Pacific Beach, California

Garnet Avenue between Lamont and Jewell Streets
San Diego, CA

Submitted by: Michael Jackson

A Californian neighborhood where it is actually possible to live without a car.

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Why It Works

Pacific Beach is a neighborhood in San Diego. It has maybe 40,000 to 50,000 residents (estimated). It is a California neighborhood where it is possible to live without a car. The block surrounded by Diamond/Lamont/Garnet/Jewell Streets contains two shopping centers chock full of restaurants, a video store, dry cleaners, a grocery store, drug store, bakery, and condominiums and single family homes, which makes it possible for these residents to enjoy basic commercial amenities without crossing a street. However, Pacific Plaza I and II serves the entire community.

Pacific Beach is very walkable due to its grid street layout. There is diversity in housing types and income levels. There are numerous bicycle routes and the buses are equipped with bike racks.

Pacific Beach borders Mission Bay Park to the south, which is the nation's largest aquatic based municipal park. The park offers swimming, boating, windsurfing, walking, roller blading, bicycling, and beach picnics. PB's western boundary is the Pacific Ocean, with a marvelous boardwalk that extends several miles. Its northern boundary is the community of La Jolla, an upscale community of some renown. Many people falsely believe La Jolla is an independent city rather than just another San Diego neighborhood. Its eastern boundary is Interstate 5, which provides convenient motor vehicle access to downtown San Diego and its airport (20 minutes away) or north to Los Angeles.

Pacific Beach is known for its restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Garnet Avenue and Mission Boulevard often has the appearance of being a college town but no colleges are located in PB proper. However, you can find many retirees as well as people raising families. There are many interesting characters there. PB also serves as a vacation magnet in the summer particularly with its quirky Crystal Pier which extends about 1/2 mile into the ocean. There are cabins for rent on the pier where you can "Sleep over the Ocean". At the far end of the pier fishermen congregate. You can also get great views of the surfers working the waves and see the Coronado Islands about 25 miles in the distance, located in Mexican waters.

What Makes Pacific Beach, California a Great Place?

Pacific Beach is very accessible, particularly without a car. Sidewalks, bikeways, and transit make it easy to get around. The southern California weather of course makes it enjoyable to be outside. Several of the bike route signs provide destination information. Bike racks have been placed in many convenient locations.

I can't say whether there are more women than men but there appears to be a balance in the genders. Vehicles are present particularly on the main drags, but parallel side streets provide options. Pacific Beach is reasonably clean and safe. The area is patrolled by the San Diego Police Department. I would guess major crime problems stem from excessive alcohol use from bar patrons.

People use both public and private spaces in PB regularly. The Pacific Plaza shopping center is well landscaped with trees in the parking lot and wood shingled store fronts. It is the type of place where the local Starbucks places water bowls on their patio so dogs can slate their thirst while their owners chit-chat. It is great for people watching. When I lived there, the local smooth jazz radio station KIFM would host free jazz concerts on the shopping center plaza. PB seems to have more of an adult mix from college age to retirees than primary and secondary aged school kids. Both genders, individuals and groups are all represented.

The entire community is a very sociable and happening place. It does lack racial and ethnic diversity, being mostly Caucasian and some Hispanics. However, having lived there for 10 years from 1985-95 and still maintaining contact as a landlord, I didn't experience any major problems being an African-American male.

The social tenor is casual and relaxed. Garnet Avenue, the main business district, has a mixture of restaurants, bars, stores, and interesting mix of vehicular traffic, bicyclists, and strollers. Pacific Beach has a strong local identity, history and sense of place. On the beaches in the summer time the tourists may outnumber the locals but this is still a community where people live, not a place taken over by tourist orientated businesses and services.

History & Background

Pacific Beach is about 2 miles east to west and maybe 2 miles north to south at its widest points. It once claimed the title of "Lemon Capital of the World" due to the numerous lemon groves once planted there.

Contact Info:

Discover Pacific Beach, 1503 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach, CA 92109; (858) 273-3303

Related Links:

  • Discover Pacific Beach - Mission: To revitalize and promote the Pacific Beach community physically and economically.

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