The San Diego Region A Special Place, Built by People Focused on the Future
The timeline represented here is an interactive data visualization tool that reflects
the San Diego region’s economy through the ages using historical data from various sources.
The history of San Diego is one of ambition, innovation, and reinvention. Humans have
inhabited this corner of the North American continent for millennia, drawn to its temperate
weather, spectacular coastline, and abundant natural resources. More than a century ago, new
settlers imagined this place as a vacation paradise, an anchor for America’s young Navy, and
a center of 20th century culture, education, and expanding technological horizons. Along the
way, people with an eye on the region’s future – civic leaders, businesspeople,
philanthropists, and everyday citizens – built San Diego by investing in visions of what our
region could be. As we trace the contours of San Diego history in this interactive timeline,
we are reminded that it’s our turn, today, to shape our region’s future. Our vision, and our
commitment to those who come after us, will write the next chapter in San Diego’s history.
Learn about 6 major stories that helped shape the history of the San Diego region.Timeline StoriesThis document opens
in a new tab
Discover fun facts about different cities in the San Diego region.San Diego Fun FactsThis
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Our region's first inhabitants have lived
here for at least 10,000 years. Four of the most prominent Native
American groups, the Kumeyaay, Cupeño, Cahuilla, and Luiseño, have
survived centuries and colonization, displacement, and persecution and
today assert sovereign authority over 18 Indian reservations and a $1
billion gaming industry that has created more than 10,000 jobs.
The U.S. Navy
Drops Anchor In San Diego
More than 100 years ago, city leaders had
the foresight and determination to persuade the U.S. Navy to make San
Diego Bay a base of operations. Today, San Diego is the Navy's most
strategic port, $33 billion in direct spending is related to defense (as
of FY 2020), and the military accounts for nearly one in four jobs in
Our region's modern tourism industry
arguably began in 1915, when the Panama-Pacific International Exposition
attracted people from across the nation. Today our region, with its
spectacular coastline, dynamic cities, and numerous family attractions,
is a world-class vacation destination.
Individuals throughout our region's history
have donated their time, energy, and personal resources to make our home
a better place to live. Some of our most beloved cultural institutions,
hospitals, nature preserves, academic research centers, city parks, and
more have been made possible by the generosity of people with an eye on
our region's future.
Post-War Economy – Education and Tech
In the wake of World War II, our region's
leaders planned for a new post-war economy built on academic opportunity
and research & development in science and engineering. The
establishment of UC San Diego and its surrounding research community,
and other centers of learning and research, have injected billions of
dollars into the regional economy and created tens of thousands of jobs
in biotechnology, computer science, engineering, and other
With rapid economic growth in the second
half of the 20th century, new stresses on the region's natural
environment demanded action. The 1990s saw new concerted efforts by
regional and local governments to protect valuable coastal habitats and
natural landscapes inland, and guide development more
(Select 5 Max)
This category tracks
civic milestones among 18 municipalities and the county government in
the San Diego region.
A historic look at
the evolution of transportation in the San Diego region.
The San Diego
region's scenic geography and cultural history make it one of the most
popular tourist destinations in the world. About 10% of the jobs in our
region are tied to tourism.
successful innovation economy is supported by UC San Diego, San Diego
State University, the University of San Diego, and other institutions.
More than 11% of the jobs in our region support the region's innovation
The San Diego region
is home to 18 Native American reservations represented by 17 tribal
governments, the most in any county in the United States. There are more
than 73,000 acres of tribal reservation lands in the region. As
sovereign nations, tribal governments govern land use on their
reservations and other land holdings. SANDAG and regional tribal
governments work together to facilitate government-to-government
planning and coordination on a variety of issues. Our region's tribal
nations are a vital part of its history.
San Diego’s location
on the Pacific Ocean supports many military operations around the world.
The region's military installations, which range in size and purpose,
support 8.5% of the jobs in the region.
The San Diego region
has strong ties with adjacent counties (Imperial County, Orange County,
and Riverside County), the Republic of Mexico, and the 17 tribal
governments. The region's neighbors are important contributors to the
Over the past
several decades, the San Diego region has taken concrete steps to
protect the environment. These include efforts to protect our invaluable
shoreline and natural habitats for plants and animals, replenish sand at
our beaches, slow suburban sprawl by concentrating development in urban
areas, promote alternative fuels and zero emission vehicles (ZEVs), make
communities more resilient to the consequences of climate change, and
better control stormwater runoff.
The San Diego region
has invested significantly in world-class institutions of higher
learning, which have become engines of economic growth and centers of
culture. The education sector currently accounts for 8.6% of jobs in the
shopping destinations are wildly popular with residents and tourists
alike. They are also a major center of employment, contributing more
than 14% of jobs regionwide.
healthcare heritage began with the opening of the San Diego County
Hospital in 1904. Today healthcare is one of the most innovative
economic sectors in the region, supporting nearly 12 percent of its
always played a significant role in our regional economy. During World
War II, the region was a major player in aircraft manufacturing. In more
recent years, defense, telecommunications, and biotechnology have been
centers of manufacturing. Today, the sector accounts for 3.6% of jobs in
The San Diego region
has a growing professional workforce. Finance, insurance, real estate,
and professional sectors currently account for 16.3% of jobs in the
Investing in Our Region
People with vision
built our region. Here are highlights of key decisions related to our
region's military heritage, tourism economy, world class universities,
research laboratories, and more. Political leaders, business people,
philanthropists, and everyday citizens have all contributed to our
In 1850, 798 people
called the San Diego region home. In 2020, that number had grown to more
than 3.3 million. As our region continues to grow, economic opportunity
and prosperity for everyone will depend significantly on enhanced
personal mobility, social equity, and a healthy environment.
Pre-ColonialThe Pre-Colonial era marked a time when
Native American communities thrived. Evidence suggests that humans have
lived in the region for at least 10,000 years. The ancestors of
present-day Kumeyaay, Cupeño, Cahuilla, and Luiseño Native Americans
developed rich communities that harvested food from the sea, managed
chaparral on coastal hills, maintained oak groves in inland valleys, and
cultivated food and other resources in the region's rugged
(10,000 years ago - 1541)
European Arrival & Colonization
SANDAG has used reasonable efforts to ensure that the data used in
this tool is complete, accurate, and useful. However, because SANDAG does not create these data,
we cannot be liable for omissions or inaccuracies.