“All of the streets wind around up here because of the land. There are no grid neighborhoods. The terrain doesn’t lend itself to grid solutions, so these pocket neighborhoods are maintained — which have a character of their own.” He seems to be talking to himself here, as if weighing the pros and cons of his decision to move years ago. “We can see horses close up from our back yard, we have room to garden…I have a fairly long commute, but the farthest south I get is Del Mar. I go to San Diego for medical stuff. My world is like that old New Yorker cover, you know the one?” He means the cover and poster of Manhattan, which occupies 90 percent of the foreground, with California, almost an afterthought, stuffed in the far corner of the picture. I assume he means North County as the foreground of his world and San Diego the afterthought in the distance.
I do not bother to ask Gordon if he considers himself a San Diegan as he most readily admits that he is. Not so with other residents of the North County.
* * *
Do you consider yourself a San Diegan?
Carla, waitress, 26: “Not really. I live and work here in Escondido. I haven’t been to San Diego in about two years. I went to the museums. My life is pretty much right here.”
Don, customer service representative for Target, 34: “I guess. I moved here from Michigan, but in the three years I’ve been here, I’ve only been downtown a few times. I’ve been to, like, P.B. and Mission Beach more often, but I party in Carlsbad these days and I live in Vista. To me, North County is San Diego, so I guess I’m a San Diegan.”
Paulo, restaurant cook in Oceanside, resident of Vista, 41: “Yes and no. I couldn’t tell you what the city council in San Diego is up to. I don’t care. But, like, if I go back to New Mexico, I feel like I represent San Diego, and I’m proud of it and everything. But when I’m home, I stay up here. I don’t really go down there for anything.”
Jack, 55, a cab driver for Yellow Cab and a San Marcos resident, spoke for several minutes as he drove along San Marcos Boulevard:
“No. It’s a whole different deal. I haven’t been back to North Park for nine years. The answer is definitely ‘Not really.’ It’s more laid-back up here. People are more trusting. You almost don’t have to lock your doors. We don’t have the gangs or the drugs. We’ve only had one cab driver murdered up here in the past 30 years. I don’t think you can say that for San Diego. People watch your back. We want to keep it nice. People in San Diego don’t give a fuck. It’s way safer [here]. There’s tougher law enforcement up here. Bunch of people gathered around on a street corner for no reason? Cops come by and say, ‘What the fuck are you doin’?’ The handcuffs come out. Notice there’s no cages in the taxicabs. We had one driver, years back, had a cage in his cab.” He means a Plexiglass partition separating passenger from driver. “The guy had to get rid of it. It creeped people out. You can feel safe up here; the cops are definitely on it. I do go downtown for Padres games once in a while; I’m a fan. I am always glad to be back here, though. This is where you want to be.”
* * *
Unlike the United Van Lines migration study cited above, the March 20 Union-Tribune declared on its front page:
COUNTY RESIDENTS ARE STAYING PUT
By Lori Weisberg STAFF WRITER
“The sharp downturn in the real estate market appears to be persuading more residents to stay put, as thousands fewer people moved out of San Diego County last year than in years past.
“New census numbers show that while the county continues to see more people leave the area than move in, outbound migration throughout coastal California has significantly slowed since mid-2006 when the housing bubble began to burst in San Diego County.
“Between July 2006 and July 2007, 14,365 more people moved out of the county than moved in. That’s a 60 percent decrease from a year earlier, when the net domestic migration out of the county was 36,282, according to population estimates released today by the Census Bureau.”
If a conclusion is to be drawn, it might well be that San Diegans come and go but North County San Diegans have perhaps dug in a tad deeper.
— John Brizzolara and Diane Clark