10 Worst Neighborhoods In San Diego 2024: Beyond the Sunshine

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San Diego’s districts are a melting pot of diverse stereotypes. There are trendy hipster spots, sophisticated locales, areas buzzing with college students, and of course, less affluent regions.

It feels like San Diego, with its unique pros and cons, has a district tailored for every individual.

Despite the city’s consistently high ranking as one of the best places to reside in the country, thanks to a robust economy and a plethora of entertainment options, not every part of San Diego is a bed of roses. Some districts fall short of the mark.

So, the question that begs to be asked is, which are the best and worst neighborhoods in San Diego?

Today, we’ll employ the tools of science and data to identify the San Diego districts that could use a bit of nurturing – the outliers of the San Diego region, so to speak. It’s unrealistic to expect all districts to be top-notch, although Del Mar Heights is a cut above the rest.

10 Cruddiest Places To Live

Neighborhood Population Median Home Value Median Income
San Ysidro 28,456 $252,665 $46,562
Palm City 7,132 $216,300 $56,621
Memorial 14,637 $299,864 $30,176
Oak Park 9,873 $244,475 $50,064
Mount Hope 8,997 $288,200 $37,060
Midtown District 10,962 $274,430 $53,556
Mission Valley 7,490 $279,720 $74,473
Mountain View 12,582 $198,900 $30,582
Kearny Mesa 3,664 $328,900 $79,000
East Village 13,053 $370,033 $59,134
  1. San Ysidro

If the sight of bustling Interstate traffic is your cup of tea, San Ysidro might just be your dream location. The neighborhood is primarily shaped by the convergence of I-805, I-5, and Highway 905.

But if the smell of asphalt and car exhaust doesn’t excite you, you might want to consider other options. The main issue here is the economy.

The unemployment rate is a staggering 9.2%. Even those who are employed often struggle to make ends meet. Consider the median home price of $252,665 – a challenging mortgage when the median income is a mere $46,562.

  • Population: 28,456
  • Median Home Value: $252,665
  • Median Income: $46,562
  1. Palm City

Palm City

With a name like “Palm City,” you might expect a tropical utopia. In terms of verdant spaces, this neighborhood doesn’t disappoint.

It’s home to a large park, featuring Fenton Pond. Plus, a short drive down I-5 will lead you to San Diego Bay and stunning ocean views. Sounds perfect, right?

Unfortunately, the reality of living in Palm City presents significant hurdles, making it the second worst place to live in San Diego in 2022. The unemployment rate is a high of 8.1%. The median home value of $216,300 is a stretch for many residents, given the median income of just $56,621.

  • Population: 7,132
  • Median Home Value: $216,300
  • Median Income: $56,621
  1. Memorial

Nestled at the junction of I-5 and I-15, Memorial is located southeast of downtown San Diego, just a few blocks from the bay. However, this close proximity to the city center doesn’t seem to boost the local economy.

The name “Memorial” might be a grim reminder of the lost job opportunities for the neighborhood’s residents. The unemployment rate hovers just under 10%, while the median income is a meager $30,176. With median home prices nearing $300,000, homeownership remains a distant dream for many locals.

On the bright side, the area’s location offers access to a host of amenities. The neighborhood even boasts its own pool and skatepark.

  • Population: 14,637
  • Median Home Value: $299,864
  • Median Income: $30,176
  1. Oak Park

San Diego - Oak Park

Oak Park, located along Bayview Heights Drive, is about a 15-minute drive from the coastal tourist attractions. It’s not too far from the beach, but metaphorically, Oak Park might as well be light-years away from paradise.

The primary issue here is the economy. A stagnant job market leaves 6.1% of the population unemployed. The median income of $50,064 might seem decent, but when compared to the median home price of $244,475, it’s clear that making ends meet can be a struggle.

However, Oak Park has its own unique appeal. If you’re not in the mood for a beach trip, you can visit Chollas Lake Park for some tranquil contemplation.

  • Population: 9,873
  • Median Home Value: $244,475
  • Median Income: $50,064
  1. Mount Hope

Mount Hope is named after a cemetery, which might be a bit ominous if you’re superstitious. The Mount Hope Cemetery itself has a rich history dating back to the 19th century, housing the graves of notable individuals like renowned crime novelist Raymond Chandler.

But what about the living residents? Mount Hope doesn’t offer much respite. Many locals likely spend sleepless nights worrying about their financial situation. The unemployment rate is 8.0%, while the median income is only $37,060.

Despite these challenges, the cost of living is relatively high, with a median home value of $288,200.

  • Population: 8,997
  • Median Home Value: $288,200
  • Median Income: $37,060
  1. Midtown District

San Diego Midtown

As the name suggests, the Midtown District is nestled right in the middle of the city. This neighborhood is situated just north of downtown along I-5, adjacent to the airport.

Unlike many neighborhoods on this list, Midtown boasts a robust economy. The unemployment rate is a mere 3.2%, and the median income stands at $53,556.

So, why does Midtown rank as the sixth worst place to live in San Diego for 2022? The culprit is the real estate market. Proximity to the city’s prime areas has inflated housing prices, with the median home value reaching $274,430.

  • Population: 10,962
  • Median Home Value: $274,430
  • Median Income: $53,556
  1. Mission Valley

If you’re a shopping enthusiast, Mission Valley is your haven. The area is home to a series of malls, including Westfield Mission Valley and Fashion Valley, making it an ideal place to splurge.

Interestingly, Mission Valley is also a great place to earn money. The retail boom in the area has bolstered the economy. The unemployment rate is 5.5%, and the median income is nearly $75,000.

However, the neighborhood is plagued by the typical San Diego issue: high living costs. Affordability is a significant challenge for locals. Even with high incomes, the median home value of $279,720 is a hurdle.

  • Population: 7,490
  • Median Home Value: $279,720
  • Median Income: $74,473
  1. Mountain View

Mountain View

We previously discussed Mount Hope Cemetery. Mountain View is located on the other side of this graveyard, perhaps lending it an eerie aura.

The area is not short on amenities, with numerous stores and restaurants. You can also visit Mountain View Park or the Willie Henderson Sports Complex for a breath of fresh air.

However, making a living in Mountain View is challenging. The unemployment rate is a high 10.6%, and the median income is a low $30,582. Despite this, San Diego real estate prices persist, with a median home value of $198,900.

  • Population: 12,582
  • Median Home Value: $198,900
  • Median Income: $30,582
  1. Kearny Mesa

Kearny Mesa is situated about 15 minutes north of downtown, nestled between I-805 and I-15. Named after a fort that once stood here, the area now features its own executive airport and a diverse cultural landscape, including the Convoy District, known for its array of Asian restaurants and shops.

While it’s a great place to enjoy a meal, it’s not the best place to live.

The issue isn’t a lack of money, with a median income of $79,000. The problem is the high cost of living. If you’re considering buying a house in Kearny Mesa, be prepared to shell out more than $300,000.

  • Population: 3,664
  • Median Home Value: $328,900
  • Median Income: $79,000
  1. East Village

We’ve seen this pattern before. Prime location, excellent amenities, strong economy, yet it’s on this list. Once again, the high cost of living makes East Village the ninth worst place to live in San Diego for 2022.

East Village boasts an unbeatable location. It’s just off downtown and near the water, housing both San Diego City College and Petco Park, home of the Padres baseball team. The economy is solid, with a 5.1% unemployment rate and a median income of $59,134. So far, so good.

However, the home prices are a different story. At $370,033, they are beyond the reach of most residents.

  • Population: 13,053
  • Median Home Value: $370,033
  • Median Income: $59,134

Most Nottorius Crime In San Diego

One of the most notorious crimes in San Diego’s history is tied to the city’s unfortunate reputation as a hub for drug trafficking. In the 1980s, San Diego was known as the meth capital of the United States, with the Hells Angels motorcycle club being the chief distributor of meth in the state.

Production across the southern border in Mexico was mostly unimpeded by law enforcement, allowing for the drug to be widely available in San Diego. In 2006, the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered a drug tunnel operated by the Sinaloa Cartel in San Diego–Tijuana.

This discovery highlighted the city’s significant role in the international illegal drug trade, especially concerning methamphetamine and fentanyl. The Sinaloa Cartel has been identified as a major player in the region’s ongoing meth trade.

Fast forward to 2022, the federal government declared that the San Diego region had become an epicenter of another drug, fentanyl. According to statistics provided by the United States Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection, all of the fentanyl seized by law enforcement in the counties of San Diego and Imperial between October 2021 and June 2022 amounted to 60% of the fentanyl seized at any port of entry throughout the United States in the same period.

This grim statistic underscores the severity of the drug problem in San Diego, marking it as one of the city’s most significant crime-related issues.


Are there any initiatives or plans to improve these worst neighborhoods in San Diego?

Yes, the city of San Diego has several initiatives and plans in place to improve these neighborhoods. These include economic development programs, affordable housing initiatives, and community policing efforts. Additionally, non-profit organizations and community groups are also working to improve living conditions and opportunities in these areas.

How does the drug problem in San Diego affect its neighborhoods?

The drug problem in San Diego has a significant impact on its neighborhoods. High drug use and trafficking can lead to increased crime rates, including theft, violence, and other drug-related offenses. This can create an unsafe environment and lower the quality of life for residents. Additionally, drug addiction can contribute to unemployment and homelessness, further exacerbating the issues in these neighborhoods.

What is being done to combat the drug problem in San Diego?

The city of San Diego, in collaboration with state and federal agencies, is taking several steps to combat the drug problem. These include law enforcement efforts to crack down on drug trafficking, community outreach programs to prevent drug use, and treatment programs to help those struggling with addiction. The city is also working with international partners to address the cross-border drug trade.

Are there any safe and affordable neighborhoods in San Diego?

Yes, despite the issues in some neighborhoods, there are many safe and affordable neighborhoods in San Diego. These include areas like Mira Mesa, Clairemont, and University City. These neighborhoods offer a good quality of life with reasonable housing prices, good schools, and low crime rates.

How does the cost of living in San Diego compare to other major cities in the United States?

The cost of living in San Diego is higher than the national average and is comparable to other major cities in California like Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, it is lower than some of the most expensive cities in the United States like New York City and San Francisco. The high cost of living in San Diego is primarily due to high housing costs.

Final Words

In conclusion, while San Diego is a vibrant city with a lot to offer, it’s clear that not all neighborhoods are created equal. The city’s diverse districts each have their unique charm and challenges, with some areas struggling more than others due to economic difficulties, high cost of living, and crime-related issues, particularly drug trafficking.

However, it’s important to remember that these “worst” neighborhoods are not without hope. With ongoing initiatives from the city, state, and federal agencies, as well as community organizations, there are concerted efforts to improve these areas, providing better opportunities for residents and making these neighborhoods safer and more livable.

Moreover, despite the challenges, San Diego still has many safe and affordable neighborhoods that offer a good quality of life. It’s a city of contrasts, where the struggle and the success coexist, reflecting the complexity and resilience of its people.


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