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San Diego County, California
Seal of San Diego County, California
Map of California highlighting San Diego County
Location in the state of California
Map of the U.S. highlighting California
California's location in the U.S.
Seat San Diego
Largest city San Diego
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

4,526 sq mi (11,722 km²)
4,200 sq mi (10,878 km²)
326 sq mi (844 km²), 7.20%
 - (2009)
 - Density

712/sq mi (275/km²)
Founded 1850
Named for San Diego City

San Diego County is a county located near the Pacific Ocean in the far southwest of the U.S. state of California. It is the southwesternmost county in the contiguous 48 states. The population in 2000 was 2,813,835. A July 2008 estimate placed the population at 3,001,072 people, making it the third most populous county in California, just behind its northern neighbor Orange County.[1] The population in 2009 was 3,208,466 making it the sixth most-populous county in the United States.[2] The county seat and largest city is San Diego.

The county contains the American metropolitan statistical area San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos. In addition, San Diego County is part of the San Diego – Tijuana metropolitan area, an area with over 5 million people and the largest bi-national metropolitan area shared between the United States and Mexico. San Diego County is also part of the Southern California Southern Border region, also referred to as San Diego-Imperial, the smallest but most economically diverse region in the state.[3]

San Diego County lies just north of the Mexican border, sharing a border with Tijuana. It lies south of Orange County and Riverside County and west of Imperial County. It is home to miles of beaches, a mild Mediterranean to semi-arid climate,[4] and 16 military facilities hosting the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard and the United States Marine Corps.



The area which is now San Diego County has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years by Kumeyaay (also called Diegueño), Luiseño, Cupeño and Cahuilla Indians.[5]

European settlement in what is now San Diego County began with the founding of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá by the Spanish, in 1769. The county was part of Alta California under the Viceroyalty of New Spain until the Mexican revolution. From 1821 until 1848 the area was part of Mexico.

San Diego County became part of the United States as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, ending the U.S.-Mexican War. This treaty designated the new border as terminating at a point on the Pacific Ocean coast which would result in the border passing one Spanish league south of the southernmost portion of San Diego Bay, thus ensuring that the United States received the natural harbor.

San Diego County was one of the original counties of California, and was created at the time of statehood in 1850.[6] It was named after San Diego Bay, which had been rechristened in 1602 by Sebastián Vizcaíno in honor of the Franciscan St. Didacus of Alcalá, known in Spanish as San Diego de Alcalá de Henares, and whose name was borne by Vizcaíno's flagship.

As originally created in 1850 San Diego County was quite large and included most of southeastern California south and east of Los Angeles County. As such it included major parts of what are now Inyo, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial counties.[6]

The later part of the 19th century witnessed numerous realignments of county boundaries. The most recent changes were the creation of Riverside County, in 1893,[7] and Imperial County, in 1907.[8]


"East County" communities in red. In dark red are the cities of Santee and El Cajon which mark the western edge of East County. Unincorporated communities are in light red, including Lakeside and Alpine. Alpine marks the eastern edge of East County.
"North County" communities. Coastal cities are in dark blue, unincorporated coastal communities are in light blue. Inland cities are in dark yellow, unincorporated inland communities are in light yellow.
*this map does not include neighborhoods of San Diego that are regognized as being part of North County (ex. La Jolla, Sorrento Valley, Rancho Bernardo)
*Areas in white that are in this general region would be considered part of North County, only cities and unincorporated communities are colored on this map.
"South Bay Communities" of San Diego County. The cities of National City, Chula Vista, and Imperial Beach are in dark orange. The unincorporated community of Bonita is in light orange. San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, neighborhoods of the city of San Diego, are in pink.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 4,526 sq mi (11,721 km²). 4,200 sq mi (10,878 km²) of it is land and 326 sq mi (843 km²) of it (7.20%) is water.

San Diego County has a varied topography. On its western side is 70 miles (110 km) of coastline. Most of San Diego between the coast and the Laguna Mountains consists of hills, mesas, and canyons. Snow-capped (in winter) mountains rise to the northeast, with the Sonoran Desert to the far east. Cleveland National Forest is spread across the central portion of the county, while Anza-Borrego Desert State Park occupies most of the northeast.

North San Diego County is known locally as "North County"; the exact geographic definitions of "North County" vary, but it includes the northern suburbs and sometimes certain northern neighborhoods of the city of San Diego.

The eastern suburbs are collectively known as "East County", though most still lie in the western third of the county. The southern suburbs and southern detached portion of the city of San Diego, extending to the Mexican border, are collectively referred to as "South Bay".


Cities and towns in San Diego County

Incorporated cities

Many of the cities seen from the sky as part of the San Diego-Tijuana metropolitan area.

Unincorporated communities

Urban communities of San Diego County

In San Diego County, many of the urban cities and communities are located on the south side of Interstate 8.

Indian reservations

San Diego County has 18 federally-recognized Indian reservations, more than any other county in the United States.[9] Although they are typical in size to other Indian reservations in California (many of which are termed "Rancherías"), they are relatively tiny by national standards,[citation needed] and all together total 200.2 square miles (518.5 km²) of area.

  • Pauma and Yuima Indian Reservation
  • Rincon Indian Reservation
  • San Pasqual Indian Reservation
  • Santa Ysabel Indian Reservation
  • Sycuan Indian Reservation
  • Viejas Indian Reservation

Adjacent counties and municipios

San Diego
Counties adjacent to San Diego County, California

National protected areas

  • Cabrillo National Monument
  • Cleveland National Forest (part)
  • San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes several individual wildlife refuge areas:[10]
    • San Diego Bay South Bay
    • San Diego Bay Sweetwater Marsh
    • Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge
    • Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge (located in Orange County)
    • San Diego National Wildlife Refuge
    • Vernal Pools

State parks and protected areas


There are 236 mountain summits and peaks in San Diego County[11] including:


  • Natural Rock Tanks
  • Little Laguna Lake
  • Big Laguna Lake
  • Big Lake
  • Twin Lakes
  • Jean, Lake
  • Lost Lake
  • Swan Lake


Transportation infrastructure

Major highways


Military facilities



Coast Guard

Sites of interest


Presidential election results
Year GOP DEM Others
2008 44.10% 539,939 54.29% 664,685 1.67% 19,270
2004 52.52% 596,033 46.39% 526,437 1.09% 12,378
2000 49.63% 475,736 45.66% 437,666 4.71% 45,232
1996 45.57% 402,876 44.11% 389,964 10.33% 91,311
1992 35.7% 352,125 37.2% 367,397 27.08% 267,124
1988 60.2% 523,143 38.3% 333,264 1.47% 12,788
1984 65.3% 502,344 33.4% 257,029 1.29% 9,894
1980 60.8% 435,910 27.3% 195,410 11.93% 85,546
1976 55.7% 353,302 41.6% 263,654 2.66% 16,839
1972 61.8% 371,627 34.3% 206,455 3.84% 23,055
1968 56.3% 261,540 36.1% 167,669 7.67% 35,654
1964 50.3% 214,445 49.7% 211,808 0.01% 33
1960 56.4% 233,045 43.3% 171,259 0.28% 1,106

San Diego County has historically been a Republican stronghold: 2008 was the first time in decades that a Democratic presidential nominee won a majority of the county's votes (though in 1992 Bill Clinton won a plurality). The city of San Diego itself is more Democratic than the county's average (though fairly moderate for a large city) and has voted for Democrats Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama in the last five presidential elections respectively. The city of San Diego, as well as La Jolla, Coronado and Imperial Beach, is part of the 53rd congressional district which has a Cook Partisan Voting Index (CPVI) of D +12. San Diego's northern and eastern suburbs tend to be very conservative. Northern suburbs including Carlsbad are part of the 50th district with a CPVI of R +5. In the 2004 presidential election, San Diego, Encinitas, National City, Del Mar, and some other areas voted for John Kerry; San Marcos, Escondido, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Coronado, Santee, Poway, El Cajon, and Vista overwhelmingly backed George W. Bush. Chula Vista, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Solana Beach, and Imperial Beach are considered swing areas of the county – Chula Vista and Imperial Beach narrowly backed Al Gore in 2000 but narrowly voted for Bush in 2004, while Solana Beach switched from Bush in 2000 to Kerry in 2004. La Mesa narrowly voted for Bush both times, and Lemon Grove narrowly went Democratic both times. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first Democrat to win a majority of votes in San Diego County since World War II. Obama captured Chula Vista, Oceanside, and Carlsbad.

One unique feature of the political scene is the use of Golden Hall, a convention facility next to City Hall, as a central elections center. The County Registrar of Voters rents the hall to distribute election results. Supporters and political observers are invited to watch the results come in, candidates give their victory and concession speeches and host parties for campaign volunteers and donors at the site, and television stations broadcast from the floor of the convention center. Golden Hall was scheduled to be closed in 2004, but was reused again for the November 2005 special election. The atmosphere on the evening of election day is often comparable to the voting portion of a political party national convention.[12]

In the House of Representatives, all of California's 50th, 52nd, and 53rd districts and parts of the 49th and 51st districts are in the county. By district, the seats are held by Republican Darrell Issa, Republican Brian Bilbray, Democrat Bob Filner, Republican Duncan D. Hunter, and Democrat Susan Davis.

On Nov. 4, 2008 San Diego County voted 53.8 % for Proposition 8 which amended the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriages, thus restoring Proposition 22 which was overturned by a ruling from the California Supreme Court. However the city of San Diego, along with Del Mar, Encinitas, and Solana Beach, voted against Proposition 8.[13]

In the State Assembly, parts of the 66th and 73rd districts, and all of the 74th–79th districts are in the county. Districts 76 and 79 are held by Democrats, Lori Saldaña and Mary Salas respectively; the others are held by Republicans; by district they are Kevin Jeffries, Mimi Walters, Martin Garrick, George A. Plescia, Joel Anderson, and Shirley Horton.

In the State Senate, all of the 39th district and parts of the 36th, 38th, and 40th districts are in the county and are held by Republicans Dennis Hollingsworth and Mark Wyland, and Democrats Christine Kehoe and Denise Moreno Ducheny.

District Location Cook PVI % for Bush, 2004 Median household income[14] Per capita income[14]
49th district Northern San Diego and southwestern Riverside County R +10 63% $46,445 $19,659
50th district Northern San Diego County, including costal communities such as Carlsbad, California but excluding La Jolla R +5 55% $59,813 $29,877
51st district Southern San Diego County, including Chula Vista and National City. Also includes all of Imperial County D +7 46% $39,243 $14,923
52nd district Eastern San Diego County, including La Mesa, El Cajon and Lakeside. R +9 61% $52,940 $24,544
53rd district San Diego including La Jolla, Coronado and Imperial Beach D +12 39% $36,637 $21,715
Mean Districts: 49th, 50th, 51st, 52nd, 53rd R +5 52.8% $47,016 $22,144


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1850 798
1860 4,324 441.9%
1870 4,951 14.5%
1880 8,018 61.9%
1890 34,987 336.4%
1900 35,090 0.3%
1910 61,665 75.7%
1920 112,248 82.0%
1930 209,659 86.8%
1940 289,348 38.0%
1950 556,808 92.4%
1960 1,033,011 85.5%
1970 1,357,854 31.4%
1980 1,861,846 37.1%
1990 2,498,016 34.2%
2000 2,813,833 12.6%
Est. 2008 3,001,072 6.7%

As of 2006, there were 2,941,454 people, 1,067,846 households, and 663,449 families residing in the county. The population density was 670 people per square mile (259/km²). There were 1,118,410 housing units at an average density of 248 per square mile (96/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 69.5% White American, 5.2% Black or African American, 0.7% Native American, 10.2% Asian, 0.4% Pacific Islander, 10.3% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. 29.9% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 67.0% spoke English, 21.9% Spanish, 3.1% Tagalog and 1.2% Vietnamese as their first language.

In 2000 there were 994,677 households out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.7% were married couples living together, 11.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.3% were non-families. 24.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.73 and the average family size was 3.29.

In the county the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 11.30% from 18 to 24, 32.0% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 11.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 101.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.7 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $47,067, and the median income for a family was $53,438. Males had a median income of $36,952 versus $30,356 for females. The per capita income for the county was $22,926. About 8.9% of families and 12.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.5% of those under age 18 and 6.8% of those age 65 or over.

Current estimates

According to estimates by the San Diego Association of Governments, the median household income of San Diego County in 2005 was $64,273 (not adjusted for inflation). When adjusted for inflation (1999 dollars; comparable to Census data above), the median household income was $52,192.

Crime statistics

Crime statistics for 2005 (Reported by the sheriff's office or police)[15]

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Census Quickfacts
  2. ^ San Diego Union Tribune, December 18, 2009, quoting the California State Department of Finance
  3. ^ [1] Economics
  4. ^ climate map
  5. ^ kumeyaay website
  6. ^ a b Coy, Owen C.; Ph.D. (1923). California County Boundaries. Berkeley: California Historical Commission. pp. 221. ASIN B000GRBCXG. 
  7. ^ Ibid. 207
  8. ^ Ibid. 113
  9. ^ University of San Diego
  10. ^ San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex website
  11. ^
  12. ^ Amid the celebrations, farewell | The San Diego Union-Tribune
  13. ^ San Diego County Proposition 8 Results by Community
  14. ^ a b "US Census Bureau, 2000 Census income data by congressional district".$50000US0601&-geo_id=500$50000US0606&-geo_id=500$50000US0608&-geo_id=500$50000US0609&-geo_id=500$50000US0612&-geo_id=500$50000US0613&-geo_id=500$50000US0614&-geo_id=500$50000US0615&-geo_id=500$50000US0616&-geo_id=500$50000US0617&-geo_id=500$50000US0623&-geo_id=500$50000US0624&-geo_id=500$50000US0630&-geo_id=500$50000US0633&-geo_id=500$50000US0634&-geo_id=500$50000US0635&-geo_id=500$50000US0636&-geo_id=500$50000US0637&-geo_id=500$50000US0638&-geo_id=500$50000US0639&-geo_id=500$50000US0640&-geo_id=500$50000US0644&-geo_id=500$50000US0646&-geo_id=500$50000US0647&-geo_id=500$50000US0648&-geo_id=500$50000US0649&-geo_id=500$50000US0650&-geo_id=500$50000US0651&-geo_id=500$50000US0652&-geo_id=500$50000US0653&-_showChild=Y&-format=&-_lang=en&-_toggle=. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  15. ^ "city-data - San_Diego_County-CA". analyzed data from numerous sources. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 

External links

Coordinates: 33°01′N 116°46′W / 33.02°N 116.77°W / 33.02; -116.77

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

San Diego County is the southwestern-most region of Southern California. It encompasses the city of San Diego and its large metropolitan area, which includes many smaller cities and communities. San Diego County lies along the U.S.-Mexican border, across from the Mexican city of Tijuana.

  • San Diego - The central, largest city of San Diego County
  • Inland - The inland areas of San Diego County to the east of San Diego
  • North County - The areas of the county to the north of San Diego
  • South Bay - The cities surrounding the San Diego Bay to the south of San Diego


Besides San Diego, there are many smaller cities in the county. Listed here are the major ones:

  • Carlsbad - Lovely beach town in North County, home to Legoland California
  • Chula Vista - Largest city of the South Bay region
  • Coronado - Beautiful island community just across the San Diego Bay from Downtown San Diego
  • Del Mar - Small, very pretty Bavarian style seaside town in North County
  • El Cajon - Largest city of the Inland region
  • Encinitas - Small beach town in North County
  • Escondido - Large inland city of North County
  • La Mesa - Small city in the Inland region
  • Oceanside - Largest city of the North County region


San Diego County covers a very large area (4,526 square miles, to be exact) with incredibly varied topography. The western half of the county is mostly urbanized, and includes the city of San Diego and its many suburbs to the south, east, and north. The climate of the western half is more moderate, due to its proximity to the ocean, giving San Diego its signature weather. The eastern half is mostly uninhabited or rural, contains snow-capped mountains, forests, and barren desert, and is prone to more extreme weather.


Like much of California, English and Spanish are the dominant languages in San Diego County. Typically, most businesses have at least a few employees that are bilingual in English and Spanish, and some people will be bilingual in English and Tagalog (mostly spoken by San Diego's large Filipino population). It is also common to see store signs printed in both English and Spanish, especially in neighborhoods with large Hispanic populations.

Get in

For detailed information on getting in to San Diego, see the Get in section of San Diego.

By plane

There are two commercial airports in San Diego County: San Diego International Airport (IATA: SAN) is by far the major one, served by many airlines offering flights from cities around the country and some international flights to Mexico and Canada. McClellan-Palomar Airport (IATA: CLD) in Carlsbad serves a couple of commuter airlines providing service from Los Angeles and Phoenix.

By train

Amtrak's frequent Pacific Surfliner [1] San Luis Obisbo-Los Angeles-San Diego route serves San Diego County with four stops: one in Oceanside, one in Solana Beach, one at the southern end of the line at Union Station in Downtown San Diego, and a secondary station in Old Town San Diego which is served on weekends.

By car

Three major interstate roadways, I-5, I-8, and I-15, lead into San Diego County. I-5 runs from the north along the coast, I-8 comes in from the east through the desert, and I-15 leads in to San Diego from the northeast.

Get around

By car

In the western half of the region, a complex system of interstate highways and major roads connect the cities and neighborhoods of that half of the region. In the more rural Inland region, only I-8 and a small network of state and county roads run across the area.

By train

The COASTER [2] commuter rail system runs along the coast of San Diego County north of Downtown San Diego, linking together most of the coastal cities and towns of North San Diego County with Old Town and Downtown San Diego. Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner runs this same route, stopping in Oceanside, Solana Beach, and San Diego, but is less practical for getting around the county than the COASTER due to its high price.

In North County, the SPRINTER [3] rail line runs east-west between Oceanside and Escondido. In San Diego, the San Diego Trolley [4] light rail system links several cities east and south of San Diego to the metropolitan center, running east through La Mesa and El Cajon to Santee and south through Chula Vista to the USA-Mexico border.

By bus

The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the North County Transit District (NCTD) operate public transit bus services in San Diego County. MTS serves San Diego and many of the surrounding cities, while NCTD serves North County. Service in the Inland region is pretty scarce.


Listed here are just the major sights to experience in the region. For more details, see specific city articles.

  • Balboa Park - A massive and utterly gorgeous urban park with gardens, Neo-classical Spanish architecture, and intriguing museums, along with the famous and expansive San Diego Zoo.
  • Sea World San Diego – Massive aquatic park with shows, displays and enclosures featuring sea animals. See the Mission Beach article.
  • La Jolla – A lovely coastal community of San Diego with scenic coves, beaches and ocean cliffs to explore, as well as museums, an aquarium, and the University of California, San Diego campus.
  • Cabrillo National Monument – Commemorating the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's expedition for Spain of California in 1542, this park at the tip of Point Loma offers a gorgeous view of the surrounding area. A former lighthouse is open for tours.
  • Old Town – The birthplace of San Diego, this historic district includes preserved buildings and icons of the Spanish heritage of San Diego and the Old West.
  • Downtown – The urban center of the city, with plenty of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife, along with several museums, including the San Diego Maritime Museum and the USS Midway Museum.
  • Hotel Del Coronado – Located in Coronado, this gorgeous hotel was constructed in the late 1800's and is located at the beach.
  • Wild Animal Park – The sister park to the San Diego Zoo. The park covers 1800 acres and is located about 30 miles north of San Diego near Escondido, in the San Pasqual Valley in Northeastern San Diego.
  • Legoland California, in Carlsbad. Sister park to the Danish park themed to the phenomenally popular toy line. Strikingly accurate Lego sculptures, thrill rides, and more.
  • Beaches – Along the San Diego County coast one can find a wide variety of beaches suitable for swimming, surfing, and general beach-going. San Diego has several beach communities, and in North County you'll find beautiful beaches in nearly all of the coastal towns.
  • Gamble - The San Diego area has numerous gaming sites, all operated by local Indian tribes scattered throughout the Inland region and the eastern edge of the North County region. They range from full-blown resorts to one-room bingo halls. Some offer hotels, golf courses, concert venues, and shopping outlets. Barona Valley Ranch, Harrahs-Rincon Resort, Viejas Casino, Sycuan Resort, Golden Acorn Travel Center, Pala Casino, Pechanga Resort, and Valley View Casino are among largest of the many venues. "The big three"; Barona, Sycuan, and Viejas, all feature a distinct policy of allowing those 18 years or older to gamble, while most others follow a 21+ plus rule. Alcohol may or may not be served at some locations.
  • Wine tasting - In the Inland region, especially around towns like Julian, there are many wineries and orchards open for tours, wine tasting, or fruit picking.
  • From San Diego County it's easy to make a quick trip down to Mexico. Tijuana lies right across the border from San Diego, easily accessed by car or the San Diego Trolley light rail service. For a more low-key alternative, drive to the small border crossing town of Tecate (home of the Tecate brewery).
  • The many attractions of Los Angeles and Orange County are relatively easy to get to via a drive on Interstate 5 or along the Pacific Coast.
  • There are no boats to Catalina Island (Avalon) within San Diego County. You'll have to go north into neighboring Orange County to the pier at Dana Point. By car, take I-5 to exit #79 Pacific Coast Hwy 1 (make reservations).
  • Temecula Wine Country is located north of San Diego County along I-15 and makes a good day trip. There are about many vineyards (with tasting rooms) located fairly close to each other. One hour further is the mountain resort of Idyllwild which features shopping and outdoor activities in an alpine forest.
This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


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