San Diego Feature

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San Diego Today

Although most visitors know little about San Diego beyond its fun-in-the-sun reputation, locals are talking about much more than the surf forecast and their tan lines. Like much of the country, the recent years saw financial woes taking their toll on local infrastructure and services, while residents struggled with plummeting home values and rising unemployment. But San Diegans aren't known as a dour bunch, and they've managed to keep the forecast sunny. The buzz around San Diego's science and biotech industry continues to grow, and several large companies, including Qualcomm, PETCO, and Bridgepoint Education, continue to call San Diego home base. San Diego has been busy shedding its image as LA's less sophisticated neighbor, and coming into an urban identity of its own. Across the region, residents are embracing new trends in the local art, shopping, dining, and cultural scenes.

Today's San Diego

... is eating well. Once considered somewhat of a culinary wasteland, the San Diego dining scene is enjoying a renaissance. All over town, new and exciting restaurants are popping up, celebrating both the local bounty and the region's diversity. Healthy and fresh California Modern cuisine remains a feature on many menus, while neighboring Baja Mexico has given rise to the new trend of BajaMed, a fusion of Mexican and Mediterranean styles. San Diego's sizable Asian population has introduced everything from dim sum carts to Mongolian hot pot, while local sushi chefs take advantage of San Diego's reputation for some of the finest sea urchin in the world. The locavore trend has become somewhat of an obsession for San Diegans, and many restaurants are happy to highlight how and where they source their ingredients.

... is toasting the town. San Diego continues to gain recognition as one of the most exciting beer towns in the nation. Craft brewers creating a buzz include AleSmith, Ballast Point, and Lost Abbey, just to name a few, and Stone Brewing Company, creator of the notorious Arrogant Bastard Ale, has several locations. All this enthusiasm for San Diego's suds has given rise to a beer tourism industry, from bus tours of local brewers, to large beer-themed events such as the popular San Diego Beer Week. There's even an app to help you find the perfect pint: inspired by the local brewing scene, a San Diego couple created the TapHunter website and mobile application that helps beer lovers find what's on tap, and where.

... is building for the future, and conserving its past. A drive around San Diego reveals a huge range of architecture, from hip to historic to downright hideous. Urban planning from half a century ago, such as the decision to run Interstate 5 right through Little Italy and Downtown, is hard to undo but other efforts to conserve the city's architectural integrity have been more successful. Downtown's Gaslamp Quarter is the most famous conservation area, but the residential neighborhoods of Uptown, Kensington, and South Park delight early-20th-century architecture buffs with streets full of historically designated homes. New projects making waves in San Diego today include the revitalization of the Embarcadero, and the highly contentious Plaza de Panama Project to reroute vehicular traffic and create underground parking in Balboa Park. The latter is currently mired in public battles and lawsuits pitting one of the city's leading conservation groups, Save Our Heritage Organization, against one of the city's leading philanthropists, Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, who is bankrolling the project. The legal battles may be resolved and construction may get underway during the lifetime of this book, but the project will likely remain a sensitive issue for years to come.

... is getting outside. San Diego's near-perfect climate and gorgeous natural landscape make it hard to find an excuse not to get outside and exercise. In fact, San Diego is home to one of the most active populations in the country. Year-round opportunities to surf, sail, bike, or hike offer something for everyone. On weekends and throughout the summer, beaches and parks teem with locals enjoying the great weather and fresh air. Gas barbecues, bouncy houses, and huge shade tents take the concept of the picnic to a whole new level. So when visitors hailing from harsher climates wonder if San Diegans appreciate how good they have it, the answer is a resounding yes.

What We're Talking About

After more than a decade of discussion, the San Diego Public Market is set to open in its permanent space sometime during 2013. Seeing the rising demand for local and artisan foods, co-founders Catt White and Dale Steele felt San Diego was ready for a permanent market along the lines of the Ferry Building in San Francisco, or Pike Place in Seattle. The project's original fundraising campaign through Kickstarter raised well above the anticipated goals, and a twice-weekly temporary market began in the fall of 2012. If this momentum continues, the project could become a huge local and tourist attraction.

Construction on Phase 1 of the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan is well underway. The project promises to transform the landscape of San Diego's waterfront and better connect the Embarcadero with downtown. Public art installations, green spaces, shade pavilions, and ample room to stroll should help transform the Embarcadero into one of the world's great urban waterfronts.

The buzz surrounding the San Diego winemaking community is growing louder. The recent easing of requirements for boutique wineries gave a major boost to the local winemaking community, including several small wine producers around the town of Ramona in North San Diego country. In addition, wine production facilities known as urban wineries are cropping up in towns around the county. Until now, San Diego's primary wine region, Temecula, was actually over the border in neighboring Riverside County. Before long, locals and visitors alike may be exploring a San Diego wine country that is actually located in San Diego county itself.

Updated: 03-2013

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