Moving to San Diego

If you are thinking about moving to San Diego, then you might be interested in learning a little about "America's Finest City" before you pack your bags.

  • For those with families; which district has the best schools?
  • For students: where's an affordable and fun place to live?
  • For single women: which are the safest neighborhoods to live in?
  • For single men: where can I go to for a good time?

If you want to know where to buy groceries, go here. If you want to know what's fun in San Diego, go here. Otherwise pick a topic below.

Please be aware that the comments on this page are a combination of factual information; observations made by other people; and the experience from someone who has lived here for close to 15 years. Please don't be offended if you read something you disagree with: just take what you like and leave the rest.

People move to San Diego for a variety of reasons:
  - got a job and will relocate,
  - coming to go to college,
  - want to enjoy the beautiful southern California life,
  - tired of the winter and want a change of scenery.
The first two reasons for moving to San Diego are good reasons. The last two reasons are not, scroll down to see why.

How Much Does it Cost to live in San Diego?
Can I Afford to Buy a House?
What are the Prospects of Finding a Job in San Diego?
Is it a Good Place to Raise a Family?
What Colleges & Universities are in San Diego?
Do I Need a Car or Can I Rely on Public Transportation?
Where Can a 20 Year Old go to Find Some Fun?
What's the Ethnic Mix in San Diego?
What kind of Culture exist in San Diego?
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How Much Does it Cost to live in San Diego?

Ah... the most common question among those who want to move to San Diego: how much does it cost? Can I survive here? The answer is this: if you have a good job, you will do fine. If you don't have a good job, then it will be a bit of a struggle: life won't be as glamorous as you may have hoped. If you don't have a job at all, then you will probably not survive.

The cost of living in San Diego is relatively high so unless you are independently wealthy or have a lot of money saved up, you will run out of resources fairly quickly. For one month expect to pay:
  rent 1 bdrm apt:
  food for 1 week (frugal):
  bus pass for one day:
  bus pass for one month:
  telephone & internet:
  gas & electricity:
$750 to $1000
about $4 per gallon
So, that's about $1250 per month for one frugal person (cable TV, medical & car insurance not included). This is an estimate, the cost of renting an apartment will depend on which part of town you want to live in. It would cost more if you needed to buy furniture or if you plan to tour the city and have some fun.

In terms of employment: minimum wage in California is $8.50 and if you work 9 to 5 (40 hours per week), then you will earn $1360 per month. So, that leaves $100 for incidentals and entertainment: pretty tight. The way to survive in San Diego is to:
  - get a good job that pays more than minimum wage,
  - live in a more affordable part of town,
  - get two jobs. You can determine the cost of living in San Diego using an online calculator. Search for "cost of living calculator":

Can I Afford to Buy a House?

That depends on what part of town you want to buy your house. Anything on the beach or within walking distance to the beach will be very expensive (over a million). Houses get progressively cheaper as you go inland away from the beach. Housing prices also gets cheaper as you head south towards the Mexican border. This is demonstrated in this color chart (chart from red is expensive and green is cheaper.

moving to San Diego

To get a taste of how much a house would cost, do a google search. Type in "san Diego properties" and then choose a location, # bedrooms, # bathrooms, sq ft, etc:

The trouble with internet searches is that you never know what you're getting. It could be a fixer-upper or it could be in a tough part of town. What we do know is this: the median value of owner-occupied house is $495,000. This is to say, an average house in San Diego is about half a million dollars. The price goes up if you want a good school district, easy access to beach, and other luxuries of life

What are the Prospects of Finding a Job in San Diego?

In 2011, unemployment in San Diego (and in California) is at about 10%. Some affluent areas such as Poway and Del Mar have an unemployment rate of less than 6% while other districts such as National City have unemployment rates over 18%.

Assuming an unemployment rate of 10%, you have a 9 in 10 chance of getting a job and a 1 in 10 chance of being unemployed. Doesn't sound so bad does it? But, not so fast... According to the government, you are officially "unemployed" if you:
  - are not currently working, and
  - have been out of work for the last 4 weeks, and
  - are actively looking for work.

"Actively" looking for work means you are sending out resumes, filling up application forms, placing ads in newspapers, using job placement services, or asking friends, family, former colleges for work.

The 10% unemployment rate stated above does not include people who
  - have recently lost their job (less than 4 weeks ago),
  - get paid for doing odd jobs or part time work,
  - are sitting at home too depressed to look for work,
  - are homeless and bumming around.
(the last 2 categories of people are not "officially unemployed" because they are not "actively" look for work).

Some economists feel that the official definition of "unemployed" is too restrictive and does not reflect the number of able bodied people who can join the work force. With this in mind, the number of people who are "not working" or "not working on a job they are trained for" is probably higher than 10%.

As mentioned above, your best bet is to come to San Diego if you already have a job lined up. If you come with no job, you can probably get "a job" but it may not be "the job" you were hoping for. It will be a rare event if you came to San Diego with no job lined-up and managed to get a high-paying job just by applying for one.

Even educated, experienced employees are being laid off: of my circle of 10 friends, two have been laid off and have still not found full time jobs. One went back home to live with mom, the second got a series of part time, contract work. That's real life statistics for you.

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Is it a Good Place to Raise a Family?

San Diego is a great place to raise a family. The city is relatively safe, the weather is nice, there are lots of fun things to do, and the schools are generally good. Sounds too good to be true? Well, let's look at each aspect in more detail.

The crime rate in San Diego is relatively low. In 2010, Forbes magazine listed San Diego as one of the top 10 safest cities in USA. In 2009, San Diego was ranked as the 4th safest city in USA.

However, that being said, it is not safe in Tijuana, just 20 minutes south of downtown San Diego. In recent years, there has been more and more violent crimes due to drug trafficking. You're definitely safer on the US side of the border; I wouldn't recommend going to Tijuana for a visit.

There are a lot of fun things to do in San Diego, that part will always be true. In addition to the multitude of tourist attractions such as the Zoo, SeaWorld, Legoland etc, there's the natural beauty of the beach. Beaches are free in San Diego! Don't forget about the hiking trails and the opportunity for year-round biking.

The public school system has been and still is generally quite good. However, the state of California is in debt and there has been proposals for budget cuts towards education. Whether San Diego continues to offer good education in the future is yet to be seen. Already in 2011 school year, class sizes have increased and school programs have been eliminated due to lacj if funding. Things are slowly changing for the worst but not all is lost. In some of the more affluent areas, parent volunteers and PTA contributions help maintain a high quality of education. Let's see what happens in the next few years.

What Colleges & Universities are in San Diego?

San Diego has 3 public and 20 private universities. "Public" means that it is funded by the government. "Private" means it is not funded by the government, though it may still receive funds in the form of scholarships or tax breaks. (Go here to learn about elementary schools).

San Diego has 3 public universities:
Private universities include:
Most Colleges offer 2-year associate degrees (some offer 4-year Bachelors degrees as well). Universities offer 4-year Bachelors degrees and higher, graduate degrees such as Masters, JD, MD, or PhD. Most universities do research whereas Colleges do not.

Don't be confused because some universities have "colleges" within the university. These are more like "departments" or "schools" and are not independent stand alone units.

Obviously, it is impossible to comment on all the colleges and universities available. SDSU is the largest and oldest higher-education facility in the greater San Diego area. The UCSD is slightly smaller but ranks as the 7th best university in USA and the 14th best university in the world. Do a google search for more information: