life in San Diego
September 10, 2008 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I am thinking of moving from New York to San Diego for a quality of life improvement -- better weather, less congestion and more laid back lifestyle. Can someone give me insight on life in SD, suggest good neighborhoods to live in and provide a local perspective. Also does anyone know a good resource to find a job there in media -- television production, writing or public relations. Many thanks!
posted by Shanachie to Work & Money (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a previous thread with a simlar topic; there are quite a few others floating around in the database, including this one.

Although the "better weather" part is pretty much a given, I'd like to know what makes you think SD is automatically going to have less congestion and a more laid-back lifestyle. You're probably not wrong, but I just want to make sure you're not over-romanticizing the place. For one thing, if you're moving from NYC, you're going to have to get used to the idea of owning a car, and depending on where you live, you might get traffic. Traffic congestion is a whole different kind of hell from what you might experience in NY.

Also, I could provide a local perspective, but on what? What are you looking for? What sort of insights on life here are you looking for?

As far as your potential job prospects, we've got Stu Segal productions, along with the local TV stations, but we're certainly not a major hub for anything. LA is close enough and has enough major players that nothing substantial is really going to sprout up here, so most of our economy for things like that is pretty locally based. SD is like that in general, which kind of makes it a very large small town.
posted by LionIndex at 9:45 AM on September 10, 2008

I moved to San Diego a year ago (from elsewhere in Southern California) so I may have some insight here.

1) Transportation. You'll probably need a car, depending on the neighborhood. I live downtown and rarely need mine but they do come in handy. San Diego is very geographically dispersed and the business districts of most neighborhoods are just a few blocks long. Public transit is surprisingly useful for Southern California, but buses can sometimes be irregular and they're constantly messing with schedules so at times they only come every half hour or hour. The trolley system, if you're going somewhere that's serviced by it, is really convenient. There is congestion, nowhere near what it's like in LA. I've also structured my life to kind of work around it. If you live and work downtown, you won't need a car to get to work, so traffic shouldn't be a concern.

2) Neighborhood. What kind of neighborhood are you looking for? Downtown is very young, has a lot of yuppies and artists in transition to becoming yuppies. Hillcrest the local gay neighborhood. North Park is the current artistic neighborhood. There's also neighborhoods that are fairly suburban, consisting mostly of college students and commuters, like Mission Valley. Pacific Beach is slightly upscale for a beach community, more family friendly and Ocean Beach is where all the hippies and stoners hang out. La Jolla is a very conservative, upscale area, that's awesome to visit and very pretty, but I'm not sure how it is to live there. (I fully admit I've painted these with a very broad brush).

3) Food. A lot of really good restaurants are opening here, concentrated in the "East Village (downtown)", Hillcrest, and North Park. If you're into food at all, you'll have lots of choices. There are some really good farmers markets here too. The one in Hillcrest on Sunday, the one in Ocean Beach on Wednesday is pretty neat too since it's kind of a swap meet in addition to being a farmer's market, but my current favorite is in Little Italy on Saturday. There's some great produce and awesome specialty products. All three are served by public transit.

4) Entertainment. It depends on what you're looking for. The Gaslamp area downtown has a lot of clubs that mostly serve the college age crowd. I get to watch a lot of drunken arrests from my window. Major acts come through all the time, but as far as I can tell it's hard to just go out for an evening of entertainment without planning it. There's not a lot of real jazz or comedy clubs from what I can tell. If you're the sort that goes to "shows", there should be plenty here. This is the one thing that I haven't really gotten in tune with yet.

5) Lifestyle. We're very laid back, especially in comparison to New York. Counterpeople will talk to you here. Everyone is generally friendly. San Diego is also a city of people who migrated here from elsewhere, it's rare to meet a native San Diegan so everyone is kind of an outsider together. Because people chose this city you're more likely to see them get along. Depending on where you live, the beach is Right There, and there's always local coffeeshops to park yourself at for a few hours. There's plenty of parks to wander around and plenty of neighborhoods near you with their own individual character. You can easily kill a Saturday just wandering around.

6) Weather. The weather here is perfect, almost monotonously so. We rarely get rain, it's rarely cold. There are a bunch of microclimates here though, so while it could be really comfortable in Mission Valley, downtown could be roasting.

My parents were down visiting me this weekend and I took them around on what I typically do over the course of Saturday and Sunday: Farmer's markets, coffee, food, museums. They said they felt like they were on vacation. That's what it's like here all the time.

No matter what you're looking for, you should be able to find it. Just be prepared to see cashews and shrimp on pizza.
posted by mikesch at 10:17 AM on September 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have lived in SD for 4 years...was a transplant from the East coast too.

Alot of people dont realive just how large SD is. Its like a monster hive with little cities everywhere.

I want to disagree with LionIndex though about the weather, the weather is NOT as sunny as people think. Honestly, the weather is comparable to Jacksonville Flordia. The winters are not shorts and t-shirts and the spring time brings a ton of clody days (May gray, June Gloom).

Traffic is really not too bad for such a major city and there is so much to do there. Yeah, the ocean is always cold, but the views are exceptional!
I really would encourage you to try and look into Point Loma, its a wonderful area, easy and quick access to the ocean and awesome resturaunts and literally 3 miles form the airport and 4 from the city proper.

Lastly, the laid back lifestyle is not truly the case, there is hussle and bussle and there are angry and rude drivers like anywhere else USA, but comming from the east coast, you may find that SD is laid back just enough... how I miss In-N-Out.......
posted by TeachTheDead at 10:18 AM on September 10, 2008

it's rare to meet a native San Diegan


I want to disagree with LionIndex though about the weather, the weather is NOT as sunny as people think. Honestly, the weather is comparable to Jacksonville Flordia. The winters are not shorts and t-shirts and the spring time brings a ton of clody days (May gray, June Gloom).

Disagree all you want, but you're just wrong. We're comparing SD to New York here -- by most standards, it's "better" here. Even though it's frequently cloudy in May and June, we go almost from May to November without a drop of rain. It might snow once every 20 years in the lowland areas, and even then it melts as soon as it hits the ground. In just about any season, the forecast high temperature for the day is in the 70s. I don't know what Jacksonville is like from experience, but I can almost guarantee that it's much more humid there. I wear t-shirts and jeans almost every day during the Winter; sometimes I have to break out the shorts. I had friends in high school who didn't own a pair of long pants and did just fine.
posted by LionIndex at 11:16 AM on September 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm presuming that when you say New York, you mean NYC, and not, like, Albany or something.

If you do mean NYC, and you haven't lived anywhere else, regarding the transportation question, you are in for a profound culture shock. San Diego is huge, and driving will become a major part of your life.

As this poster points out, he has structured his life around not needing a car, but recognize that he is an extreme minority in San Diego and in all of Southern California. He is correct on his other descriptions, though.

I would look into living in Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and La Jolla. Those areas will be expensive, though.

Be wary of crime-ridden areas. Don't think that California is all sweetness and light. The crime rates in these areas are quite comparable to NYC's bad neighborhoods.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:37 AM on September 10, 2008

Large chunks of SD are lovely, but as everyone else has said, you'll definitely need a car. Despite the aforementioned June Gloom, the weather should make you very happy.

If you're interested in live theater, there's good stuff to be had, especially at the Old Globe theater complex.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:50 PM on September 10, 2008

I had friends in high school who didn't own a pair of long pants and did just fine.

I was one of those people. Another native San Diegan here too. Yes, the weather rules far and above any other city I've lived in. But, that statement should be qualified:

San Diego is large and spread out and full of microclimates. I grew up on the coastline and thats generally the best weather - the cold Pacific and the hot inland desert meet here and create perfection. If you live in inland San Diego, then its more desert with hotter days and colder nights.

If you dont live close to where you work, traffic will be a daily nightmare. The highways are just way too congested. And you have to have a car because even if you do live close to work much of what is interesting to see and do in San Diego is only accessible by car.

I've lived in NYC - Soho in Manhattan to be exact. Compared to NYC, San Diego is a cultural wasteland. Its not a University town. Its more of a Navy/Marine Corps town.

The Food actually kind of sucks compared to what it could be. Despite the large Mexican population, Mexican food does not compare to LA or San Francisco. People tend to eat at chain places which is too bad.

Nightlife is almost non-existent. The city shuts down fairly early. Notable exceptions are nice things such as beach bonfires. The converse is that people in San Diego get up really early. The streets and roads are jammed with early morning joggers and bikers and whatnot. Its also an exercise town.

But, yes, overall, it is a very laid-back place. The pace of life is certainly slower than almost anyplace on the East coast.
posted by vacapinta at 2:10 PM on September 10, 2008

Also, I was born and raised here. It is one of a string of beach communities north of La Jolla. It is as idyllic as it sounds but real estate prices mean that its not so affordable to live there as when my parents moved in.
posted by vacapinta at 2:17 PM on September 10, 2008

Its not a University town. Its more of a Navy/Marine Corps town.

It's pretty simplistic, but that's San Diego in a nutshell. The fun is in trying to work around that basic fact.
posted by LionIndex at 2:54 PM on September 10, 2008

I like to think of San Diego as "not-L.A."

It's in Southern California. But it's not L.A.
It has beaches and a surf culture. But not L.A.'s beaches and surf culture.
It has a huge Mexican influence. But not L.A.'s huge Mexican influence.
It has Sea World and the Zoo. Not Disneyland and Magic Mountain.
It has La Jolla and Torrey Pines. Not Beverly Hills and Bel-Air.
It has Pacific Beach and Mission Beach. Not Manhattan Beach and Venice Beach.
It has several good universities. Not UCLA or USC.

It has everything L.A. has. But it's not L.A.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:11 PM on September 10, 2008

It's kind of just not as MUCH as LA.

Not as many restaurants
Not as big of museums
Not as much excitement
Not as much traffic
Not as many people who are obsessed with being "in"
Not as many freeways
Not as stressful
Not as cliquish
Not as many celebrities
Not as much smog

Seriously though, what is your situation? How old are you, do you have a family, what kind of neighborhood are you looking for?
I live in North Park, as mentioned above, and I think it's great. I work in the suburbs, so my commute is really easy.

I'm also a native San Diegan (from Julian, actually). I used to want to move to San Francisco and be with all the other artsy/nerdy/liberal types, but these days I actually enjoy the fact that not everyone here is just like me. (And not everyone is a Marine, either.)

You do really need a car though.
posted by exceptinsects at 9:36 PM on September 10, 2008

We'd really need to know more about you to give you a recommendation on what neighborhood you may want to live in. As previous posters have mentioned, San Diego is really huge and sprawling. Different neighborhoods have drastically different personalities.

It's rare for it not to be sunny and warm, but right now I'm looking out my window at work in Mira Mesa and the sky is dark and grey. The weather depends a lot on where in the county you are. I almost always dress in short sleeves and pants, and just keep a jacket or sweater in the trunk of my car.

Oh, and I also disagree with the poster who claims that the Mexican food here isn't good. I didn't even like Mexican food until I moved down here from the Bay Area for college back in '94. The Mexican food here is much, much better than anything I've had in my frequent forays in Los Angeles. Hell, it's even better than anything I've had in Mexico! Taste is entirely subjective.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 2:43 PM on September 12, 2008

I lived in SD a year post-college. Solana Beach, to be exact...north of Del Mar so its still fairly nice, and it was right on I-5, so it was easy to get around. I loved it but did get burnt out on the fact that I would literally go DAYS before I saw any other minorities. I'm South Indian and I definitely felt a few times that people would take a second's pause to figure out whether I was Mexican. Which is fine, but just sayin'...this town (and especially the northern beach communities), don't seem to be known for its diversity. But go up to Cardiff for brunch at Pipes. Yummy.

As for the cultural wasteland comments - well, ok, its no Manhattan, but there is Balboa Park with its 15 museums (and Extraordinary Desserts is nearby! Which...GO!!)

The Gaslamp and Old Town are pretty nice for food and going out in a grown-up fashion (you could go to Pacific Beach too if you're looking to go out in a MUCH less grown-up fashion) , and I found Petco one of the nicer parks to watch baseball in (also, the Padres always seem to be giving away freebies to their fans. That...does not happen at Fenway.)

So, in sum, there are definitely a lot of things to do in SD to keep yourself occupied, but definitely definitely gear yourself up for a paradigm shift.

Also, if you want a dog, this, in my opinion, is absolutely one of the best cities to have one in. I lived by a dog beach. A beach. For dogs. Nothing lifts your spirits like watching a bunch of labs and huskies diving into the Pacific.
posted by Eudaimonia at 12:40 AM on September 13, 2008

I'm about to emigrate from the UK to San Diego, and I've spent several months actually living there. Here's what I think, as someone used to city life and similar weather:

The weather is great 90% of the time. The other 10% are random spots of gloomy humidity or dry dry heat. It might rain a handful of times a year. That's when you go clean your house. The air quality is also pretty stunning, my skin/lungs are a lot happier out there.

The eating out experiences (disclaimer: boyfriend has been to lunch with this chap recently, but we've read his blog for years) are cheap and mostly excellent. Asian food especially. Can't comment on the Mexican food, because I don't really like it.

If you're pro-exercise, there are tonnes of opportunities for watersports, biking, skating thanks to the weather. Also a strong martial arts scene. When I move out, I'm getting a bike :D

And it's definitely laid back. The negative side to this, especially with the way the county sprawls, is that there's not much visible culture. It can come across as a very unpersonalised new land, at least to someone that comes from a city that's thousands of years old. I think perhaps people are still trying to make a mark on their surroundings. If you like sport (see above) you're set. But anything else, and you have to dig really deep beneath the surface. Balboa Park is lovely, but it's very moderated, and once you've seen everything that has to offer, there's not much else.

Eudaimonia you said: "I loved it but did get burnt out on the fact that I would literally go DAYS before I saw any other minorities. I'm South Indian and I definitely felt a few times that people would take a second's pause to figure out whether I was Mexican. Which is fine, but just sayin'...this town (and especially the northern beach communities), don't seem to be known for its diversity"

Not my experience, but I have an Asian boyfriend. I sometimes go days without seeing more white people than minorities. And months without eating white people food, unless I make it at home myself. Sometimes I have white people days, where I get to eat potatoes. Having said that, there are definitely craploads of white people in San Diego, you can feel the conservative bent a mile away, and if you live in a white area and you're not white, I can't disagree about the potential isolation.
posted by saturnine at 8:18 AM on September 14, 2008

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