Indigenous peoples were living in what is now the San Diego area of Southern California long before the Spanish colonial period (1769–1821). Their settlements are thought to date back to 8200 BCE. Probably what attracted them was the coastal presence of shellfish, pleasant climate and game to hunt in the surrounding hills and canyons with their flat table top like mesas.
Spanish interest came when a Portuguese navigator led a Spanish expedition to the area and was attracted by both the natural harbor and easily accessible sources of fresh water. He claimed the bay for the Spanish Empire in 1542. By 1769 Fort Presidio of San Diego and the Mission San Diego de Alcalá had been established. Both the bay and the San Diego River area were fast becoming what today’s realtors call “desirable locations”.
After Mexican independence in 1821, San Diego became part of the territory of Alta California. The Presidio Hill fort was slowly abandoned and what is now the town of San Diego grew up on lower lying land. The Mission was secularized in 1883 and most of its lands sold off to wealthy Californio settlers. Additionally overland immigrants from the United States began to settle on inland areas from around 1841 onwards. The race for San Diego real estate had started.
After the Mexican–American War of 1846–48, the territory of Alta California, including San Diego, was ceded to the United States. Mexico tried to hang on to San Diego but the Americans insisted that it was “for every commercial purpose of nearly equal importance to us with that of San Francisco.” The American negotiators won out and the Mexican-American border was established one league south of the southernmost point of San Diego Bay.
As part of the USA, San Diego thrived and its downtown district became a hub for maritime activities as well as business, commerce and finance in general. Real estate on the higher mesa tops became most sought after and by the 20th Century San Diego real estate prices had become amongst the most expensive in the US.
The Bubble Burst
Like most of the US, real estate prices dropped in San Diego during 2010. Another market factor was the decline of the Downtown District during the 1960s and 1970s. However, it was to be the urban renewal development projects in this District that bought life back into the real estate sector. The Westfield Horton Plaza built on 6.5 city blocks adjacent to the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter and opened in 1985 (followed by the construction of the San Diego Convention Center and Petco Park) provided the bedrock for today’s thriving San Diego Downtown Real Estate sector. Latest developments center on coastal high rise, mixed use towers with residential units above commercial, retail and cultural activity space. The soon to be completed Pacific Gate Tower is but the latest example.