That's What SHE Said: Let’s Conquer Walkability

Food for thought...

Picture it: You are an expert from General Atomics and need to get to a meeting on campus at UC San Diego. Instead of skipping the meeting because, as we all know, parking on campus sucks, you walk out of your building to the shared bike station, punch in your membership code, hop on a bike and head to campus. Or you are a scientist at the Consortium who commutes back and forth to the VA. You rush out of the lab, hop on a bike, and drop it off on campus near the Gilman Transit Plaza. Oh wait, you work up at Pfizer and want to head to the other side of the 5 for lunch at Green Acre with friends from Ilumina. Over lunch you will solve world hunger and peace while simultaneously sharing ideas on how to cure cancer. You then grab another bike from the station and head to an afternoon meeting at Human Longevity Inc. on Executive Drive before making your way back along Torrey Pines to catch a killer sunset up at Salk. Are you getting the picture? We may not have "walkability" but we can sure as hell create a culture that has "bikeability."

According to the latest "Technology Office Outlook" report by Jones Lang La Salle, which analyzes 37 metro areas, San Diego ranked number 18. (San Francisco was numero uno. Boston and Portland beat out San Diego. We did rank higher than Silicon Valley and LA.) In market "dynamism" we scored a 3 out of 14. Why so low? A lack of transit, walkability and "creative clusters" were partly to blame. With more construction on the horizon with the Mid Coast Trolley, the already horrendous traffic on the Mesa, Genesee Ave. for example, will just get worse. So let’s get away from cars. Let’s look at other modes of transport. Let’s conquer walkability. San Francisco, Boston, even LA ranked higher. Why is this so important? Because innovation occurs more frequently when people interact and share ideas! We need our brilliant minds out and about discussing, debating and collaborating. If they can’t walk to the nearest coffee shop, restaurant, pub, campus, office, lab or collaboratory to do that, they can certainly bike there.

We could easily contract an existing shared bike company that has a proven success record in other metro areas around the country or around the world. I remember seeing a ton of businessmen and women cruising on these bikes down the Paseo de La Reforma en el D.F. Mexico City. Other cities like Milan, Paris, Barcelona, Santiago, Rio, Blumenau in Southern Brazil—hey, I used to live there—already have such programs in place. I also remember my Swiss students talking about their public bicycle system. Why in the world do we not have this up on the Mesa?

We’ve got a company, DecoBike, in downtown so this is very possible, people. I shared my idea with a frequent customer and he took it one step further. "We are in the epicenter of innovation, and we are looked at as being on the other side of the horizon. So let’s make the Mesa the most talked about place to be in the city and on the globe. Let’s innovate, we are the Tomorrowland and our shared bikes can be sleek—like the Jetsons." Now, this is a guy who played a part in doling out funds to Sir Richard Branson for Virgin Galactic. We can do this.

Time to get together, hash it out and create a map of where we put these shared bike/George Jetson people movers. Let’s get our friends on the Mesa pedaling their way to success. MTS? SANDAG? You down to help?


Just Mesa'n around...

I was always taught that if you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people. Don’t think it gets any better than last night’s dinner. The world’s oldest living teenager, Denny Sanford, doctors Craig Venter, David Brenner, Tatiana Kisseleva, Catriona Jamieson, Sheldon Morris, Larry Goldstein, and Connie Holm joined my Swiss-Italiano Nico and me at the BellaV. God, the brain power at this dinner table. We had gathered to toast Denny Sanford’s upcoming birthday and celebrate friendship. Hilarious stories of an infamous trip to Rio for Carnival last year were divulged over some great Pinot. Venter shared the latest in the world of genomics and California cabs. We then got to some great discussions on the current healthcare system, Denny’s work with education and how to move our society forward by creating a more philanthropic culture. Brain power! I do believe in osmosis. I do believe in osmosis. I do believe in osmosis.

Other great events I hit up this past week? QI’s 15th anniversary celebration Monday evening. Who doesn’t love a shameless photo op with former Governor Gray Davis, Irwin Jacobs, Paul Jacobs, Larry Smarr, Ramesh Rao and Al Pisano? At the welcome reception, Larry Smarr introduced the Pacific Research Platform, a regional end-to-end science driven "Big Data Freeway System" that will interconnect campuses up and down the coast. This $5 million dollar NSF funded joint project between Calit2 and Citrus up at UC Berkeley, will allow remote collaboration between campuses. The ability to share big data in a safe and fast way will ultimately lead to big-science innovation.

Chancellor Pradeep Khosla broke it down, providing a bit of history about Qualcomm Institute, praising QI as the birthplace of great ideas at UC San Diego. Former Governor Gray Davis gave a shout-out to Dr Lerner from TSRI for planting the seed for what would later be called Calit2. He also gave it up to former Chancellor and then President of the UC system Dick Atkinson for his visionary leadership and support, as well on the UC Gray Davis Institutes for Science and Innovation. According to former Governor Davis, there were 13 proposals in the running and in the end 3 campuses were chosen for the project. Berkeley was added later. We ain’t hatin’. I’m from the Bay. He also claimed that 15 researchers from MIT jumped ship to UCB following the announcement of these three Davis Institutes in California. The UC Gray Davis Institutes are genius and QI has been a major magnet for talent here up on the Mesa. We should give some mad props to Ramesh Rao and Larry Smarr for steering the motha-ship and for Irwin Jacobs for throwing down the cash to match the $100 million dollar grant and then some. Highlight for me at that event? Taking a magic carpet ride through 20th century Chinese landscape paintings while transfixed by Composer in Residence Lei Liang’s latest scores. Powerful, soulful, trippy.

Lunch Wednesday was at Johnson & Johnson’s JLabs for their fireside chat on the evolution versus revolution of healthcare. Man my head hurt trying to cram all the expert insight Noah Rosenberg, Partner at BakerHostetler fired off. Rosenberg illustrated the complex picture of our current healthcare system which is "just shy of a hot mess" (okay, I added the word "hot"). He then gave a forecast of what to expect in the next five to ten years.

In a nutshell, Noah Rosenberg and many in the audience agreed that the best solution to our inefficient health care system is to have it controlled by a singular group. No shit! France is good for one thing, their health care. Okay, well, maybe two… and then there’s…. hmmm okay, three things. Right, the French are good for three. As another audience member, Stephane Richard of CureMatch, so eloquently put it, healthcare should be treated like a utility, not a commodity.

Diego Miralles, Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, pointed out that in 1948, under the Truman administration, the government was very close to passing a national health system. It was only after 3 months of hardcore lobbying and a national campaign that they somehow swayed public opinion and the vote came up short. And we are all too familiar with the more recent, yet unsuccessful, attempts of then First Lady Hilary Clinton and current President Barack Obama. Miralles urged the audience to pick up a copy of The Social Transformation of American Medicine. He also touched on his three years in Belgium, making the salient point that in those three years abroad, not once was "healthcare" an issue or concern that came up. Seriously, people. Let’s not reinvent the wheel here.

So… will I get smarter hanging around all these brilliant minds with their intellectual talks and insightful lectures? I sure hope so. How about you leave that office or lab, hop on a bike and join me. And then send me your cliff notes.


Upcoming Events (I’ll be at the fun table…)

Due to the fact that my other two sections were hella long and I still have to decide what to wear to the San Diego Regional Chamber’s Holiday event at the Hotel Del Coronado tonight, I will just simply list this week’s events. We all work better under pressure, right? Get on out there, people, and enjoy this week’s upcoming events on and around the Mesa.

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