LIVING IN THE CITY: The Millennial Point Of View

Downtowners Gabrielle Werve and Ryan Baham met on the “internets,” work in tech and have ditched the car-dependent lifestyle
Ryan Baham and Gabrielle Werve. (Courtesy photo)

“Living In the City” is the San Diego Sun’s feature Q&A with downtown San Diego residents. It’s a way to get to know the city by meeting the people who live here. This is number 41 in an ongoing series.

(NOTE: This profile was updated on September 7, 2023.)

Names: Gabrielle Werve and Ryan Baham 

Residence: Diega (East Village/Core-Columbia) 

Personal deets: Ryan is from Tampa and has lived downtown since 2019. Gabrielle is from San Clemente and moved to North Park in 2016, migrated to South Park in 2022 and downtown in February 2023. We met in January 2022 in the traditional Millennial fashion: on the “internets.”

Work deets: Gabrielle is a program manager with six years of experience in that field. Ryan is a construction software consultant with five years of relevant experience. 

Working from home: In typical tech-worker fashion, we both work from home. Ryan’s a bit of a night owl. By the time he rolls out of bed for his first meeting Gabrielle’s already been awake for a few hours and walked the dog four or five miles. We have productive mornings, then break for lunch together before tackling separate afternoon crunch sessions. Afternoon activities: gym or yoga (Gabrielle);  bike (Ryan). Then an early evening walk together with our dog, Oli. We use that time to talk about our days and decompress. 

Pets: Our dog Oli is a Tijuana rescue. She’s the happiest dog you’ll ever meet. Oli is a Shepherd/Chow/Samoyed mix so she gets a lot of attention with her fluffy tail and generally elegant appearance. That said, she is a true silly goose and cannot help but charm everyone she meets with her cheeky personality. We delight in her sweet, playful nature and all her quirks. 

Silly, charming and sweet Oli. (Courtesy photo)

Surgery Recover: About three months ago, Ryan suffered a stroke. He lost part of the vision in his right eye. It was the result of a congenital heart disease involving a bad valve and the development of a large aneurysm in his ascending aorta. That got him on Scripps’ calendar for open-heart surgery to replace the valve with an On-X mechanical valve and a new ascending aorta. The surgery was performed by Dr. Sam Baradarian in La Jolla. Gabrielle and friends filled up the visiting hours for a week, helping Ryan walk and breathe before coming back home.

Recovering in downtown has been great because there’s always somewhere worthwhile to walk. It’s easy to meet daily walking goals when the cafes, pharmacies (they’re really important these days), stores and views are just a few blocks away in every direction. The commercial-quality gym in our building has also been really helpful for doing all the physical therapy exercises and super-light weight lifting.

Gabrielle’s more or less been able to maintain her work schedule with some days off and asynchronous catch-up while Ryan’s treating his time off like a sabbatical, catching up on business books and working on professional certificates. Much of the remaining time has been spent entertaining guests who’ve come from around the region, and country, to check on Ryan. Strangely, aside from the emotional sting of a
long-distance road cyclist getting knocked down to the point of wheezing and whining to get up a single flight of stairs, it’s been a great and fun recovery together.

Ryan’s scar from open-heart surgery. (Courtesy photo)

Why move downtown: To be close to Balboa Park and the trolley. We were looking to ditch the car-dependent life and be in a walkable neighborhood with grocery stores, restaurants, Balboa and the rest a short walk away. 

Worst aspects of living downtown: Loud, aggressive drivers who don’t follow driving laws or etiquette. Gabrielle’s family lost a childhood friend to a drunk driver. Her cousin was hit by a negligent driver while walking in a crosswalk in Normal Heights during the pandemic. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and her neighbor’s dog (that she was walking) died. We’re very aware of the threats facing pedestrians. This issue is exacerbated by downtown sidewalk encampments that force pedestrians to walk into the street–when cars, pedicabs and e-bikes are buzzing right by you. The other obvious downside of downtown living is the piss and shit on the sidewalk. It’s inescapable. 

Best part about your location: Diega is new and the amenities are great. Our gym is nicer than any gym where we’ve had memberships. The apartment itself is very nice and updated. 

Worst part about your location: There are some really loud fraternity/sorority-like parties at the pool in the summer. As two low-key, bookish people, that has us reconsidering renewing our lease. We’d feel better about renewing if we saw management doing a better job of enforcing the existing rules.

Diega by Bosa apartments. (Facebook)

Places to avoid: We generally avoided the Gaslamp Quarter. But now that the Promenade is there (and much of Fifth Avenue is blocked to traffic) the area seems safer and more walkable. We’re hoping to see more bookshops and coffee shops open up there. 

Parking advice: Park in another neighborhood and enjoy a short walk. Or, try our transit system. 

Scariest moment(s): Over a three-year period there were multiple shootings outside Ryan’s old apartment on Park Boulevard. 

Podcasts: We listen to Up First, Freeway Exit, The Daily, CNN 5 Things, Freakonomics, Marketplace, BBC Global News, The World in Brief, Babbage, Consider This, Radiolab (mostly older seasons with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich), Ologies, Harmontown, Hidden Brain, and Death, Sex, and Money

Transportation breakdown: 90% walking. 10% driving or Uber for specific errands or events. Otherwise, we use public transit whenever possible or convenient. 

Dinner spot: Thotsakan, a Thai spot near our house. It’s delicious and just around the corner for nights when we’re too tired to cook. We’re both vegetarian and have been impressed with the spicy eggplant and drunken noodles. 

Lunch place: Since we both work from home, The Sammich House Deli & Juice Bar. It’s across the street from our building. Mary, the owner, always hooks us up with a quick grab-and-go lunch. Our go-to order is some variation of a veggie panini and a green smoothie. Tip: If you go for lunch, plan to beat the lunch crowd from all of the other nearby residents and office workers.

The Sammich House.

Homelessness: It’s a bummer that so many people unaffected by homelessness can be so callous and cruel about it. We might choose certain streets to avoid on a given day and obviously need to wash our shoes and hands and wipe our dog’s feet, but it’s mostly a sad situation to see for us. We try to hand food off or buy people basic things when they ask us. We frequently donate to causes, but it’s not much in the face of this massive structural health and housing affordability crisis. 

Mayor Todd Gloria: It’s difficult to determine politicians’ performance during their tenure, especially early on. Gloria’s been in office for a few years and the results might not come in for a few years. Generally, he’s been right-headed on the need to push for higher density, affordability, and walkability in the core neighborhoods. Advice: Keep pushing on the middle and affordable housing in our downtown and old streetcar neighborhoods. People would love to live, work, play, shop and raise kids all in their own neighborhoods while ditching cars to walk, bike or take a quick bus trip to get around. You know, like in a real town, not a pop-up. 

District 3 City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn: As with the mayor, it’s difficult to understand the impact of politicians’ votes and advocacy. Whitburn’s highest profile action so far has been the Unsafe Camping Ordinance, which falls into the wider-lens category. It’s a wicked social problem with no easy answers and critics on every side — and we’re critical of every action (or inaction) we hear too. Like the advice to Mayor Gloria, significant focus should be given to creating middle- and lower-income housing in walkable, vibrant, welcoming neighborhoods. The American dream shouldn’t be to pay less than 50% of your income for substandard housing or to get your commute under an hour. 

Gabrielle and Ryan: Pondering how to make downtown a better place? (Courtesy photo)

We suggest:  These ideas would make downtown a better place:

● Parks, squares, and other public spaces should be integrated into neighborhoods. 

● More pedestrian plazas where we can support local businesses and walk unencumbered by cars, scooters, or pedicabs. (Think Piazza della Famiglias in every neighborhood) 

● An increased mix of housing options for various income levels, ensuring that downtown San Diego remains accessible to everyone. 

● More grocery stores! We dream of having a Trader Joe’s, an H Mart or 99 Ranch Market downtown. 

● More festivals, fairs and maker’s markets. 

Parting advice: Work hard to create your local social network and make an effort to get out and see them. Don’t underestimate how fun group picnics can be. Try to walk as much as you can. Leave your shoes by the door after walking in the city.  SDSun 


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