Who Owns Downtown
By Thomas K. Arnold
(page 3 of 4)Downtown San Diego is defined as a 1,500-acre patch of land bounded by the waterfront, Laurel Street, Interstate 5 and Sigsbee Street in Barrio Logan. Inside downtown are eight distinct neighborhoods:
- Little Italy stretches from A Street to Laurel Street, from the waterfront to Interstate 5 and Front Street.
- Columbia, just south of Little Italy, is bounded by the waterfront, Union Street, A Street and E Street.
- Marina has the waterfront to the west and south, and ends at E Street and Fourth Avenue.
- The Gaslamp Quarter is the historic sliver between Fourth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, from Broadway to Harbor Drive.
- Horton Plaza is squared off by Union Street, Fourth Avenue, Broadway and G Street.
- Cortez Hill is snugly wrapped inside Interstate 5’s downtown “S” curve and bounded on the south by Ash Street.
- The Core is between Ash Street and Broadway, east of Union Street and west of 12th Avenue.
- And East Village, future home of the San Diego Padres’ 42,000-square-foot Petco Park, is the expansive area east of Sixth Avenue and south of the Core, stretching all the way to Interstate 5.
The biggest chunks of downtown property are owned by the government. Heading the list is the San Diego Unified Port District, with more than 115 acres, most of it wrapped along the bay, or on “tidelands”—including the San Diego Convention Center.
The city of San Diego is the second-largest landowner, with nearly 67 acres, including the old and new police stations and the San Diego Community Concourse, a four-square-block sector north of Broadway between First and Third avenues that includes City Hall, the Civic Center, a pair of exposition halls, Civic Theatre and a towering parking structure.
The San Diego Community College District owns about 43 acres, much of it San Diego City College, north of 12th Avenue. The Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway is in fourth place, with 32 acres, including the historic Santa Fe Depot and the railroad right-of-way between the convention center and the rest of downtown. Rounding out the top five is the county of San Diego, whose 25 acres are highlighted by the County Administration Center on Pacific Highway, built in the 1930s as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration and once the seat of San Diego’s city government.
Originally, all of downtown San Diego was owned by Alonzo Horton. The Connecticut-born entrepreneur came west in 1849, lured to San Francisco by the Gold Rush. He opened a used-furniture store and made gobs of money, thanks to the town’s booming population and frequent fires. Hearing a speaker talk glowingly of San Diego, Horton headed south on a steamer in 1867 and bought 800 acres at auction for $265.
Those 800 acres formed the core of what is now downtown San Diego. Horton divided his purchase into 226 blocks, each measuring 200 by 300 feet, and sold them off at a time when the imminent arrival of the railroad made San Diego a true boom town.