Tierrasanta, San Diego

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Tierrasanta, San Diego
Including Murphy Canyon
The Tierrasanta sign located on Santo Road
The Tierrasanta sign located on Santo Road
Tierrasanta, San Diego is located in Southern San Diego
Tierrasanta, San Diego
Tierrasanta, San Diego
Location within San Diego
Coordinates: 32°49′15″N 117°05′47″W / 32.820833°N 117.096389°W / 32.820833; -117.096389
Country United States of America
State California
County San Diego
City San Diego
108 m (354 ft)
Highest elevation
240 m (780 ft)
Lowest elevation
50 m (180 ft)
 • Total30,443
Area code(s)858, 619

Tierrasanta, Spanish for "holy land," or "holy ground", is a community within the city of San Diego, California. The symbol of Tierrasanta is an encircled Conquistador cross, similar to one atop Montserrat (mountain) near Barcelona, Spain, though it no longer holds any religious meaning. The community is referred to as "The Island in the Hills" by locals and on welcome signs, as there are only four roads that lead to Tierrasanta, all which end within the community.


Tierrasanta was originally part of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá ranch, which was active during the late 18th and 19th centuries. The U.S. military purchased the land in 1941 as Camp Elliott, a Marine Corps training facility. The Marines moved out in 1944 and the land was transferred to the Navy. It was deactivated in 1946. In 1961, the U.S. Government sold the area that is now Tierrasanta and a portion of neighboring Mission Trails Regional Park to the City of San Diego. In the following year, the Elliott Community Plan was issued to serve as a roadmap for development going forward, and in 1971 Tierrasanta was founded. The current Tierrasanta community plan was first issued in 1982,[1] and included both the currently developed area and much of what is now Mission Trails Regional Park. Meanwhile, the first master plan for what was to become Mission Trails Regional Park was issued in 1976 with the aid of numerous public agencies, planning groups, and a 45 member Technical Advisory Committee.

Tierrasanta's population had reached about 24,000 by 1980 and when the 1982 Plan was issued the area called Tierrasanta Norte, in the northeastern part of town, had yet to be fully developed. Tierrasanta has been almost fully built out since the early 1990s, and in 2010 had a population of 30,443 (ZIP code 92124).[2] Some 2,300 homes grouped in the southwest portion of town are part of the Murphy Canyon military housing complex. Tierrasanta was one of the first master planned communities in San Diego.

The original Community Plan called for an eastward extension of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, with connections to Jackson Drive on the south and Rte. 52 on the north. However, there long was opposition to the plan due to expected increased high speed traffic. The 2019 Master Plan Update to the Mission Trails Regional Park [3] apparently settled the issue when it declared the plan to no longer be implementable due to resource management requirements.

Because of the area's history as a military training base, some military debris including unexploded ordnance remained in the area when it was developed, in spite of multiple cleanup efforts by different branches of the services. In 1983 two 8-year-old Tierrasanta boys were killed after discovering unexploded ordnance in a canyon near their home.[4] The military has performed clearance operations as recently as 1994 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to investigate the area every five years under its FUDS Formerly Used Defense Sites program.

In October 2003, Tierrasanta, among other communities in San Diego, was affected by what was known as "Firestorm 2003." This was a conglomeration of the Cedar Fire and numerous other wildfires that converged on Southern California. The residents of Tierrasanta were forced to evacuate. Nearly a dozen homes were lost to the blaze.[5] Shortly after, in 2004, the Tierrasanta Community Emergency Response Team (T-CERT) was created for rapid local response to natural disasters. A similar scare swept through Tierrasanta in the fall of 2007, though residents were not required to evacuate.


The developed part of Tierrasanta, which rises from west to east and includes numerous canyons, is situated like an island, not directly bordered by any other community. It is bounded on the north by the Mount Soledad (52) Freeway and the sprawling southern fields of MCAS Miramar; on the east by the 8,000-acre (32 km2) Mission Trails Regional Park, which has numerous hiking and mountain biking trails; on the west by slopes overlooking the wide Interstate 15 corridor running from Friars Road to Route 52, and on the south with homes overlooking the Admiral Baker Golf Course and the San Diego River. Community activities focus on the Tierrasanta Recreation Center, which includes lighted sports fields, a large swimming pool, tennis courts managed by the Tierrasanta Tennis Club, a gymnasium, and meeting rooms.[6] Numerous green belts with walking paths run through the canyons, and are kept in good condition with the help of the Friends of the Tierrasanta Canyons.[7] There are a number of entrances to Mission Trails Regional Park, including a heavily used entrance with parking at the eastern end of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. The community has tree-lined streets and a secluded "small town" atmosphere, though it is centrally located within a 20-minute drive to downtown San Diego.

Like most of the coastal areas in Southern California, the natural habitat in the canyons and other undeveloped areas within Tierrasanta, as well as in much of MCAS Miramar and Mission Trails Regional Park, is coastal sage scrub and chaparral.[8]

As described in its 1982 Community Plan, Tierrasanta is a community of single family homes, condominiums, apartments, three shopping centers, a branch of the San Diego Public Library, and a research park. Also located in the community are several elementary and middle schools and Canyon Hills High School, part of the San Diego Unified School District.

Government and culture[edit]

The elected Tierrasanta Community Council (TCC), which includes members from each of five geographic areas, plus representatives for commercial, Village Mission Valley Apartments, and Serra High, has responsibility for community planning and for advising the City of San Diego and other government agencies on local issues. The TCC supports numerous events in the community such as the Concert in the park series, the Patriots Day Parade honoring Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday in May, Oktoberfest and other events. The TCC represents the citizens as their voice to the city government on land use and planning issues. The TCC also acts as the community's Town Council and takes positions on things that affect the Tierrasanta Community and the City of San Diego.

Dedicated open space areas and landscaped medians are maintained by the Tierrasanta Maintenance Assessment District, which was established in 1972 and most recently approved by voters in 1997. The 818 acres of Tierrasanta Open Space qualifies this urban park as one of the 150 largest in the United States.

The Friends of Tierrasanta Canyons is a Tierrasanta-based volunteer group that maintains the open spaces of the neighborhood's canyons. They meet the second Saturday of every month in various Tierrasanta open space locations.

As of 2021 Tierrasanta's elected representatives included San Diego City Councilman Raul Campillo, County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer of District 3, State Assembly Member Brian Maienschein, Democrat, of District 77, State Senator Toni Atkins, Democrat, of District 39, and Congressman Scott Peters, Democrat, of California's 52nd District.

Cultural amenities[edit]

The community has a branch library, jogging/mountain biking trails, baseball and soccer teams, and numerous clubs. The Tierra Times, a community service newspaper, has been published since 1971, and is delivered free to all residents six or more times per year.

Tierrasanta Village of San Diego is a popular organization for "activities, events, and comradery [sic]" for older adults. The "Nextdoor.com" app is widely used by residents to exchange information of local interest.

Most of the major streets have separate striped lanes for one-way bicycle travel in each direction. A two-way paved bike and pedestrian path parallels Rte. 52 from Santo Road all the way east to the City of Santee.

An Armed Services YMCA is located in the Murphy Canyon area. The Admiral Baker Golf Club on the southern edge of Tierrasanta has two highly rated courses with priority given to active duty and retired military members, but is also open to civilians from nearby communities such as Tierrasanta.

The Mission Trails Visitor & Interpretive Center, reachable from Mission Gorge Road, has been described as a "hidden treasure."

Notable residents[edit]


  1. ^ Current Community Plan
  2. ^ Census Bureau Fact Sheet Zip Code 92124
  3. ^ 2019 Mission Trails Regional Park Update
  4. ^ Channel 10 news, April 24, 2008
  5. ^ Madaffer, Jim (October 25, 2013). "Cedar Fire Ten Years Later". Scoop San Diego. Retrieved 2014-09-23.
  6. ^ Tierrasanta Recreation Center
  7. ^ Friends of Tierrasanta Canyons
  8. ^ San Diego Regional Coastal Sage Scrub & Chaparral Vegetation Monitoring Program
  9. ^ Leonard, Tod (2013-06-22). "Sports site No. 29: Tony Hawk's alley". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2021-03-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Jenkins, Chris (2011-06-30). "San Diego's Horner: Tour de France his tour de force?". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2021-03-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Ramirez, Sara. "Sara Ramirez | San Diego Reader". www.sandiegoreader.com. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  12. ^ Garin, Nina. "Changing the world one butterfly at a time". mcall.com. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  13. ^ "Local 'American Idol' alum recovering from brain surgery: 'I'm so happy'". FOX 5 San Diego. 2021-03-10. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  14. ^ url=https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/music/sdut-mundell-lowe-interview-2016mar19-htmlstory.html

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°49′15″N 117°5′47″W / 32.82083°N 117.09639°W / 32.82083; -117.09639