San Diego is a coastal Southern California city located in the southwestern corner of the continental United States. Noted for its friendliness, casual beach culture, Navy and Marine Corps presence, and walkable neighborhoods filled with sidewalk cafes and patio restaurants, San Diego remains a favorite destination for tourists and retirees. The city of San Diego is the county seat of San Diego County, which covers an enormous area of some 3700 square miles. Within San Diego county, there are numerous farms, state parks and forests, desert areas and mountains rising well above the snow line.
San Diego is the second-largest city in California and the seventh-largest in the United States. It possesses what many consider to be the best climate in the United States, with daytime temperatures averaging 70 degrees fahrenheit year round. There are some 70 miles of beaches (shared with other communities in San Diego County), and San Diego enjoys a spectacular and lush setting on San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Mountains surround the city, which has numerous canyons, parks and dedicated open space.
Recreational boating and every kind of water sport are amply provided for in San Diego. In addition to San Diego Bay, man-made Mission Bay is an aquatic paradise and an ideal place for jogging, rollerblading and having picnics. Pacific and Mission Beaches feature a three-mile-long boardwalk. Surfers find their breaks in Mission Beach, in Ocean Beach (near the pier), and in La Jolla at Windansea and La Jolla Shores.
Interesting inland neighborhoods are clustered around Balboa Park. Older mediterranean and craftsman style houses can be found in such charming neighborhoods as Hillcrest, Mission Hills, Bankers Hill, North Park, South Park, Golden Hill, University Heights, Normal Heights and Kensington.
Presideo Park in Mission Hills and the adjacent Old Town (the original settlement of San Diego) are of great historic and aesthetic interest. Controversy erupted in 2004 when Diane Powers lost her concession to provide restaurants and retail establishments in Old Town State Historic Park. San Diegans believed that she had done an excellent job, making Old Town the most visited and profitable state park, but Sacramento didn't agree. So now Powers is relocating her outstanding Mexican patio restaurants and Bazaar del Mundo to Seaport Village and La Mesa.
The city's planners have adopted a "City of Villages" approach that emphasizes increasing housing density in older neighborhoods near transit corridors. But there is fierce opposition to increased density in many of these neighborhoods, which are trying to preserve their open space, quiet, views, greenery and traditional character. Some have argued that in-fill development (increased density) should be shifted to outlying, newer suburbs that have less density and can accommodate growth.
The one planning approach that most seem to agree on is "mixed-use" development that combines residential and commercial development. The Uptown Center in Hillcrest is a national model for such development, and Little Italy -- with its many sidewalk cafes and attractive boutiques just north of Downtown and within walking distance of the waterfront -- is also a good example of the application of this planning approach.
Downtown San Diego has been enjoying an urban renewal since the 1980s, beginning with the opening of Horton Plaza, the revival of the Gaslamp Quarter, and the construction of the San Diego Convention Center. The Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC), San Diego's downtown redevelopment agency, has transformed what was a largely abandoned downtown into a glittering showcase of waterfront skyscrapers, live-work loft developments, five-star hotels and a slew of interesting cafes, restaurants and shops.
The North Embarcadero is slated to have parks in addition to a waterfront promenade. And Balboa Park will be linked to downtown with a view corridor. The recent boom in the construction of condos and skyscrapers has brought with it a gentrification frenzy, and some people are concerned that speculators have played too big a role in the condo market downtown.
Still, you don't find bay view and ocean view condos in other American cities for any less than what they cost in San Diego. The latest accomplishment of CCDC has been the recent inauguration of PETCO Park. The once-industrial East Village adjacent to the new ballpark is now the new frontier in San Diego's downtown urban renewal.
Owing to its privileged position on the Pacific Ocean and its warm Mediterranean climate, San Diego enjoys an abundance of quality produce and dining. The renowned Chino Farms in nearby Rancho Santa Fe provides fresh organic produce both to local restaurants and to restaurants in San Francisco and other cities. There is also a wine growing industry in San Pasqual Valley and Temecula.
Given its ethnic and cultural mix, it is not surprising that San Diego has a wide range of cuisines. One can find excellent Mexican, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Latin, German, Indian, Central and East Asian, Middle Eastern and Pacific Islander food throughout the city. In addition, there are numerous excellent seafood restaurants and steakhouses. The city's long history and close proximity to Mexico has endowed the area with an extensive variety of Mexican restaurants. Regional homemade specialties, border fare and haute cuisine are all easily available.
San Diego's warm, dry climate and access to the ocean have also made it an ideal center for fishing and for the growing of fruit and vegetables. Long a center of the tuna industry, San Diego benefits from an abundant supply of seafood.
Many of the finest restaurants can be found in the Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy, La Jolla, Hillcrest and Old Town.
San Diego has several sports venues. Jack Murphy Field at Qualcomm Stadium hosts football and soccer games. Three Super Bowls have been held there. Baseball can be seen at Petco Park and Tony Gwynn Stadium. iPayOne Center, formerly the San Diego Sports Arena, hosts hockey, arena football, and basketball, which is also hosted at Cox Arena at Aztec Bowl. Jenny Craig Pavilion at the University of San Diego hosts basketball and volleyball games.