City Heights, San Diego, California

City Heights is a large community in the eastern part of San Diego, California, known for its ethnic diversity. Along the main streets (which include University Avenue, El Cajon Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue) one can find Hispanic, East African, African American, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian businesses.

Socially and economically, City Heights has a high concentration of lower income businesses and households, resulting from the newly arrived immigrant communities. Businesses tend to be smaller and wider spread than to the north and east. Like other urban mesa neighborhoods north of Balboa Park, City Heights has a high rate of pedestrian activity, relative to the rest of San Diego. Crime rates were quite high until the recent renaissance, which ushered in one of the highest concentrations of police presence in the city.


A detailed history of the City Heights neighborhood can be found at Price Charities' official website [] . This in-depth history is summarized below.

In the 1880s, Entrepreneurs Abraham Klauber and Samuel Steiner purchased a tract of over 240 unincorporated acres that sat 400 feet above sea level northeast of Balboa Park in hopes of developing the area, and named it City Heights. With the opening of the Panama Canal and the planned Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, the voters of the area voted for City Heights to become an incorporated city known as East San Diego on November 2, 1912. Population boomed in the next few years from 400 in 1910 to 4000 during the incorporation.

On December 31, 1923, the City of East San Diego ceased to exist and was annexed into the City of San Diego. The status of the city was in limbo throughout the early part of 1924, since the East San Diego trustees did not immediately recognize the annexation. Complete annexation occurred over the next few years with the City of San Diego taking over, improving or adding new services into the City Heights area.

During most of the 1930s, 1940s, and the 1950s the area was an important commercial center. In 1959 the neighborhood began to experience a decline as Fashion Valley, Mission Valley and the College Grove Shopping Center siphoned off merchants and customers from the University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard corridor.

In 1965 the San Diego City Council approved the Mid-City Plan. The plan proposed to densify City Heights and surrounding areas, as a means of increasing business and commerce. The plan resulted in many single-family homes being replaced with multi-family apartments. The 1970s and 1980s saw an increase in crime started to increase with the arrival of the illegal drug industry, mainly methamphetamine. White flight started taking place and intensified into the early 1990s.

A state of emergency was declared by the City of San Diego. The houses bought by Caltrans for the construction of SR 15 contributed to the rising crime rate because Caltrans had no policy in place for dealing with abandoned buildings. The abandoned areas were prime spots for gang and drug-related activities. It took years before they were finally taken down for the actual construction of the freeway.

In 1993, three teen boys were killed in a gang-related fight at Hoover High School. The community reacted and spurred efforts to reduce crime in the neighborhood. The City Heights Business Improvement Association erected billboards that declared "Welcome to City Heights, San Diego's Crime Capital. Won't Anybody Help?" to gain city officials' attention.

In November 1993, the city of San Diego proposed to build a new police station to address the rising crime rate. However, the city was strapped for cash and did not have funds readily available. Entrepreneur and philanthropist Sol Price pledged money for redevelopment efforts in concert with the city and his for-profit redevelopment corporation. The city and Sol Price's redevelopment corporation opened the new police substation in 1996.

The 2000s have seen redevelopment efforts continue and new public facilities have opened. New services are being provided to residents of City Heights including schools, a library and a community center. Crime rates are also down and a new urban retail village is serving the community.


City Heights is large and diffuse, with many subneighborhoods. The neighborhood is divided into two pieces by Fairmount Avenue: City Heights East and City Heights West. The neighboorhood is bounded by Interstate 805 to the West, El Cajon Boulevard to the North, 54th Street to the East, and Home Avenue/Euclid Avenue/Chollas Parkway to the Southeast.

"Downtown" City Heights is generally regarded as around Fairmount Avenue and 43rd Street.

The neighborhood is further divided into nineteen subneighborhoods: Adams North, Normal Heights, Kensington, Talmadge, Rolando, Colina Del Sol, Teralta East, Teralta West, Corridor, Cherokee Point, Castle, Fairmount Village, Fox Canyon, Islenair, Chollas Creek, Swan Canyon, Azalea/Hollywood Park, Fairmount Park, and Oak Park.


Population stands at 65,450 as of 2005. Median household income is $19,393. Racial makeup is approximately 47% Hispanic, 15% Asian, 34% African-American and 4% Other. Median age is approximately 23 years old.Fact|date=May 2007


As with other older neighborhoods found just north of Downtown San Diego and Balboa Park, City Heights is currently enjoying a renaissance.

In an effort to reverse the high crime rate and the depressed economy, the community has undergone some redevelopments. The local projects are a major focus of the Smart Growth strategy by the City of San Diego, which is funded in part by private organizations and philanthropic individuals, notably Sol Price (founder of Fedmart and Price Club).

These projects concentrate primarily on education, crime and gang-related activity reduction, economic improvements, smart urban growth, renewal of community pride and improvement of overall quality of life, while at the same time enhance the "melting-pot" identity for which City Heights is known.

Recent projects that have been completed include the very first alternative fuel station in the city, a new retail complex with some mixed-use developments, several newly expanded and improved basic education schools, a new "urban village" with a new library, a new police headquarter and a gymnasium, as well as a number of innovative uses of open spaces as parks.

As a result of the improvements, population in the neighborhood has been on the increase, reversing the trend of urban flight for those who could afford to move just a few years prior. Indeed, the redevelopment is now starting to focus on controlling growth.

A few trendy bars and clubs have started to move into the neighborhood; some would argue that gentrification is happening along with redevelopment. This most evident in Normal Heights and Kensington.

Arts, culture, businesses and cuisine

Due to the large immigrant population of City Heights, a vast array of ethnic restaurants can be found in the community. Most are located along the main arteries of University Avenue, El Cajon Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue.

There is also a sizeable gay community in Azalea Park.

The annual International Village Celebration is held around late spring or early summer and is aimed at highlighting the community's diversity.

One can find many types of cuisine from all corners of the world. You will find anything from Vietnamese, African, Mexican, etc. City Heights also has a Jamba Juice, Subway, Albertson's, a drive-thru Starbucks, many car repair shops, Pet Zone, a local pet shop/tropical fish store, and much more businesses just to name a few and much more for this booming diverse community.Quite a few pubs and bars such as Nancy's are around to cater to those into the nightlife.


City Heights is a walkable neighborhood with many of the restaurants, businesses and shops near the main residential pockets. It is common to see pedestrians, cyclists and scooters throughout the neighborhood and surrounding communities. Centrally located within San Diego, City Heights has easy access to freeways, Mission Valley commercial centers and the downtown area. University Avenue, El Cajon Boulevard and Fairmount Avenue are the major thoroughfares.

Because of the presence of the University Avenue transit corridor (the busiest in the metro region), City Heights has substantial bus service connecting to Downtown as well as to the Mission Valley trolley stops.


City Heights is home to five elementary schools and two middle schools.

Elementary Schools

* Hamilton (San Diego Unified School District)
* Euclid (San Diego Unified School District)
* Marshall (San Diego Unified School District)
* Edison (San Diego Unified School District)
* Central (San Diego Unified School District)
* Florence Griffith Joyner (San Diego Unified School District)
* Herbert Ibarra (San Diego Unified School District)
* Mary Fay Lanyon (San Diego Unified School District)
* Wilson (San Diego Unified School District)
* Rowan (San Diego Unified School District)
* Rosa Parks (San Diego Unified School District)
* Waldorf School of San Diego ( [] )
* Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School - OLSH

Middle Schools

* Clark (Monroe) (San Diego Unified School District)
* Wilson (San Diego Unified School District)
* Waldorf School of San Diego ( [] )
* Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School - OLSH


* Price Charities. [ "A Short History of City Heights"]

External links

* [ Mid-City CAN (Community Advocacy Network)]
* [ Azalea Park Neighborhood Association]
*City Heights Free Skool, community learning space

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