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I lived in San Diego and Orange County for 45 years. There are many things I still love about it -- there is SO much to do and I miss the ocean very much -- but I left almost six years ago, and I'll never go back (I visit, but I will never live there again), and here is why. These are things you have to think about before you take the leap, and, as is always suggested before we settle down in a new place, do rent before you buy.
The state of CA has somewhere between 37-39 million people. San Diego County and Orange County EACH have over 3 million. (The state of NM, which is only a little bit smaller in total area, than CA, has a total of 2 million people.) There is almost NO way to get away from people.
Traffic will rule your life. Every single day, before you go anywhere, you will have to take traffic into consideration, because traffic is horrendous. And unless you live miles away from a major highway/freeway, you will hear that traffic. Morning and night. After a while you won't consciously hear it anymore, but if you vacation in a relatively quiet place, you will realize how noisy San Diego/Southern CA is.
If you ski, you will have a horrible time in the winter getting home from the ski areas on a weekend (and often times getting to the ski areas), due to traffic, and if you go to the beach (during the summer), you will have a horrible time trying to find parking. And good luck trying to get out of your car if you even find a way-too-skinny parking place -- anywhere.
The air pollution is very bad. I didn't know I couldn't breathe until I woke up four days after moving to my retirement state and realized that I could actually breathe. It was a new and different experience. Also, my bad skin cleared up within the first six months of not living in Southern CA.
Another reason I left is because the earthquakes, which I had lived with for 45 years, became more frequent and more intense over the years, and your new love for CA might go downhill after you've been through your first bad earthquake and especially one that causes damage to your property.
Southern CA, and that well includes San Diego, has become more and more humid as the years have gone by. And there is no real change of seasons -- most of the time it's just good weather -- day after day -- year after year. But too much of a good thing is too much.
The cost of living and state taxes are very high.
Every time I visit, the ocean is my first stop, and I wonder why I ever moved away. (Well, wondering why I moved away happens less and less.) But by the time it's time to go home, I can't wait to leave.
If San Diego had half its current population (and, remember that almost every adult current living in San Diego has at least one car), I would move back in a heartbeat. (Hmmm, maybe not -- I got REAL tired of those earthquakes.) As I said before, there is so much to do in Southern CA. It has to be the playground capital of The US, second only to NY -- and maybe not second to NY at all. But if you like your own space (I will not live like a sardine in a can) and you don't want to spend half your life sitting in traffic (and you don't want to pay A LOT in state taxes), find another place.
BUT if you really want to live there, you will find a way. And, yes, I have to admit that I miss it (until the end of annual visits LOL). I miss all the things there are to do (which I rarely did because I didn't want to fight the traffic). I miss the myriad weekend mornings, all year long, that I was at the beach before daybreak. There were few people there, I could easily find a parking place, and those were great mornings at the beach. There is nothing that takes the place of the ocean at daybreak. :-)
Thanks for the great advice and heads up. I appreciate it because I will be relocating to San Diego within 2 years. I'm coming to California next year but San Diego will be in 2. So I appreciate these heads-up. Good to know.
San Diego's traffic isn't that bad. Standard rush-hour type stuff.
I live in Del Mar and commute to UC, San Diego everyday on the 5. Heading south in the morning, never hit traffic.... heading north at night, dont hit traffic.
I do see traffic on the freeways tho, however maybe im just lucky cuz I always seem to be on the opposite side of it, but its honestly no worse than any metro area.....LA is a different story. .
San Diego seems like one large town...definitely does not seem over-crowded...especially compared to LA.
North county is down-right sleepy and quiet.... Rancho Penesquitos, Poway, Rancho Bernardo... etc... not bad at all. Beautiful in fact. Traffic and pollution, etc is not an issue
Thanks for the post from someone that has lived here for quite some time. I really value perspective other than my own and how amazing it is here. I love it here, but its not the end all be all...but its a really really nice place for right now and in the foreseeable future.
Sometimes the talk does get a little fluffy (eg hearing the same ole "ski and surf in the same day" blah blah). Its not about dismissing the amazing things here, its about certain realities about ones life at any given time.
I still think if one cant truly afford San Diego, the weather and other novelties can wear out pretty fast as I have seen from so many that I have met. Reasons being that they simply wanted a bigger house, higher paying job etc out of state.
Because there are quite a few places I have lived in my life, that are so unique, nothing compares to them either. Many of the things the OP has pointed out are terribly specific to SD. I have heard them everywhere. eg too crowded, too expensive, no seasons, traffic.
This is a good post for anyone looking at moving here coming from a smaller city. Its pretty general and may not apply to every single local residents life here, but summarizes some valid differences compared to many other parts of the US.
I have said this before, but San Diego is on the map (aka planned for massive growth). Its the kind of growth that is very noticeable for every decade goes by that locals live here. It is not noticeable for folks coming here year after year from other places.
Last edited by shmoov_groovzsd; 12-10-2011 at 12:29 PM..
I agree completely with Shmoov's post. San Diego isn't for everyone. In fact, I'd argue that it's not for the majority of the people out there simply due to the bad economy and unemployment, and the high cost of housing here.
I'm going to totally dismiss the earthquake fears as I don't think most people living in San Diego worry about that risk at all. Maybe in other parts of California but not in San Diego.
I find San Diego an amazing place to live and raise a family. However, I'll say it's not for many people out there simply for cost of living reasons. Nothing to do with traffic, humidity, lack of change of seasons. I think a good quality of life for most people pretty much boils down to "can I afford it" issues.
Many people that move here because they thought it would be wonderful leave just as quick because they find they can't make it here. Heck, just in our daughter's preschool since the school year started, several of the parents that had their kids here have already left and moved to other places.
I'd stand in line with the other parents waiting for my daughter and talk with other parents and I'd hear stories of how some people moved here as they thought it would be amazing. Yet, only one parent worked and they didn't make much money. Some had 2 or 3 kids and living in a 1 or 2 bedroom apartment. Those are the type that move here and move out fairly quickly as they figure out they can't afford it here.
Definitely there are valid negatives in the OP's post, I still think a great quality of life in SD pretty much boils down to having a good job or plenty of savings/retirement/cash flow, etc.
There is plenty to complain about with any city around the country. I've been to most states and hundreds of cities around the world and San Diego is pretty amazing. So far, I've found little to complain about here.
I'd say one thing is people here can be a bit shallow at times. But I think that can be said for much of Southern California. I've met a few people where they seem only to be interested in where you live, what you do for a living, etc. I went into the doctor the other day and my physician was out so I saw his P.A. I kid you not, the first questions he asked me where "where do you live, what do you do for a living, where did you go to school, what was your degree in" and those sorts of questions.
Still, I've met plenty of great people here as well but plenty here can be shallow at times... But I'd say that is worth putting up with considering the other great things about the city. San Diego still seems to be the best city that I've ever lived in when you factor in the major things.
Last edited by earlyretirement; 12-10-2011 at 02:14 PM..
So there's millions of people, traffic, some earthquakes, and lack of true seasons. Kind of seems like you're stating the obvious here imo. If you prefer more rural areas with less people, stay away from SD and pretty much any area of the country with millions of people living in a small area. I guess I always thought that was pretty obvious to most people.
Traffic and polution are always issues. Perhaps, and I'm not trying to be argumentative, you haven't lived in other places? I spent 15 years living all over The US and in Europe -- and to me, SD, Orange County, and LA are terrible for traffic and air pollution. I might never have noticed that much if I hadn't lived other places. I have long-time friends who still live in SD and OC and who would move away in a second if it weren't for family and friends. I have a neighbor who moved his own family to SD and moved out in a little over a year. He says, yes, it was amazing and there was so much to do, but he and his family often didn't do any of them because of the traffic. Southern CA IS amazing. From the north border of LA County to Tijuana. And I do love visiting (for around 10 days). But as for living there -- I just couldn't handle the 'sardine' and traffic problems anymore. The earthquakes. The humidity. The cost of living. [AND the keeping up with the Joneses. :-) Ya gotta have money. :-)] To each his own, as I said. If you really want to live there, you will find a way, and you won't let the big problems be big problems for you. Besides, I'm not young anymore. I'm sure that was a big factor in why I left there.
If you've lived "all over the US" then I have to wonder how the "humidity" of SoCal is such an issue for you considering 2/3's of the country is far more humid than anywhere in CA. Traffic, living like sardines, and earthquakes...welcome to CA. And I can understand earthquakes being an issue in LA but in SD they never cause any damage there let alone injuries and never have. I wouldn't lump the traffic problems of SD in with LA and OC either, less of an issue in SD imo. I guess it depends on perspective because compared to the Bay Area I find traffic in SD to be a lot better.
... I wouldn't lump the traffic problems of SD in with LA and OC either, less of an issue in SD imo. ... .
Yeah, I wouldn't try to describe SD and OC in the same paragraph. You'd not be doing justice to either one. I would be interested, if the OP would oblige, in hearing opinions of both places, but described separately.
Traffic will rule your life? Let's go to the actual numbers. According to Texas A&M's study, people in San Diego waste 38 hours a year in traffic. Over the course of a 200 day work year, that's around 11 minutes per day. I find it difficult to believe that 11 minutes per day is that much of an issue for anyone.
On the other hand, in the DC area, you waste 74 hours a year in traffic. That's an issue, because that's 22 minutes a day.
If you live in a very large metro area, defined as a place with a population of over three million, then San Diego is middle of the pack when it comes to traffic.
As for your complaint about not being able to get away from people, I'm curious how you expected to be able to do this in ANY large metropolitan area.
Ski areas are crowded during the winter? What a shocker. Yup, if you go skiing during the weekend, people might have the same idea as you. And there might not be a lot of convenient parking there. But then, that's the way it is at Breck, Keystone, and Copper. I haven't been skiing here, so I don't know how that is.
The pollution is bad here. But again, that's the way it is in any large city. When I visited New Zealand for two weeks, I flew into LA. I could smell the pollution there. I didn't even notice it before I left for New Zealand.
Earthquakes are a trivial issue. Even if there's a big one, simulations show that we'll get a little shaking, but nothing too serious. And not having the four seasons? I'll happily give up winter and summer, especially the east coast version.
Finally, I can't speak about the humidity because I've never noticed it. Again, having dealt with the triple h on a daily basis on the east coast, where it was hazy, hot, and humid, it doesn't even register.
As for keeping up with the Jones', if you don't give a flying fig about it, then it doesn't matter. I don't give a damn if the neighbors get a new car. I'm happy to drive my 13 year old car until it falls apart, and if the neighbors think less of me because of this, screw 'em.
All in all, for me this is a great place to live. When your blood pressure drops 15 points in a year, your body is telling you something.
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