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Downtown San Diego

Downtown San Diego is a growing urban metropolis with spectacular bay views and romantic vistas of the Coronado islands, the Coronado Bridge to the Pacific Ocean and beyond. It is home to major league baseball, the San Diego Convention Center, exciting and thriving neighborhoods with great dining, entertainment and cultural venues, and a booming tourism industry, along with a growing base of people who have discovered the exciting opportunities throughout Downtown.

Now home to more than 30,000 residents, the population could grow to 90,000 residents by 2030. People from all over the region, the country and the world flock here for the exceptional residential and business opportunities, the waterfront setting, outstanding climate and breathtaking views. The neighborhoods offer a vibrant, convenient urban atmosphere, with something for every lifestyle.


Downtown has undergone billions of dollars of new residential, commercial and public-infrastructure development in the past several years. Describing the vision for the future, the 2006 Downtown Community Plan emphasizes some essential priority projects, lifestyle amenities, parks and open space, and a mile-long revitalization of the western waterfront; it calls for more than 50 acres of new parks and plazas to link residential areas, parks and neighborhood centers. It delineates improved transit corridors and connections to Balboa Park and the waterfront. Unique restaurants, retail shops, housing and commercial space continue to arise. Educational facilities, public safety and arts and culture are top priorities. San Diego’s urban core is a model of smart growth that puts live, work and play elements in one place.

The area offers a wide array of homes at varying price points. This guide lists housing in each of Downtown’s neighborhoods:

In most cases, it will be necessary to consult a realtor to obtain up-to-date pricing information. This information is designed as a reference for anyone who lives Downtown or is considering locating here. Contact the Louie Ortiz Group at (858) 259-1126 for additional information. It provides information about existing housing, several upcoming projects, as well as many of the important projects and/or programs designed to improve the quality of life and make this a clean, safe and fun environment.

Housing types

Apartments – for rent apartment buildings and complexes rent individual units on various leasing terms.

Condominiums – for sale condominiums are individually owned units in multi-unit buildings. Consult property management resources for leasing opportunities.

Lofts – for rent or for sale. A loft is a living space not partitioned into rooms.

Residential hotel (aka SRO) units – for rent SROs provide small, fully furnished rooms with utilities included, and rent on daily, weekly, or monthly terms.

Senior apartments – for rent senior apartments are affordable rentals exclusively for elderly individuals who are predominantly in independent living situations. Some locations offer assisted living – a combination of housing and supportive services designed to meet the needs of those who require help with daily activities.

A Clean & Safe Neighborhood

Desiring to improve Downtown’s business climate, competitiveness and quality of partnership launched a property-based business improvement district (pbid) in July 2000.

Funded through assessments levied by Downtown property owners on themselves, the pbid’s objectives are to improve the appearance of Downtown’s streets and to enhance public safety and information services for residents, employees and visitors.

The service area covers 272 blocks and includes the Civic/Core, Columbia, Marina, Horton/Gaslamp, East Village and Cortez neighborhoods.

Maintenance Services

The program deploys personnel seven days a week. Enhanced activities are performed to supplement City of San Diego baseline services. Primary responsibilities are:

  • Sidewalk sweeping
  • Trash removal from public trash cans
  • Debris removal and other illegal dumps
  • Power washing of public sidewalks
  • Systematic graffiti and sticker removal
  • Removal of animal waste
  • Median landscaping maintenance
  • Tree maintenance and weed abatement

Safety Services

A primary goal is to complement police department activities. Patrolling on foot, bicycle and segway®, safety ambassadors act as extra sets of eyes and ears for law enforcement and property owners. They proactively engage homeless individuals, provide them with useful information about various social services and where they can be found, and conduct routine patrols of Downtown parks.

Primary responsibilities:

  • Deter nuisance crimes such as aggressive panhandling
  • Support homeless outreach team (hot)
  • Assist visitors with directions and information
  • Help prevent undesirable behavior
  • Maintain direct communications with police

Source: Clean and Safe Downtown San Diego

Click here for more information about the clean and safe program.

Clean & Safe Operations Office
1111 Sixth Avenue, Suite 101, San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 234-8900
Fax: (619) 234-2303

Managing Downtown Construction/Event Activity

Planning for Downtown’s high-volume redevelopment is a complex process that requires the collective participation of hundreds of individuals and organizations to ensure minimal impacts on day-to-day activity. At any given time, between 20 and 50 projects may be under construction Downtown, creating noise, dust, street and sidewalk closures, and temporary removal of parking spaces. Additionally, numerous special events and activities take place Downtown that often result in street closures and other inconveniences which must be communicated to the public.

In 1999, when the number of redevelopment projects first topped 100, 12 public and private organizations, including CCDC, came together to create a management and information program called Paradise in Progress, to analyze, track and provide information about changes in traffic patterns and best travel routes.

Paradise in Progress continues to be one of the most successful and innovative programs of its kind in the United States. Since its inception, Paradise in Progress has helped mitigate numerous potential conflicts. It has been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, modeled in other major cities and has served as the working solution when events and construction converge – thus enabling Downtown San Diego to continue its urban renewal process while allowing all to enjoy the amenities.

In addition to a monthly newsletter and special event/construction alerts, an information hotline, staffed Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. And 4 p.m., has been established to assist in providing the public information about construction and special events.

Successful resolution of potential problems requires good teamwork. Throughout the years, paradise in progress has been fortunate enough to receive funding and other assistance from a wide array of participating stakeholders in addition to CCDC. Those stakeholders include:

Establishing a Downtown Quiet Zone

Railroads have long provided an important link in the movement of goods into and out of the Port of San Diego, as well as a reliable source of transportation for people. Trains bring a special ambience to this urban waterfront setting and provide good jobs for San Diegans. Middle-of-the night train whistles, however, are not popular. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) established guidelines for increasing safety and designating a “quiet zone”. Officials from the FRA, railroads, trolley system, City of San Diego, California Public Utilities Commission and CCDC evaluated the physical factors at each of Downtown’s existing 12 rail crossings, including gate types, number of lanes, traffic patterns, location of driveways and adjacent roads, and pedestrian behavior to obtain this designation.

CCDC is implementing a plan to upgrade to four-quadrant gates, convert a two-way street to one way, add pre-signals on the approach crossings, warning signage, safety striping, median islands and miscellaneous improvements to comply with the new guidelines. (Park Blvd. is a future crossing that will reopen a vehicular connection to Harbor Drive just east of Petco Park. Safety improvements will be constructed as part of the Park Blvd. at-grade improvement project.) The estimated $20.6-million project will eliminate the requirement for train whistles at intersections and thus create a “quiet zone.”

Visit CCDC for more information and project updates. For information about the federal government’s quiet zone regulations, click here.

Future Visions – Education Task Force

Downtown San Diego continuously attracts more and more residents each year, adding attractive new homes, thriving commercial space and charming parks. It is becoming the ideal place to live, work, play – and learn. CCDC is committed to improving the quality of life for current and future Downtown residents, workers and visitors, and to attracting and retaining families. An education task force now meets regularly. Its mission is to identify, analyze, expand, improve and promote educational opportunities in the Downtown region for all citizens.

Education task force goals include:

  • Creating a master plan that is a nationally recognized model for educational excellence.
  • Establishing partnerships among businesses, residents and educational/cultural institutions for the purpose of maximizing opportunities to provide physical and intellectual capital in support of schools.
  • Conducting fair and effective analyses and public opinion research, resulting in high-quality information upon which to base decisions and recommendations regarding existing and future schools.
  • Striving for a creative blend of public and private elementary, middle and high schools and colleges, to achieve a variety of educational opportunities in the Downtown community.
  • Promoting awareness of Downtown educational opportunities through regular, frequent and high-quality communications among task force members, between the task force and its represented constituents, and between the task force and interested agencies and citizens.

Parks and Open Space

Parks, public plazas, cultural centers and promenades are vital components of a successful Downtown. CCDC understands the importance of these elements in creating a healthy and diverse urban environment. Downtown residents enjoy having Balboa Park as their backyard, Petco Park as their side porch, and the waterfront as their front yard – and there is no shortage of public spaces in between.

As CCDC implements the Downtown Community Plan, the creation of new parks and open space is a priority. There are approximately 115 acres of existing parks and open space within Downtown, and roughly 50 acres of new parks and open space in the pipeline, including St. Joseph’s Park, the North Embarcadero Esplanade, and 14th and Island Park and East Village Green. In addition to creating these generous neighborhood parks, the community plan also includes smaller “pocket parks” and green streets that will link the park system for pedestrians and put open space within a five-to-ten-minute walk of almost all Downtowners.

CCDC Commitment

Twenty percent of Downtown’s annual property tax revenues are set aside to develop affordable housing. Since 1975, on behalf of the City of San Diego’s redevelopment agency, CCDC has facilitated development of 17,474 homes Downtown, of which 2,985 are deemed affordable by federal and state standards. Approximately 900 affordable homes have been funded by CCDC in the areas surrounding Downtown.

Income and Rent Limits

Each building has specific income and rent restrictions for its affordable units. Rent restrictions are determined annually according to state regulations. Rental rates vary, depending on income level and unit size. Income levels are adjusted annually by Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) for very-low and lower income and Housing and Community Development (HCD) for moderate income.

Living Downtown and Loving It

Whether looking to start a business, raise a family, be immersed in nightlife, or walk to work, everything can be done in the heart of San Diego. Downtown’s eight neighborhoods offer its 30,000 residents a great range of lifestyle options. “Downtown San Diego is a gem”, as one Downtown resident says, and after all, what could be better than living where many come to vacation?

Downtown’s residents wholeheartedly agree. With the array of available options in both affordable and luxury housing, calling Downtown San Diego home has never been easier. The most difficult part may be deciding whether to live above it all in a new high-rise or in a unique historical renovation.

Transportation Options Abound in and Around Downtown

ON FOOT – With short city blocks and most streets running one way in a grid pattern, easy navigation is one of Downtown’s greatest assets; it’s hard to get lost here. Not only is it the cheapest and healthiest means of getting around, but with so much going on Downtown, it’s the best way to get a feel for the city.

BICYCLE, SCOOTER & CYCLES – San Diego is highly navigable by two-wheeled transportation. The fabulous weather and scenery make riding a bike or scooter an appealing option. Many roads have built-in or designated bike lanes (San Diego Ridelink offers a map of the county’s bike paths, lanes and routes). Additionally, MTS trolleys and buses and even the Coronado ferry allow bicyclists to stow their vehicles onboard.

PEDICAB – Between 50 and 150 pedicabs pedal daily along most Downtown streets, particularly around the Gaslamp Quarter and the harbor. These are a unique and enjoyable alternative to taking a taxi and the next best thing to riding a bike around the city. Although the rates are often driver-determined, $10 to $20 per person (depending on the length of the ride) is what riders can expect to pay.

TROLLEY – The San Diego Trolley light rail system offers routes that run to various points in Downtown, Old Town, Mission Valley, Qualcomm Stadium and East County and connects with San Diego Transit buses. Operating seven days a week from about 5 a.m. to midnight (depending on the station) at intervals of about 15 minutes each, and with a self-service fare collection system whose tickets start at $1.25, the trolley is one of Downtown’s most efficient modes of transportation.

BUS – In the immediate Downtown area, including Old Town and Balboa Park, the bus is a quick way to get around. Nearly 30 bus routes pass through the Downtown area. The bus system also encompasses more than 100 routes in the greater San Diego region and services some of the area’s most popular tourist attractions.

COASTER & AMTRAK – Close to many of Downtown’s favorite spots, such as the waterfront, Horton Plaza and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego’s express rail commuter service, the Coaster, links the coastal communities as it travels between Santa Fe Depot and the Oceanside Transit Center. Amtrak trains depart daily from this same depot.

FERRY & WATER TAXI – Marvel at the sight of the San Diego skyline by taking advantage of one of the city’s most enjoyable transportation and sightseeing treasures, the San Diego-Coronado ferry. One-way fares are only $3.50 and scheduled service leaves from the Broadway Pier every hour on the hour between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday (until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday) and returns every hour on the half hour. The ferry to Coronado is one of the best ways to spend 15 minutes. The water taxi is just as pleasurable. Riders can take the Embarcadero-to-Coronado trip, but water taxi fares can also be piloted to and from almost anywhere along the bay, seven days a week, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

TAXI – There are times when only a taxi will do. Fortunately, they can be found almost everywhere Downtown – at major hotels and transportation hubs, taxi cab stands, and at such nearby popular Downtown sites as the Convention Center, Horton Plaza, PETCO Park, Seaport Village and the Gaslamp Quarter. For those who happen to be at a hotel or restaurant, the front desk or concierge can call a taxi.

AIRPLANE – Paralleling beautiful San Diego Bay is the San Diego International Airport. Significantly enhanced in 1998, the airport lies in the center of the City and is quickly accessible from Downtown. With three terminals, close to 300 departures daily and 22 major and commuter airlines, San Diego International Airport is the busiest Single-runway commercial service airport in the nation and the thirtieth busiest airport in the country in terms of passengers.

Source: Centre City Development Corporation