San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States of America and second-largest city in California. The city is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, immediately adjacent to the Mexican border. The birthplace of California, San Diego is known for its mild year-round climate, natural deep-water harbor, extensive beaches, long association with the U.S. Navy, and recent emergence as a healthcare and biotechnology enclave. The population was 1,301,617 at the 2010 census. Historically home to the Kumeyaay people, San Diego was the first site visited by Europeans on what is now the West Coast of the United States. Upon landing in San Diego Bay in 1542, Juan Cabrillo claimed the entire area for Spain, forming the basis for the settlement of Alta California 200 years later.
The Presidio and Mission of San Diego, founded in 1769, were the first European settlement in what is now California. In 1821, San Diego became part of newly independent Mexico, and in 1850, became part of the United States following the Mexican-American War and the admission of California to the union. The city is the county seat of San Diego County and is the economic center of the San Diego–Carlsbad–San Marcos metropolitan area as well as the San Diego–Tijuana metropolitan area. San Diego's main economic engines are military and defense-related activities, tourism, international trade, and manufacturing. The presence of the University Of California, San Diego (UCSD), with the affiliated UCSD Medical Center, has helped make the area a center of research in biotechnology.
San Diego was originally centered in the Old Town district, but by the late 1860s the center of focus had relocated to the bayfront in the belief that this new location would increase trade. As the "New Town" – present-Day Downtown – waterfront location quickly developed, it eclipsed Old Town as the center of San Diego. The development of skyscrapers over 300 feet (91 m) in San Diego is attributed to the construction of the El Cortez Apartment Hotel in 1927, the tallest building in the city from 1927 to 1963. As time went on multiple buildings claimed the title of San Diego's tallest skyscraper, including the Union Bank of California Building and Symphony Towers. Currently the tallest building in San Diego is One America Plaza, standing 500 feet (150 m) tall, which was completed in 1991. The downtown skyline contains no super-talls, as a regulation put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration in the 1970s set a 500 feet (152 m) limit on the height of buildings due to the proximity of San Diego International Airport. An iconic description of the skyline includes its skyscrapers being compared to the tools of a toolbox.
Tourism is a major industry owing to the city's climate, its beaches, and numerous tourist attractions such as Balboa Park, Belmont amusement park, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and SeaWorld San Diego. San Diego's Spanish and Mexican heritage is reflected in the many historic sites across the city, such as Mission San Diego de Alcala and Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Annual events in San Diego include Comic-Con, the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament, San Diego Pride, the San Diego Black Film Festival, and Street Scene Music Festival. Also, the local craft brewing industry attracts an increasing number of visitors for "beer tours" and the annual San Diego Beer Week in November; San Diego has been called "America's Craft Beer Capital."
San Diego County hosted more than 30 million visitors in 2009, of whom approximately half stayed overnight and half were day visitors; collectively they spent an estimated $15 billion locally. The San Diego Convention Center hosted 68 out-of-town conventions and trade shows in 2009, attracting more than 600,000 visitors. Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOT) have created funding for the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. San Diego's cruise ship industry used to be the second largest in California. Each cruise ship call injects an estimated $2 million (from the purchase of food, fuel, supplies, and maintenance services, not counting the money spent by the tourists) into the local economy. Numerous cruise lines, including Carnival, Holland America, Celebrity, Crystal and Princess, operate out of San Diego. However, cruise ship business has been in steady decline since peaking in 2008, when the Port hosted over 250 ship calls and more than 900,000 passengers. By 2011 the number of ship calls had fallen to 103 (estimated). Holland America and Carnival Cruises operated weekly cruises to the Mexican Riviera for many years, but both ended their regular scheduled service in spring 2012, which was an economic loss to the region of more than $100 million. The decline is blamed on the slumping economy as well as fear of travel to Mexico due to well-publicized violence there.
There are local cruises in San Diego Bay and Mission Bay, available through companies such as Hornblower and H&M. These include sightseeing and "sunset" cruises as well as private-event or "party" cruises. Also available are Whale Watching cruises to observe the migration of tens of thousands of gray whales that pass by San Diego, peaking in mid-January, and year-round sport fishing expeditions.
Public schools in San Diego are operated by independent school districts. The majority of the public schools in the city are served by the San Diego Unified School District, also the second largest school district in California, which includes 11 K-8 schools, 107 elementary schools, 24 middle schools, 13 atypical and alternative schools, 28 high schools, and 45 charter schools. Several adjacent school districts which are headquartered outside the city limits serve some schools within the city; these include the Poway Unified School District, Del Mar Union School District, San Dieguito Union High School District and Sweetwater Union High School District. In addition, there are a number of private schools in the city.
Colleges and universities:
According to education rankings released by the U.S. Census Bureau, 40.4 percent of San Diegans ages 25 and older hold bachelor's degrees. The census ranks the city as the ninth most educated city in the United States based on these figures. Public colleges and universities in the city include San Diego State University (SDSU), University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the San Diego Community College District, which includes San Diego City College, San Diego Mesa College, and San Diego Miramar College. Private colleges and universities in the city include University of San Diego (USD), Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), Alliant International University (AIU), National University,
California International Business University (CIBU), San Diego Christian College, John Paul the Great Catholic University, California College San Diego, Coleman University, University of Redlands School of Business, Design Institute of San Diego (DISD), Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising's San Diego campus, NewSchool of Architecture and Design, Pacific Oaks College San Diego Campus, Chapman University's San Diego Campus, The Art Institute of California-San Diego, Southern States University (SSU), UEI College, and Woodbury University School of Architecture's satellite campus. There is one medical school in the city, the UCSD School of Medicine. There are three ABA accredited law schools in the city, which include California Western School of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and University of San Diego School of Law. There is also one unaccredited law school, Western Sierra Law School.
With the automobile being the primary means of transportation for over 80 percent of its residents, San Diego is served by a network of freeways and highways. This includes Interstate 5, which runs south to Tijuana and runs north to Los Angeles; Interstate 8, which runs east to Imperial County and the Arizona Sun Corridor; Interstate 15, which runs northeast through the Inland Empire to Las Vegas; and Interstate 805, which splits from I-5 near the Mexican border and rejoins I-5 at Sorrento Valley. Major state highways include SR 94, which connects downtown with I-805, I-15 and East County; SR 163, which connects downtown with the northeast part of the city, intersects I-805 and merges with I-15 at Miramar; SR 52, which connects La Jolla with East County through Santee and SR 125; SR 56, which connects I-5 with I-15 through Carmel Valley and Rancho Peñasquitos; SR 75, which spans San Diego Bay as the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, and also passes through South San Diego as Palm Avenue; and SR 905, which connects I-5 and I-805 to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.
San Diego's roadway system provides an extensive network of routes for travel by bicycle. The dry and mild climate of San Diego makes cycling a convenient and pleasant year-round option. At the same time, the city's hilly, canyon-like terrain and significantly long average trip distances—brought about by strict low-density zoning laws—somewhat restrict cycling for utilitarian purposes. Older and denser neighborhoods around the downtown tend to be utility cycling oriented. This is partly because of the grid street patterns now absent in newer developments farther from the urban core, where suburban style arterial roads are much more common. As a result, a vast majority of cycling-related activities are recreational. Testament to San Diego's cycling efforts, in 2006, San Diego was rated as the best city for cycling for U.S. cities with a population over 1 million.