Neighborhoods: July 2008 Archives

This is third installment of a new series I'm starting, on the neighborhoods of the area I primarily work, which includes La Mesa, San Carlos, El Cajon and Santee.

This area is bounded by Massachusetts Avenue on the east, California 94 on the south, the San Diego City Limits on the west, and University Avenue on the north. The area in San Diego west almost to College Avenue is broadly similar. The area in La Mesa east across Massachusetts (Lemon Grove Vista) is perhaps slightly less desirable. The main "neighborhood" streets are Waite and Hoffman (which becomes Celia Vista at the San Diego City Limits). Lois and King streets, which are essentially extensions of 70th Street, are used to a lesser extent. Marian has a light on University it shares with Harbinson on the other side of that street, but is very quiet once you get south of Boulevard Place (a short frontage road for University).

Two views of the intersection of King and Hoffman. First, looking north:
King N from Hoffman

Looking east:
Hoffman E from King

Keep in mind, this is the busiest corner inside the neighborhood, excepting only the commercial arteries on the edge!

The main commercial arteries serving the area are University Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue. At one point in the distant past, there was a mini-mart on Hoffman but it's long since been converted to a residence. The area was mostly built up in the 1920s through the 1940s, and has been stable or slightly improving since the late 1970s.

University Avenue looking west from 70th/Lois. Center of the picture is Joan Kroc Community Center, which has everything from gym to swim to daycare to rec classes to religious meetings
University W from 70th

Massachusetts from Waite drive, looking north:
Massachusetts N from Waite
This was during the lunch hour rush. There's a freeway onramp just the other side of where I was standing. As you can see, it's not too bad. Just the other side of the freeway is a large neighborhood shopping center, including an In & Out Burger, if you're one of their many fans.

Physically, the houses are mostly smaller, with a good sprinkling of what were originally two bedroom cottages of about 800 -900 square feet, but most of the neighborhood is three bedrooms now with maybe 20% being four. Most properties have garages, split about half and half between the one and two car variety. Far more use piers than concrete foundations. Large numbers have been modernized, but hardwood floors are still more the rule than the exception. The lots are typically 6500 square feet up to about 9000 or thereabouts, so they originally had plenty of room for additions, and perhaps half have had at least one extra bedroom or bathroom added, most of these before permits were required and therefore grandfathered in. Architecturally, Craftsman style is quite common, but pretty much every house is different from every other, and there's only one small cookie cutter development of about a dozen dwellings in a PUD that was built maybe fifteen years ago as a fill-in. Foundation issues and destructive settling aren't unknown, but most of those issues have long since been dealt with. Mature trees are perhaps less common than some other areas of La Mesa, but there's no shortage of them here.

Once you get away from the main commercial streets, this is a nice quiet neighborhood. At least one resident kept a couple of horses as of a couple weeks ago. The corridor between Boulevard Place and University is noisy and busy, as is the stuff right on Massachusetts Avenue, but once you get onto the neighborhood streets, traffic is sparse and about the only high density housing I can think of is on Waite Drive between King and Massachusetts. By and large, it's all single family detached housing.

Vista La Mesa Park
Vista La Mesa Park

The adjacent Little League Field
Vista LM LL

Here's proof


This is a new series I'm starting, on the neighborhoods of the area I primarily work, which includes La Mesa, San Carlos, El Cajon and Santee.

La Mesa Village is the old downtown area of La Mesa. This was the central area when La Mesa was still a farming and ranching town before World War I. Most of the city offices are in this area, and some of the buildings date back back to the 1890s or further - quite old for California. In recent years, it has seen a renewal as the city made an effort to make into a destination and gathering place. Many of the civic buildings have been rebuilt completely very recently, and There's always been an Oktoberfest here, but in the last few years it has gotten much bigger than formerly, and many other activities have been added. For instance, on Thursday evenings there's a classic car show, centered on La Mesa Boulevard west of Spring Street. Studios and small personal businesses abound in the commercial areas. This area is bounded by University Avenue at the western intersection with La Mesa Boulevard (they intersect twice) to Memorial Park and the eastern intersection, up to Lemon Avenue to Fourth over to Pasadena across Spring Street (even though it doesn't actually cross Spring) , and up Date Avenue to Acacia Avenue and thence back down the hill, including Alta and more of Lemon Avenue.

Here's the new Library:
Library front

Here's the new Fire Station:
Fire Station pic 2

City Hall, one of the few buildings that hasn't been replaced
City Hall

The main commercial arteries serving the area are Spring Street running north--south, and University Avenue, La Mesa Boulevard, and Allison Avenue running East West. El Cajon Boulevard does not actually the enter the area although it's only a block or so away. There's a couple blocks of small businesses on Lemon and Palm Avenues as well.

Here's a view that probably represents the Village commercial area at least as well as any, looking West on La Mesa Boulevard from Fourth

LMB W from 4th

Here's the La Mesa Boulevard Trolley Stop, one of the big things the City of La Mesa has done right, enabling the Village to be a center for public activity without becoming a complete parking nightmare:
Trolley Stop 2
(The Spring Street stop, roughly a quarter mile away, has a good size public parking lot. A lot of La Mesans use it to commute to downtown San Diego)

The Railway Museum across the street (open from 1-4 on Saturdays):
Railway Museum
The Old San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway tracks support the Trolley for a good portion of its length. The original is well known in railroading circles for Carrizo Gorge Railway. I remember the trains coming through before the tracks were washed out there in the early 1970s.

One of the things that stand out about the area, however, is how quickly it changes from commercial to residential, and how quiet those residential areas are by comparison. It's a three minute walk from a lot of good residential areas to the commercial heart of the village. The whole area is very walkable. This is largely because it grew that way organically - this is a very difficult thing to plan, especially in today's urban landscapes. For instance, here's a picture of Palm Avenue itself, between Alison and University. One block over, Palm turns commercial, and University and Allison are both commercial, but this is a quiet residential street. I took this from the corner at University.

Palm, S from University

Several blocks to the south, this is the steeple of the Methodist Church, just south of Lemon, where Palm starts turning residential again:
Methodist Church 2.

The area south along Palm south of Lemon is probably the oldest and least expensive housing in the area. I prefer to avoid it with my clients, but even so there are some gems, like this place that sold about a month ago:

Picture 026

There are some decidedly pricier areas in the Village area as well. Here's a viewpoint from the middle of Date Avenue

Date view 2

And from the top of Date Avenue:
Date view 3
The Rock House slightly left of center behind the trees is historical, and I can remember when there were only a couple houses on this segment of Date

A small distance away, here's a view from near the top of Acacia:
Acacia view 2

And a little bit further down Acacia:
Acacia view 3

As you can see, lots of trees and good views. I used to have a wonderful old lady on my paper route growing up, who originally owned a lot of this area, and remembered when La Mesa ran that moving picture riff-raff out of town before World War I (briefly mentioned in Nickelodeon)

Physically, the houses are mostly three to four bedroom, one to two bathroom houses, built between 1910 and the early 1950s. More of them use piers than concrete foundations, and the architectural styles vary from Edwardian to modern. Hardwood floors are far more the rule than the exception. There is a lot of individual character to most of the houses, with only one small cookie cutter development I can think of. Most of the residents love it. There are some more modern dwellings built as fill-ins and replacements. Asking prices vary from around $350,000 to $700,000 as of this writing, with the higher value residences mostly being on and around Date and Acacia, and the lower end on Palm and the bottom of Nebo, and the rest of the area falling in-between, including the residential areas around the east end of University Avenue such as Pine and Colina, as well. Foundation and settling issues have always been rare in the area, and have mostly long since been dealt with.

There are comparatively few high density projects, with the area immediately adjacent to Spring Street south of Lemon being the exception. There is a high rise condominium project and senior housing on what's left of Orange Avenue behind the shopping center, between Acacia and Date, both 1980s vintage on the remaining land from the former site of La Mesa Elementary (I was a member of the last graduating class), which along with the former Helix Theater and quite a bit of other stuff, had previously been used for La Mesa Springs Shopping Center

La Mesa Springs

Here' the San Diego Culinary Institute on the south end of the shopping center, where they really do train a lot of high end cooks:
Culinary Institute

Henry's on Spring Street is for lovers of great fruits and vegetables

The neighborhood schools are Lemon Avenue, and La Mesa Dale, with Spring Street being the approximate dividing line. The Middle School is La Mesa Middle School (formerly La Mesa Junior High), and the high school is Helix Charter. Helix, in particular, has a long record of academic achievement. Here's the most recent account Helix Accountability Report Card

The closest community college is Grossmont, the closest four year college is San Diego State University, which is actually closer.

The Village is not the very best neighborhood of La Mesa, but most of it is pretty darned nice. It's a great place to be, and you don't have to go very far to find interesting things to do.

The Municipal pool at the end of Memorial Drive: (There's a nine hole golf course adjacent)
pool 2

Nan Couts Park, between Nan Couts Cottage and the Community Center (also on Memorial Drive):
Couts Park.

Memorial Field, where La Mesa National Little League plays, as well as various recreation leagues:
Memorial field

Transportation and the roads serving the area about as good as it gets. Spring Street runs between I-8 and the Junction of California 94 and 125. There are also other freeway entrances and exits close by. The Trolley runs along Spring Street, with previously mentioned stops, and several bus routes feed it as well. You can get to Mission Valley shopping and commercial zone in about ten minutes, Downtown San Diego in about fifteen. Even during rush hour, traffic is nothing as compared to what the commuters on I-15 and I-5 face constantly. Local major shopping includes Grossmort Center (Target, Wal-Mart, Macy's, Theaters), a five minute or less drive that's also served by the Trolley, or you can bike on over via several good routes. There's a Costco even closer on Fletcher Parkway. College Grove (Sam's Club and Penneys) is almost as easy, and Parkway Plaza in El Cajon is also a good option.

If you'd like to talk more about The Village or any other neighborhood of La Mesa, Contact me. I will be happy to discuss which neighborhoods might be right for you, or the marketing of your current property.

This is a new series I'm starting, on the neighborhoods of the area I primarily work, which includes La Mesa, San Carlos, El Cajon and Santee.

This area is bounded by 70th street, University Avenue, the San Diego border (which is highly irregular) and El Cajon Boulevard. On the San Diego side of the border, the neighborhood is similar until you get west of Aragon Drive and Rolando Boulevard. North of El Cajon Boulevard is all San Diego, and is also similar. East of 70th Street is a slightly older area of La Mesa with fewer trees centered upon Harbison Drive. South of University Avenue is Vista La Mesa.

The main commercial arteries serving the area are El Cajon Boulevard and University Avenue, there being no commercial activity on 70th Street away from the two main intersections.

Here is a photograph of University Avenue, as seen westbound from 70th. Joan Kroc Community Center occupies the center of the photo on the far side of University Avenue. They have everything from recreation classes to religious meetings to community programs and daycare. (click for whole picture)

University W from 70th

Best Produce sits just out of the previous photo to the left, on the southwest corner of the intersection of 70th and University. If you want real fresh produce, you have the choice of them or Henry's on Spring Street.

The actual La Mesa area of Rolando is fairly small, but it shares character with the San Diego side. The neighborhood is mature, with a very large number of trees, as you will see, for instance. The main "neighborhood street" is Tower Street, on which sits Rolando School. (Tower changes its name to Solita at the San Diego border). (click for whole picture)


Once you're away from the main arteries, there really isn't much in the way of high density housing. Most of the neighborhood is single family residences, built during the 1950s if not before. The subdivision maps were laid out in the early 1900s, but not filled in until the post-war period. Any housing built since about 1960 is mostly replacement for an earlier original. The vast majority of houses are unique - I cannot think of a single tract development in the entire area. Every house is different from every other. This characteristic is pretty common in La Mesa, something most of the residents love.

Physically, the houses are mostly single story 3 and 4 bedroom, 1.5 to 2 bath houses from around 1200 square feet to around 1600, sitting on lots of about 6500 to 8000 square feet. In the fifty years since the neighborhood was built out, many have had additions, of course, as the lots have plenty of room. Many use the older pier support, but concrete foundations became mandatory while the neighborhood was in the later stages. Foundation issues and settling are rare, and those that existed have mostly long since been dealt with. Hardwood floors are more rule than exception. Asking prices start around $340,000 for something very livable, and go to just under $500,000. A family making San Diego Area Median Income of $72,100 can qualify for these properties fairly easily.

The thing that stands out about the neighborhood is how quiet it is. Many people seem to think it should have more of the character of the main streets, but once you are off those main streets, there's just nobody here but your neighbors (along with an occasional inquisitive realtor, of course!), and 95% of them live in detached single family residences. It's hard to take a picture a lot of places without trees blocking most of it.

Here's Alamo street, looking East from 68th: (click for whole picture)

Alamo E from 68th

Here's Rolando Knolls, looking East from Elma Lane: (click for whole picture)

RolandoKnolls Elma E

And here's the Rolando Little League Field, on Vigo: (click for whole picture)

Rolando LL

One thing the neighborhood does not have an abundance of is the panoramic views that happen through most of La Mesa. There are many properties with nice views, but the area is flatter than most of La Mesa, and it's hills that make for that kind of views!

The neighborhood school is Rolando Elementary, the Middle School is La Mesa Middle School (formerly La Mesa Junior High), and the high school is Helix Charter. Helix, in particular, has a long record of academic achievement. Here's the most recent account Helix Accountability Report Card

The closest community college is Grossmont, the closest four year college is San Diego State University, which is actually closer.

Here's the front of Rolando School, on Tower just west of 70th. Sunshine Park is immediately adjacent to the south. (click for whole picture)

Rolando 1

Rolando is a very nice neighborhood to live in, with great central transportation. It's two minutes to Interstate 8 via 70th street, 5 minutes to CA 94 via Massachusetts. You have your choice of several major supermarkets within a mile or so. You can get to Mission Valley in ten minutes, downtown in 15. The San Diego Trolley runs adjacent to Interstate 8, and has stops at Alvarado Hospital and just east of 70th Street, and El Cajon Boulevard and University Avenue are both bus routes. Major shopping centers are found in College Grove (Wal Mart, Sam's Club, Target) at College and 94, or Grossmont Center (Target, Wal-Mart, Macy's, Theaters and dining) at Interstate 8 via Jackson and Grossmont Center Drive exits.

If you'd like to talk more about Rolando or any other neighborhood of La Mesa, Contact me. I will be happy to discuss which neighborhoods might be right for you, or the marketing of your current property.


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This page is a archive of entries in the Neighborhoods category from July 2008.

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