About San Diego
San Diego, America’s Finest City. Located in Southern California, bordering the Pacific Ocean and Mexico.
Area, 4,200 sq mi.
Pop. (2000) 2,813,833, a 12.6% increase since the 1990 census.
San Diego is the second largest city in California and has an excellent natural harbor. It is an important port of entry; a shipping and receiving point for S California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico’s Baja California; and headquarters for the 11th U.S. naval district. San Diego has large aerospace, electronic, and shipbuilding industries, and is an important center for biomedical research and oceanography. It is also a distribution and processing point for a highly productive agricultural area. In the late 1990s the city and the surrounding area became home to several large wireless communications firms. Tourism is an important element in the economy; the city has a delightful climate, miles of beaches, historic attractions, and a proximity to Mexico.
Landmarks and Institutions
San Diego is a cultural, educational, and medical center. Its many health facilities include large naval and veterans hospitals. It is the seat of the Univ. of California at San Diego, San Diego State Univ., United States International Univ., the Univ. of San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences. Balboa Park contains an art gallery, several museums (including an aerospace museum), and the enormous San Diego Zoo. Some buildings from the Panama-California International Exposition (1915–16) and the California Pacific International Exposition (1935–36) remain, and there is a spectacular aquatic park.
Also of interest are Cabrillo National Monument and Mission San Diego de Alcalá (restored). Parts of Old Town are now a state historical park. Petco Park is home for the city’s professional baseball (the Padres). The San Diego Yacht Club, representing the United States, won the America’s Cup in 1987, successfully defended it in 1988 and 1992, then lost it in 1995. The city also has an international airport.
The city is located on the site of the first European settlement in California. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542 and claimed the land for Spain. In 1769 Junípero Serra, a Franciscan missionary, established Mission San Diego de Alcalá and dedicated the Presidio, the first Spanish fort in California. By 1830 most of the people were living in what is now Old Town. It was under Mexican jurisdiction from 1822, when Mexico won independence from Spain, until 1846, when it was captured by a U.S. naval force. The city’s population surged when the Santa Fe Railroad arrived in 1884.
San Diego became an important U.S. naval base during World War I; later, other branches of the military established bases there. In the 1950s, this concentration of military installations gave rise to San Diego’s booming aerospace industry which has experienced some decline since the 1970s but remains central to the local economy. The diversification of San Diego’s economic base contributed to its rapid growth during the 1980s, when its downtown witnessed an urban revitalization effort that included Horton Plaza, an expansive shopping mall that won acclaim for its dramatic architecture. The first line of an extensive trolley system opened in 1986.