Mission Hills, Hillcrest, Middletown, and Marston Hills –; i.e.: the triangle bound by I-5 to the west, I-8 to the north, and CA 163 to the east.
Mission Hills boasts two villages: the area between Falcon and Ibis Streets between University and West Lewis and further west, the West Lewis Street Shops. On Wednesday afternoons, Falcon Street is closed for a local Farmers’ Market. Mission Hills has an active Town Council, a traditional 4th of July picnic in Pioneer Park, Friday night Concerts in the Park during the summer, and an Easter Egg Hunt in Presidio Park. It is home to the Mission Hills Garden Club, founded in 1999, and host of the annual Garden Walk on the Saturday proceeding Mother’s Day. The money collected contributes to beautifying the community and educating the public about all things garden related and beyond. With canyons throughout and homes dating from the late 1800’s to the present, it is an eclectic mixture of expensive homes and cozy bungalows. Between the canyons and its somewhat separated location, life here is somewhat like living in a small country town in the middle of a very urban area. You will find excellent restaurants, coffee shops, a diner, a plethora of beauty salons, clothing shops, real estate and other professional offices, repair shops, markets and Mission Hills Nursery, established by Kate Sessions. It abuts Hillcrest, Middletown and Old Town. The eastern portion of Old Town is usually considered to be Mission Hills as is Presidio Park. Old Town’s zip code is 92110, however.
Hillcrest is an urban hub reminiscent of New York City’s Greenwich Village. A mixture of restaurants, coffee houses, shops, and even a movie theatre, you will find detached homes as well as apartments and condominiums. It is pedestrian friendly and has lots of character.
East of Hillcrest and just north of Balboa Park you’ll find Marston Hills. Like much of San Diego, primarily residential, it contains a mélange of dwellings from the mundane to the magnificent. In the early morning and early evening you will hear barking baboons and roaring lions as the zookeepers disperse the animals’ meals in San Diego’s famous zoo. Its proximity to the Uptown District gives easy access to markets like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Ralph’s.
West of Marston Hills and south of Hillcrest lies Bankers’ Hill, an area of professional offices, condominiums, apartment buildings and glamorous homes with some bungalows interspersed. It is west of Balboa Park and east of Curlew, south of Pennsylvania and north of Laurel, 4th, 5th, and 6th Avenues are commercial corridors with office buildings, restaurants, shops, apartments, some detached homes and two to four unit buildings, and condominiums. West of Bankers’ Hill is Middletown, sometimes called South Mission Hills. This area is a mixture of stately older homes, a few modern homes, and, toward its western edge just east of the freeway, condominiums, town homes, two to four unit properties, apartments, restaurants and various businesses.
North Park, east of Balboa Park and south of Meade, consists of a hodgepodge of mini-neighborhoods. The commercial area, particularly down 30th Street, has become a culinary corridor with many excellent restaurants. North Park’s proximity to Balboa Park's recreational facilities in Morley Field, playgrounds and Dog Park add to its charm. North Park has an eclectic mixture of homes from large, stately homes and quaint bungalows, many of which are historical, to areas of apartments and condominiums. Here and there you may find a very contemporary home.
One of my favorite parts of North Park is around St. Augustine and McKinley schools. The area has an unusual quality of light as if it had just rained and the sun came out. It reminds me of a watercolor with a pale yellow wash. Another of its micro neighborhoods is Burlingame, famous for its curving streets and pink sidewalks.
Located near CA 163, I-805, CA 94, and I-5, from North Park you can find a variety of routes to wherever you want to go.
92116 is comprised of three basic neighborhoods. The easternmost is Kensington, San Diego’s first tract. Many of the homes are Spanish-styled becoming more expensive as you go north. Roses thrive there because Kensington gets more sunshine than the coastal areas of San Diego. It is a well-maintained community with great coffee shops and restaurants. Bleu Bohème and Kensington Grill are two of its best restaurants.
Normal Heights, west of I-15 and Kensington, has its own corridor of antique shops, restaurants, and used book stores along Adams Avenue. Between Meade and Adams Avenue, you will find a mixture of condominiums, apartments, and detached homes with some duplexes and triplexes thrown in. North of Meade the homes are mainly detached although a few condominiums are tucked away, and some of the homes have one or more dwellings on the site that were "grandfathered" in. In north Normal Heights you will find a small dog park as well as a community garden.
Nestled between Normal Heights and Hillcrest is University Heights. Like the rest of 92116, it features many canyons. University Heights has a lovely Trolley Barn Park where summer concerts are held. A mix of detached and attached homes, as you travel west and north, you will find larger homes. On one finger of land, an ups-scale condominium complex sits on the grounds of what was once a large estate. It has some terrific restaurants: The Farm House and Park House are two of my favorites.
Point Loma sits on the eastern side of a peninsula west of San Diego Harbor. Although the southern tip of the point, a third of the peninsula, is federal land, the land just north of it bordering the harbor is known as La Playa. Here you will find large estates with spectacular views (and prices). As you go north from La Playa you will find condominiums. Above La Playa is a newer neighborhood called the Wooded Area. Roseville and Loma Portal are to the north of the Wooded Area and La Playa. Fleetridge is above Roseville and south of Loma Portal. Loma Portal has lovely homes, but airplanes from Lindberg Field fly directly overhead when taking off. When I taught at Point Loma High we had to stop talking each time a plane went over. On the busiest days we might lose 15 minutes of class time!
On the western section of the peninsula lie Ocean Beach at the north end and Sunset Cliffs at the south. Ocean Beach is a community whose village is reminiscent of 60’s and 70’s. It has restaurants, shops, and its own Farmer’s Market in the village surrounded by big homes and beach cottages, condominiums and apartments. There’s even a Street Fair and chili cook off every July 4th. Best of all, the beach itself offers surfing north of the Ocean Beach Pier, swimming north of that, and finally Dog Beach where dogs can frolic in the water and run free on the sand.
South of OB, as the locals call it, you will find Sunset Cliffs. Here above the ocean are lovely homes in a residential community that can be reached by following Sunset Cliffs Boulevard south or Catalina south from Loma Portal or Fleetridge or take Hill Street or Canon west from Roseville on the Point Loma side of the peninsula.