San Diego County Administration Center

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San Diego County Administration Center
San Diego County Administration Center 3.jpg
The San Diego County Administration Center, with the statue The Guardian of Water in the foreground
San Diego County Administration Center is located in California
San Diego County Administration Center
Location within California
Former names San Diego Civic Center; City and County Administration Building
General information
Architectural style Beaux-Arts, Spanish Revival, Streamline Moderne, Mission Revival
Address 1600 Pacific Hwy., San Diego, California
Coordinates 32°43′18″N 117°10′19″W / 32.721792°N 117.1720153°W / 32.721792; -117.1720153
Groundbreaking December 5, 1935[1]
Construction started January 4, 1936[1]
Completed December 23, 1938[1]
Inaugurated July 16, 1938[1]
Height 150 feet (46 m)[1]
Technical details
Floor count 7 (incl. 2 basement floors)[2]
Floor area 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2)[2]
Design and construction
Architect Samuel Wood Hamill, William Templeton Johnson, Richard Requa, Louis John Gill
San Diego Civic Center
Area 16.7 acres (6.8 ha)
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 88000554[3]
Added to NRHP May 16, 1988

The San Diego County Administration Center is a historic Beaux-Arts/Spanish Revival-style building in San Diego, California. It houses the offices of the Government of San Diego County. It was completed in 1938 and was primarily funded by the Works Progress Administration. It was previously known as the San Diego Civic Center and as the City and County Administration Building. Because of its notable architecture and its location fronting San Diego Bay, it is nicknamed the Jewel on the Bay.[1] Architects were Samuel Wood Hamill, William Templeton Johnson, Richard Requa and Louis John Gill. The building used innovative construction techniques to guard against earthquakes, and the project was considered to be "a prototype of American civic center architecture".[1][2] The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 16, 1988.[4]


In order to consolidate city and county government offices which were scattered across downtown San Diego, city planner John Nolen was engaged to plan a civic center. Voters rejected the first draft plan (1908) which would have placed the civic center downtown. In 1926 Nolen completed a plan which placed the civic center on newly dredged tidelands. This plan was approved in a March 1927 election. There was considerable opposition to building on the tidelands, in part because it was felt such a building would be unstable in an earthquake, but it was stabilized by 30-foot-long steel pilings driven in the ground and other measures. Some of the steel pilings were alternated in a manner designed to bear lateral stress; this was a novel design and was considered to be "on the cutting edge of engineering developments."[1][2] Engineering issues and the Great Depression delayed the start of construction until 1935, when $1 million of Works Progress Administration funds were assigned to the project (combined with $750,000 of local funds).[1] President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the building on July 16, 1938 before a crowd estimated as 25,000 people.[2]

In 1964 the city moved its offices to a new downtown Community Concourse, and since then the building has held county offices only.[5][6] Today many county offices are housed in a County Operations Center at 5500-5600 Overland Avenue, and the county maintains several branch offices to serve the public. The historic County Administration Center is still the home of the Board of Supervisors, the Chief Administrative Officer, the Assessor, the County Clerk, the Treasurer/Tax Collector, and many forms of public records.[7]

In 2014 a waterfront park was opened on the former site of the building's parking lots.[8]


The design was intended to complement structures in Balboa Park, a mix of Spanish Revival and Beaux-Arts architecture. Southwestern touches include "a red Mission tile roof, glazed Franciscan inlaid pottery tile, and arched door and window openings." The design of the central office tower included so-called P.W.A. Moderne. The structure also features the detail of Zigzag moderne through the use of a large amount of ornamentation, "recessed windows in vertical patterns," and "smooth-surfaced columns." The county's art collection shown inside the building includes works by Charles Reiffel, Charles Fries, and a portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by Donald Armand Luscomb.[1]


A sculpture fountain, The Guardian of Water (1939), by Donal Hord, stands on the harbor side of the building. Murals inside the building are by Arthur Ames and Jean Goodwin; they are painted with egg tempera, a popular water medium used in Italy in the 13th-15th centuries .[1]

Waterfront Park[edit]

In May 2014, the 12-acre (4.9 ha) County Administration Center Waterfront Park opened on both the north and south sides of the building, formerly surface parking lots. The Waterfront Park, more than a decade in the making, contains open grassy areas, gardens planted with drought-tolerant flowers on the north side, and picnic areas, a playground with colorful swings and slides, and an interactive water fountain on the south side.[8][9]