2015
Defibrillators spread around San Diego

Dr. Ken Anderson, the affable owner of Pacific Beach’s Anderson Medical Clinic, has his hands folded, fingers interlaced, on his desk. He’s remembering the date, September 26, 2010. That day, the temperature over 100 degrees ...

April 1, 2015
Printers that can make (almost) anything

I have always thought that among humankind’s most lofty inventions is the printer — the machine, not the person.

January 28, 2015
San Diego’s most polluted areas

Urban drool seems to be the least of our problems.

San Diego reservoirs at record lows

How dry is it? Dry, dry, dry, dry, dry.

August 20, 2014
Contrary to popular wisdom, drones are already among — or above — San Diegans

I want to believe that when we talk about drones — also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned aerial systems — whose bodies vary from pterodactyl-big to mosquito-small (the Robobee, a robotic insect, weighs ...

February 5, 2014
The freeway struggle from Fallbrook – why migrants want that legal status

In California, legal noncitizens are 10 percent of the population.

December 31, 2013
Hugh Tech High alum Nico D’Amico-Barbour says no thanks to college

Young guys explain why they are passing on going to college. Absurd expense and subsequent debt is one reason, but even a young man from a well-off family sees other deterrents.

Curious objects from San Diego's past

San Diego's curios — each with their own separate stories.

January 30, 2013
Escondido maintenance man loses home to foreclosure defrauders

At least 550 Southern California homeowners have been victimized by the Zepeda brothers — their scheme to rake in foreclosure funds.

June 27, 2012
Kent Keigwin tases and strangles friend John Watson in La Jolla

It was March 2009 when the British-born siblings Gillian Ison and John Graham Watson met at Zermatt, a resort in the shadow of Switzerland’s Matterhorn. There, with family members, they indulged a passion for skiing: ...

February 22, 2012
Stars gas station owner gets employees to burn his Ramona house

John Nesheiwat was parked in his car, a rosary on the seat beside him, about a mile from the North Woodson Drive rental home owned by James Kurtenbach, a 4000-square-foot luxury house in one of ...

October 5, 2011
Is He a Citizen?

On Sixth Avenue, across the street from the block-long Family Court building, stands a row of converted single-family Victorian homes, their yards parking lots, their windows barred. Today those residencies are family-mediation agencies and immigration ...

September 21, 2011
Driving after midnight in Poway, you will be stopped

"Basically,” says Aaron Meleen, a deputy sheriff traffic investigator working the night shift in Poway, “we don’t have much going on right now.” It’s a Monday evening, the onset of his 12½-hour shift, and we’re ...

August 3, 2011
Russian boars let loose on Capitan Grande Indian Reservation

The only sign of life in Julian at 5:00 a.m. this April morning are men in white paper toques rolling out pie dough at the bright-lighted Julian Bakery. It’s a deep black morning when I ...

August 4, 2010
The death and attempted suicide of Ginger and Frank Bass

When Ginger Bass filed for divorce from her husband Frank in November 2007, she hoped he would not contest the dissolution. She offered to buy out his interest in their Lakeside home so both could ...

June 2, 2010
After the Music Died

No Art Left BehindDespite a maddening mix of fact and fiction about music and our children’s interest in it, local music education is thrumming along. In the past six years, San Diego Unified School District ...

March 31, 2010
Nonprofits Nonplussed

At the Bayside Community Center in Linda Vista, things are humming along as they have since the center was founded in 1932 as a settlement house for families of Italian and Portuguese fishermen. Having moved ...

December 30, 2009
Ex pros in San Diego: Ron Mix, Todd Washington, Eddie George, Matt Birk, Lamond Murray Geoff Miller

If ever there were a San Diego Charger whose postcareer success has matched his years spent on the field, it’s the great Ron Mix. Mix’s glory years came in the 1960s, when the Chargers were ...

November 4, 2009
San Diego City Council chiefs of staff

The tenth floor of San Diego city hall is like a submarine in the sky. Behind sealed windows and an electronic-buttoned security door are the cramped offices of eight councilmembers, who themselves are sardined in ...

September 2, 2009
Why is Palomar Pomerado Health advertising?

Many of us watched the Chargers’ season-ending run this past winter and, amid the cheers and groans, saw a 30-second TV ad starring LaDainian Tomlinson. Well-dressed and calm, he’s holding a postgame news conference. A ...

June 24, 2009
Abortionist Bertha Bugarin heads to jail

In October 2007, Michael Varga, a police officer assigned to the Chula Vista Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit, began interviewing women about the abortions they had received at a local clinic, Clinica Medica para la ...

February 18, 2009
Chris Cantore and Hilary Chambers leave San Diego Clear Channel stations

If San Diego has a voice, it may be the plummy bass of Chris Cantore. Until December 2007, the Brooklyn native was an audible fixture on 91X’s Cantore in the Morning, his 5:00–10:00 a.m. show, ...

December 30, 2008
San Diego prison bureaucracies deny basic medical care

Francisco Castaneda came to the United States from El Salvador during its civil war of the 1980s. Fleeing the violence, his mother crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in 1982 with Francisco, aged 10, and his ...

December 10, 2008
San Diego women who kill the ones they love

In each of the last three years, there were roughly 17,000 murders in the United States. Of these, about 11 percent were committed by women. In most cases women kill to defend themselves during a ...

July 2, 2008
How UCSD Spent Over $500,000 on a Home Remodel That Never Happened

Perhaps the most prized piece of real estate throughout the University of California, San Diego, is the seven-acre site of University House, home to the UCSD chancellor. The rambling adobe home, with its row of ...

April 30, 2008
San Diego's highest paid executives

Salaries, stock options, corporate jets, limousines, interest-free loans, trust funds.

December 27, 2007
Sad San Diego foreclosures and how we got there.

Mario is a recent immigrant from Mexico, and he's typical of homeowners facing foreclosure. He doesn't want me to use his surname; he's ashamed of getting behind on his payments. He thinks he's been irresponsible, ...

23 Reader writers describe the regime of editor Judith Moore

Busy Fingers Are Happy Fingers — Joe Deegan Mother Reader — Barbarella Build Your Writing Muscles — Ollie Let the Tape Recorder Do the Work — Matthew Lickona Faith — Abe Opincar Make Something Better ...

"It's a Good Story for You"

Though she was my editor, I never met Judith. I knew her instead via calls and e-mail. When she phoned, there'd be that throaty alto, so sure, so self-possessed. I'd grab a pen, and she'd ...

August 16, 2007
San Diego's world of the nose: coffee, spices, cow manure, perfume

Andrea Kane is new to San Diego: the Navy has stationed her husband here, and they've landed in Imperial Beach. While he serves, she's become an aromatherapist and a perfumer. Locally, she's already making a ...

May 10, 2007
San Diego markets favor shipped food

“Often, you’ll see that a tomato picked in Oceanside is shipped to L.A., then turns right around and comes back to San Diego. Happens every day. That’s how the distribution system works.”

March 8, 2007
San Diego gurus of success: Tony Robbins, Tony Alessandra, Rick Barrera, Ken Blanchard, Scott McKain, Brian Tracy, Jim Cathcart, Denis Waitley

If you've walked the concourse at Lindbergh Field, on the way to baggage claim you may have noticed the wall-mounted advertisement, "Welcome to San Diego — Home of 7 of the nation's top professional speakers": ...

December 28, 2006
Voice & Viewpoint publisher William Thompson' murder – what did it tell about San Diego's black homosexual underground?

In September 2003, Brian Burritt rode the elevator down to the basement of the San Diego Police Department where the "murder books," the binders of the department's cold cases, many decades old, are kept in ...

October 12, 2006
Indian-American Barry Lall left secure doctor's job at Kaiser for a small Coronado motel

One Sunday in November 1989, Barry Lall, an Indian-American doctor, was driving over the Coronado Bridge with his wife Hema, their four-year-old son Arjun, Lall's father and mother, and a real estate broker. They were ...

June 29, 2006
Eye-candy but dull history textbooks restrained by California's rules

During the 2005-2006 school year, 8250 tenth graders in the San Diego Unified School District were enrolled in World History 1 and 2. The students focused on world history in modern times, roughly from the ...

June 22, 2006
San Diego’s toilet, sewer cleaners, debt collectors, and those who fire employees

At 6 a.m., Ramon Salazar is readying to leave the vehicle yard of Spanky's Portable Services in Escondido. It's Monday, and Mondays are rough. "Man, I needed an hour more sleep." He yawns. He climbs ...

April 27, 2006
He Never Displayed Any Meanness

Up there in the pantheon of California's 1990s financial swindlers is Donald Marquis Bickerstaff. Bickerstaff was charged in 1997 with a Ponzi scheme involving 75 investors, the majority women, in San Diego and Marin counties. ...

September 29, 2005
San Diego newspapers Union, Sun, Labor Leader on Sacco and Vanzetti

“He say goodbye to his wife, he say goodbye to his friends, he say goodbye to his children. He say, ‘Long Live Anarchy!’”

August 18, 2005
Forth From My Pioneer Speakers

The summer of 1976, PBS broadcast The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard by Leonard Bernstein. Each week Bernstein explained the structure and the meaning of music as well as the crisis of harmony composers ...

August 11, 2005
San Diego's bankruptcy court at the Wyndham Hotel

Every weekday, in a small room on the sixth floor of the Wyndham San Diego Hotel at Emerald Plaza, dozens of people come to close the book on their personal bankruptcies. Today eight debtors have ...

May 12, 2005

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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