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Has anyone lived in San Diego?

(31 Posts)
MoggyMummy Fri 20-May-05 17:11:17


The possibilty has come up for me, dh and ds to move to San Diego for a couple of years. Has anyone gor experience of living there? I am partularly nervous about moving there becasue I don't drive and I hear that life pretty much revolves around the car.

foolysh Fri 20-May-05 21:20:34

Um, yes, I grew up there, go back to see family every 18 months or so.
CARS: I am an ecofreak so part of the reason I am happy in Britain is because I can live without a car. That SAID, you can live in SD without a car, I did until I was 24, but that was without might have to make a lot of adjustments. I assume your DH drives?

The good weather really helps a lot when it comes to living w/out a car, especially if you don't mind cycling. It's generally assumed that only very poor people or the mentally disabled/ill don't have a car and use public transport or taxis, though, it's as much the social attitude as anything that could be awkward.

foolysh Fri 20-May-05 21:21:53

ps, ask anything more/else you want, I will check back later... It is a lovely part of the world, most people living there are very happy with it.

FIMAC1 Fri 20-May-05 21:26:47

Visited in 2002 - roads were gridlock at peak hours. Although we totally fell in love with it I cannot imagine surviving without a car. America does not have a great Public transport system. I would seriously check it out before deciding. Driving in the US is much easier imo than the UK, you could take your test in an Automatic here before you leave as they all drive them in the States.

Good luck - Del Mar where we stayed was fab

mancmum Fri 20-May-05 21:29:04

my sister lived there for 10 years -- it is the best place ever in the US -- fab fab fab for kids etc... but you need to drive... get out there and learn!!

MoggyMummy Sat 21-May-05 06:48:30

Thank you everyone for your answers

Unfortunately the driving issue is one I can't resolve . however you have given me some hope that it is possible to live there without a car -

we will take an extended trip out there and hopefully i will fall in love with the place too

hub2dee Sat 21-May-05 09:20:45

I visited, with a view to living, and was also taken aback at the traffic flow during peak hours. Huge concrete snakes stuffed with cars going nowhere. Not what I'd expected. Of course when the concrete snakes have less traffic, they're still there, very much part of the landscape which I found sad.

Perhaps I simply expected too much ?

Anyway, aside from the roads, the place obviously has fine weather virtually 365 days of the year, and is routinely declared one of the best places to live in the US.

One of the other things I found strange was that there isn't really a 'heart' of the city / suburb concept... it's more of a sprawl with well-known 'bits' dotted around: The Gas Lamp Quarter, the Sea Port, Del mar, La Jolla, Pacific / Mission beaches etc. really San Diego has been 'stretched' IYSWIM to accomodate an exploding population...

Having said all that, there's loads of activities to do for kids. I have a cousin out there with a toddler and she loves the place.

We are considering going out there for a month or two over Winter to check it out further, as I crave warmth and sun over the coldest months. If you can take some holidays there I guess you'll be in the best position to decide if it's for you or not.

I would second the observation / comments on public transport. Cars tend to be integral to American mentality, but there are buses / taxis / trains, so I'm sure you'd be able to get around.

Good luck.

FIMAC1 Sat 21-May-05 10:04:06


Agree with Hub2Dee that San Deigo consists of lots of little communities sprawled along the coast, which would be difficult to get to without a car. To intagrate into US life you will need to drive, life there depends on you being able to drive, it will be very difficult for you to get by without one - hopefully your trip out there will answer some of your questions though.

My dh company will now not allow spouses to go unless they can drive, due to problems that previous non-driving postees have encountered

foolysh Sat 21-May-05 14:12:50

It's very surreal reading these comments about my home town. To me SD does have a heart, but then again, people are often very attached to their local neighbourhood.

I can suggest some places for you to look around, Moggy. If I were trying to live there car-free, I would go for Hillcrest (most urban area outside of down-town, and always my fave), Coronado, Ocean Beach ("OB"), or Pacific Beach ("PB"), parts of North Park, Imperial Beach & El Cajon might be ok, too. A lot of people manage to live near UCSD & be car-free, too, that end of La Jolla in general. Don't even think about Claremont, UTC, TierraSanta, anywhere north of I8, really, except PB, or South of I-94 except Imperial Beach or Coronado.

Of the places I listed, PB is probably considered the most des-res but still realistic, Coronado Island was traditionally the most posh -- a world of its own. Parts of Hillcrest & North Park are run down & grotty.... but other parts of the same neighbourhoods are very up-n-coming.

Good luck.

foolysh Sat 21-May-05 14:18:41

Oh, and rule out Mission Valley, impossible to happily live there either, car-free. A lot of people are moving in DownTown nowadays, you shouldn't rule it out. But the modern-build appartments are outrageiously expensive.

According to an email my dad sent yesterday, in San Diego...

"The median price of a single-family home in April reached $484,000, up 10% from the same period last year"

Rents are immensely lower than mortgages in SD, though.

hub2dee Sat 21-May-05 15:03:13

Hi foolysh, I'm gonna be printing this thread off and checking out all the areas you mentioned if / when we get to spend Winter in SD !

You say you think SD does have a heart.... can I ask where you feel it is then ??? (not for deabte, just so I can look at maps and figure out how areas relate to each others etc.).

Also, could you advise on something ? Where might I head for if I wanted a bit more 'space' around me ? Slightly quieter, a bit more nature and a bit less developed ? I found much of the areas I looked at the homes were either very much on top of each other, or else had no natural space around them IYSWIM... I know in some areas the house plots are big, but they seem to lack soul, IYSWIM.

I guess in my minds eye I had imagined ocean view and less structured grid layout, (maybe something like Carmel - just from what I've been told about it, I haven't been there) or more mountainous 'wine growing country', just some place where I can stake out a little hacienda in a friendly community yet be within easy reach of the city's attractions...

Oh, and may I nobble your brain for a suggestion about an area that would be good to stay in for 1 - 3 months over Winter (new baby in tow) - we'd be looking to rent an apartment / house for us (plus dw's folks) or two smaller places. Somewhere pretty with charm and a nice feel but not too buzzy / trendy...

Not much to ask for, eh ?


throckenholt Sat 21-May-05 15:20:24

cat zebraX - she grew up there and her family still live there.

hub2dee Sat 21-May-05 16:12:40

Cheers throckenholt. Will do.

foolysh Sat 21-May-05 16:46:14

I am zebra, Tholt. LOL.

hub2dee Sat 21-May-05 16:52:42


Look at this and laugh, foolysh:


foolysh Sat 21-May-05 17:34:13

When you say "easy reach of city attractions" do you mean driving or on foot? Parts of La Jolla definitely fit your bill, if you can afford it.

Anyway, If I had a winter to spend there I'd get one of the holiday lets (rentals), Bayside, in South Mission Beach. [My dad lives on Bayside Walk, so if you end up going out there, I might even introduce you....] It's quiet in the winter (October-Easter), I think it's still affordable in the winter (they mostly rent to students; the rental rates are astronomical in summer). There are no cheap food shops in walking distance, but you can just stock up when you do go shopping. The beach might literally be your front garden if you can stretch the budget to afford Ocean/Baywalk frontage. It's so nice there you wouldn't mind the hike to shops or anything else.

San Diego is divided by a poxy river (SD river) that occasionally has major floods & wipes out most of the flood plain housing & shops (yet they still built on it...). River goes down Mission Valley. It used to empty out where the airport is, but was channelled in the 1940s to go out between Mission Beach & Ocean Beach.

Both sides of the valley there are big mesas (plateaus rising above the valley floor). North side is (west to east) Kearny Mesa to San Carlos, up to Mission Gorge (go east of the Gorge to get to El Cajon). South of Mission Valley is another mesa which is the more established neighbourhoods of SD. I grew up on the south mesa: Mission Hills, Golden Hills.

The south mesa slopes off to down town, the harbour, the Barrio, South East SD (ghetto....)

Most of these places (even SE SD) traditionally had their own very strong community feel, and to me they are the heart of SD as I know. It's a very spread out "heart", but still places with firm self-identities.

Downtown is funny -- it did have its own community -- of very poor homeless transient types, I'm afraid to say. But it's increasingly trendy to live there, now, not least to beat the congestion. A new baseball stadium is being built, so the trendiness will only increase.

The thing is, if you want "some nature" but still close to services... not much of San Diego proper is still like that. Because I don't live there it's hard for me to be sure, but I suppose Encinitas & Oceanside would be your best bets. Because of the hills & mountains, though, you can go 5-10 miles inland & still get an Ocean view. It's the "natural space" that is very hard to get. I suppose some of the newer developments in south bay area (south of Logan Heights, north of CHula Vista) might suit, but I don't know much about them. Many of San Diego's canyons in established areas (HIllcrest to Kensington) can't realistically be built in (too steep, prone to erosion, important as urban wildlife corridors, too likely to undermine existing buildings), so this is where you might find some perception of natural space.

But coming from Britain, you might not perceive the natural vegetation (mostly chapparal scrub) as "natural space", it just looks like scrubby dense undergrowth. Green meadows and woodland are unnatural vegetation in this part of the world; if you want green lawns & trees, you may as well stay in the city, esp. near Balboa Park.

Can't believe I wrote so much! Hopefully I know what I'm talking about. If you really want natural space, you might want to consider some of the communities further north: Laguna Beach, Oxnard, Santa Barbara. Carmel (as you said).
DD is clamouring to play cbeebies. hth

hub2dee Sat 21-May-05 18:16:04

oh, foolysh, that does help BIG TIME.

Thank youThank youThank youThank youThank youThank youThank youThank youThank youThank youThank youThank you.

My cousin is currently near UTC / 'University City' (what a name) in a rental apartment and is looking to move / buy (but she tells me it's astronomically pricey, as you mention)... so I may opt to be near wherever she ends up (possibly Del Mar), but maybe a bit of independence on the beach front would be great !!!!!

(I'll keep my eye out for a down town loft in a nasty area about to become trendy !!!)

I had thought about turning inland and driving a few miles as I reckoned it would be more my cup of tea perhaps, but didn't have much of a chance to check it out on my last trip. Perhaps that would give me a bit more space / nature (even if it is a tad barren), ocean view with easy access to some bit of this sprawling city if I need it.


We stayed in La Jolla for a few days for a wedding, and I know everyone raves about it, but I just didn't 'get it'... OK, a nice bit of ocean (I joined the yoga class in the Bridge Club hut overlooking the sea !), but the shops just felt a bit ordinary, nothing particularly edgy / creative / overly interesting. The restaurants / cafés were good though... but it just seemed like 'a nice spot' but nothing amazing IYSWIM...

I'll also check out Balboa Park... I do enjoy an abundance of greenery. As well as taking a few days to drive around the places further North you mention.

BTW - given the choice of, say '20 - 40 minutes outside San Diego' or '20 minutes outside LA / San Fran' (and I appreciate those are bigger metropoli, would you prefer to live around SD ?

Thanks again for taking the time to post your thoughts / ideas / advice. It's very much appreciated.

throckenholt Sat 21-May-05 19:14:42

oops - sorry to confuse you - I hadn't realised she had changed her name (why zebra/foolysh ?!)

MoggyMummy Sun 22-May-05 08:13:14

You are a star - thank you so much for all the information. The upshot is that my dh and i are really going to have to think hard about this before we move again (fourth big move in 6 years).

We have four day tip planned in early june and i will take a look at some of the places you mention. i don't know whether i mentioned but i will be working too at the same place as my dh. the company are on carmel valley drive very near the coast so i was hoping somewhere round there in del mar would be possible. i seem to remember (from the last time i visited the office) that there was a neighbourhood there as well as a mall etc.

Anyway - thank you again and hopefully we will reach the right decison

foolysh Sun 22-May-05 21:28:35

Glad this seems helpful....
Keep in mind I moved away almost 14 years ago, and a lot has changed.
Plus I never knew Del Mar/North County well, so not much help there Moggy! You will just have to go look.
Hub2Dee: [I know what you mean about La Jolla, it just has an exclusive reputation, tbh]
The 20 or 40 minute thing... ok, mileage signs in California are miles to the city boundary, not the centre. So when you say "20 minutes outside" I don't know what you mean. 20 minutes drive from the centre is still very much in the city. 20 minutes from the city boundary might still be very urban. When people in Southern California want to live somewhere away from other people, they aim to be at least 1 hour drive from a city centre.

Now...SD, LA or SF (don't ever call it SF to the locals, btw, they go beserk!!). Anyway, I don't know LA, I don't like it much. Too much sprawl & gun crime (not that the other places are tremendously better). Relatively worst air quality in LA. Although I have relations in Santa Monica and it is nice there. I come from an urban/arty/left-wing/intellectual (sort-of) family, so really like SF, especially/including the politics, so if I could afford it, I might try there, except... I know San Diego, it's a kind of home, in spite of it's super right-wing politics, I wouldn't have to think about the geography or how to get things done. Plus, of course, my dad & some old friends are there. SD is sneered at as a sleepy place by Angelinos, but maybe "sleepy" is your cup of tea?

hub2dee Mon 23-May-05 11:26:15

Hi foolysh,

I reckon the wealthy head for La Jolla to enjoy the social enclave but then walk around scratching their heads trying to figure out what about it is so special !

Thanks for the advice on distance / time from town centres...

I made the mistake of staying in 'downtown' LA - thinking it was hip and central. Well, it's hip and central if you're into gun crime ! LA is fun in parts but foul in most, I found... but maybe '1 hour away' would be tolerable ?

I think San Fran (or close thereto) might be a better bet. It has the IT connection which is good for my work, and as you mention it has the whole desirable lefty / arty thing going on.... maybe we should land, grab a car and head inland...


Yes, perhaps sleepy is my cup of tea.

Have also heard good things about Portland, Oregon. Have you visited ?

foolysh Tue 24-May-05 08:32:07

I don't know Oregon that well, only have scrappy impressions. My cousin lived there with her son who has Down's Syndrome. He was then age approx. 12-16 yo & my cousin was SHOCKED at the poor educational provision on offer for him (as an SN kid). Very unenlightened, not progressive. She was very happy to move back to California about 5 years ago.

Thing about Northwest is it's a weird mix of drop-out hippies, environmentalist idealists and outdoorsmen who don't see any harm in felling ancient woodland.

The other thing my cousin said is that she never saw her neighbours in winter because everyone hid indoors from the rain (now she lives in Sacramento, where everyone hides indoor all summer from the heat!). I have heard that the winter rain in Vancouver can also really get people down.

So I don't think you should consider further north than Marin County in CA, since you said you want some winter warmth & sun. In San Diego we can get several stormy weeks in a row, but in the average winter we only get 12" in rain, most of which will fall on just 10-12 days.

I am going to AZ/CA for a month myself this Xmas, if you end up in San Diego around the same time, we might be able to meet up.


foolysh Tue 24-May-05 08:34:13

ps: there are IT opportunities all down the Pac. coast.

If you end up in SF never call it "San Fran" -- though I suppose the locals may forgive you if you say it with your plummiest accent. It's "The City" up there, and only refers to the actual city boundaries themselves.

I lived in Berkeley for 9 months, I really liked it.

foolysh Tue 24-May-05 08:35:26

ps, have you considered Santa Cruz? Only 1 hours drive (that's a small commute in California terms) to Santa Clara... Must stop posting, now!

hub2dee Tue 24-May-05 08:48:38

Don't stop the words of wisdom, foolysh !

Hey, can I say 'Frisco' ? is that allowed ???

I will check up on Santa Cruz... so many places to have a look at !

Hope to be in San Diego after baby has had shots (EDD 2nd August)... so if our dates coincide, I'll CAT you probably to find we are 17 hours drive from each other !!!

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