An open house sign in San Diego. Photo by Alexander Nguyen

We’re down to the end of the first month of 2021, with the COVID-19 crisis starting to ease in the wake of a new administration in the White House and continued good cheer on Wall Street. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for an end to the general lockdown, which means that business, especially small business, which has been reeling, can get back to work again. Vaccination stations everywhere in the county are going full bore for those who qualify. Let’s get this crisis behind us!

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First up, we check in with residential real estate portal Zillow, which predicts the hottest housing markets in 2021. San Diego doesn’t fare as well Austin, Texas, which has claimed the top spot two years in a row.  But we’re close to the top ten. We rank No. 11, with a third of the experts surveyed saying the area would outperform the national average, while another third saying it would underperform. The Zillow experts said home values would rise the fastest in Austin, Phoenix, Nashville, Tampa and Denver. Elsewhere on the West Coast San Francisco and Seattle will underperform the national average. By the way, LA ranked 18th while Riverside comes in a little higher, coming in at 9th place.

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And speaking of housing. Nonprofit housing developer Community Housing Works recently broke ground on the new Ulric Street Apartments in the San Diego neighborhood of Linda Vista. The agency is financing the project through a variety of sources, including money from city, county, state and federal agencies. The project will feature 96 apartments, with10 units reserved for homeless veterans and 10 for foster youth in transition. According to a news release, the agency owns and operates 3,600 apartments in 42 communities across California, serving 9,000 families, children and elderly. 

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And now for a few personnel items…Luna Grill has named Steve Holliday as its new chief operations officer, overseeing day-to-day operations for the 52-unit fast food purveyor. Previously, Holliday ran a consulting business focused on strategy and executive coaching for franchisees and privately held companies. He began his career with Yum! Brands/Taco Bell Corp. The Luna Grill outlets are located in California and Texas.

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San Diego Zoo Global names David Gillig as its new chief philanthropy officer. The nonprofit fundraising veteran will lead the nonprofit conservation organization’s fundraising program for the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Gillig has an extensive background in philanthropy, having served as senior vice president and foundation executive director at Rady Children’s Hospital and senior vice president of the Scripps Foundation. You can learn more here.

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Stephanie Thompson, a local publicist who specializes in the promoting local stories in the nonprofit realm, exhibited a different side of her professional prowess recently. She made a surprise appearance Jan. 21 on popular daily TV game show “Jeopardy.” At least it was a surprise to us. We didn’t know Stephanie was so quick on her feet! She came in second place, winning $2,000, and was even able to answer the final question, no easy task, even for a brainiac. Congratulations, Stephanie!

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Wealth management firm UBS taps La Jolla resident Lynn Hunter to head market administration for its eight local offices. According to a UBS news release, Hunter will focus on leading and mentoring operational and administrative teams within the market “to deliver a compelling client experience for wealthy families, business owners, endowments and foundations served by these teams.” 

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The ALS Association Greater San Diego Chapter holds its annual fundraising golf tournament on Jan. 29 at the Native Oaks Golf Club in Valley Center. The event is open to the public. The donation to play is $200 per player, $800 for four, a number which includes gift bag, food, beverages and on course contests and games. Proceeds will benefit research, care services, resources and programs for people living with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The previous event raised more than $20,000. Click here for sign-ups.

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Finally, San Diego-based startup Wimple (short for Wealth made Simple), a platform for retail investors and consumers to ask financial questions and connect with financial professionals, has raised an undisclosed seed round. The platform, expected to launch in April, will provide an easy-to-use interface which will allow users to type a question or keyword in an AI-powered search engine. The site was founded by Phillip Flakes, who serves as CEO, and Nicholas Gudz, who serves as chief revenue officer. The two previously started and sold Succession Link, the largest digital marketplace for to buy and sell financial advisory firms. To learn  more, click here.

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I will be on vacation for he first two weeks of February. My column will return the third week of February. Stay safe!

Tom York is a Carlsbad-based independent journalist who specializes in writing about business and the economy. If you have news tips you’d like to share, send them to tom.york@gmail.com.

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