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How to Choose Which San Diego Neighborhoods are Right For Your Family

San Diego offers a little something for everyone. Coastal neighborhoods like La Jolla, Pacific Beach, and Imperial Beach offer sand, surf, and nightlife, while classic neighborhoods like Eastlake and Poway provide more traditional architecture and solid school systems. Don't forget the short commutes from living and working downtown, or the beautiful scenery and college access of surrounding neighborhoods.

The only question left is which San Diego neighborhood is right for you. Here are some important factors to consider:

Distance to Work

Obviously, the fastest commute to work in downtown San Diego is to live in downtown San Diego itself. Central metro prices and atmosphere aren't for everyone though, so here are some other areas with great commuting options in the greater San Diego area.

Residents advise avoiding traffic along the north/south I-15 corridor if possible, and when in doubt to travel down and try a test run at rush hour. For easier commutes, check the Coaster a coastal train serving the communities of Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, and Sorrento Valley.

Car pool lanes are available in many areas, but if you are a single rider, consider Mira Mesa, Scripps Ranch/Poway/Sabre Springs, Rancho Penasquitos, or South parts of Rancho Bernardo, Carmel Mt. Ranch off I-15 as you can take the less crowded Highway 56.

School Systems

Driving distance isn't the only consideration when searching for a home. For those with children young or old, quality education is important. Here are some of the best school districts in the San Diego metro area.

  1. San Dieguito Union High School District - Located in Encinitas, a beach community 25 miles north of San Diego.
  2. Poway Unified School District - Poway's slogan is the "Country in the City", with a more suburban atmosphere and a smaller population of just under 50,000.
  3. Coronado Unified School District - Coronado is a beach town across the bay from downtown San Diego, known for gentle waves and sparkling sand.
  4. Carlsbad Unified School District - Carlsbad is an affluent community that includes 7 miles of Pacific coastline.
  5. San Marcos Unified School District - In addition to quality primary schools, San Marcos is a northern community that is also home to Cal State and Palomar College.


Amenities can be the difference between a real neighborhood, and just a few streets you live on. Is there community involvement? What about a grocery store or pharmacy? You'll also want to know if you can walk to things, or if you'll have to drive downtown for any entertainment.

Checking the neighborhood Chamber of Commerce or city travel pages is a great way to find specific area amenities, but here's a great overview of the favorite neighborhoods in San Diego.

  1. Little Italy - Described as both rich in history and having a rich potential for growth, this are is located downtown in the heart of San Diego.
  2. Carmel Valley - Located north of town, this neighborhood features newer homes and amenities in an upscale setting.
  3. Mission Hills - Mission Hills is a historic neighborhood with bustling foot and vehicle traffic.
  4. Old Town - The birthplace of San Diego, featuring eclectic historical areas with recent modern additions.
  5. Balboa Park - For those who love downtown, but don't actually want to live downtown, the area around Balboa Park offers a little bit of city and suburb life.

Crime Rates

The crime rate across San Diego is 13% lower than the national average. While this is a positive trend overall, things can still vary neighborhood by neighborhood. Carmel Vallely, La Jolla, and Park West are known for upscale housing and low crime rates. Lesser-known areas can also be safe havens in southern California, such as these top rated areas:

  1. Park Village Rd / Black Mountain Rd
  2. Scripps Poway Pky / Pomerado Rd
  3. Loire Ave / Riesling Dr
  4. Darkwood Rd / Park Run Rd
  5. Black Mountain Rd / Oviedo St

In an area growing as fast as San Diego, it's likely that many areas will change as people are rapidly moving and buying up less expensive properties. That said, there are areas with reputations for a higher crime that may warrant some caution. Denser, more urban areas such as North Park, Pacific Beach, and East Village have consistently reported high crime rates for the area.

Once you have an idea of the San Diego neighborhoods that interest you, it's best to call in a professional. Professional San Diego Realtors like John & Melissa at Steele San Diego homes can steer you in the right direction. Whether you're looking for the perfect craftsman or a modern townhome, these professionals know the area and listing. If you want to learn more about the different San Diego neighborhoods, check out our San Diego Neighborhood Spotlights

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