The Streets of Central San Diego

Philip J. Erdelsky, pje@efgh.com

Most of central San Diego lies on a plateau about 350-400 feet above sea level. Although the area has no perennial streams, it is cut by numerous canyons of various sizes.

A glance at a street map shows where the canyons are. Nearly all streets run north-south or east-west. Very few of them are built along the natural contours of the land. If the sides of a canyon are very steep, a street may come to an abrupt end on one side of the canyon and begin on the other, as Olive Street does where it crosses Switzer Canyon:

Streets may also be interrupted by freeways, parks or schools:

Some streets are quite long and broken into as many as a half-dozen segments. This can make it very difficult to reach an address by following a street!

In a few places, the practice of imposing a rectangular street pattern on hilly terrain produces some complicated street configurations:

Fortunately, the house numbering system in this area is quite uniform and consistent in most cases:

House numbers on north-south streets are approximately as follows (in order, from north to south):

intersecting east-west street approximate house number on north-south street
Copley Ave 4900
Collier Ave 4800
Adams Ave 4700
Madison Ave 4600
Monroe Ave 4500
Meade Ave 4400
El Cajon Blvd 4300
Howard Ave
Orange Ave
Polk Ave 4100
Washington St
Lincoln Ave
University Ave 3900
Robinson Ave
Wightman St
Pennsylvania Ave
Landis St
Brookes Ave
Dwight St
Walnut Ave
Myrtle Ave
Upas St 3400
Thorn St 3300
Spruce St 3200
Redwood St 3100
Quince St 3000
Palm St 2900
Olive St 2800
Nutmeg St 2700
Maple St 2600
Laurel St 2500
Kalmia St 2400
Juniper St 2300
Ivy St 2200
Hawthorn St 2100
Grape St 2000
Fir St 1900
Elm St 1800
Date St 1700
Cedar St 1600
Beech St 1500
Ash St 1400
A St 1300
B St 1200
C St 1100
Broadway 1000
E St 900
F St 800
G St 700
Market St 600
Island Ave 500
J St 400
K St 300
L St 200
Imperial Ave 100
Commercial St 1

The street names themselves show several patterns. To the south are streets identified by letters, in alphabetical order from north to south, with a few exceptions. Streets that would be called D, H and I Streets are called Broadway, Market St. and Island Ave., respectively. In the middle are the "plant" streets, in alphabetical order from south to north. To the north are streets whose names appear to be surnames, in no particular order.

There are also a number of north-south streets named after states. They do not appear to be in any particular order.

In the western part of central San Diego, there are a number of "bird" streets, in alphabetical order from east to west:

Closer inspection of a street map shows that even continuous streets may be more or less misaligned when they cross other streets. This usually occurs the edges of old development tracts where developers did not coordinate their plans. The pattern of alleys (or the lack thereof) often shows clearcut changes in the same places.