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Mission Hills & Hillcrest at a Glance
  • Population: 30,831
  • Median price single-family home: $700,000
        (2008)
  • Median price single-family luxury home:
        $1,895,000
  • Land area in square miles: 3.8
  • Residents per square mile: 7,944
  • Distance from Downtown S.D.: 3.5-5 miles
  • Solds: 126 (2008)

  • Points of Interest

    Presidio Park

    Balboa Park

    Old Town
    Equal Parts Trendy and Tranquil
    With its neighbors Old Town to the west and Hillcrest to the east, Mission Hills is strategically located in the area bounded by Interstates 5 and 8 and Highway 163.

    Back in the years that San Diego was growing up around Old Town, nothing was happening on the mesa above it, part of which is today's Mission Hills. A subdivision map was finally filed for the area in 1888. The new community was called Johnston Heights in honor of a sea captain who bought land there to build a home. Johnston Heights didn't catch on, but the area was more successfully subdivided again in 1910 and called Inspiration Heights — thanks to the views, no doubt. Many homes were built during that period. Local merchant George Marston purchased and developed 22 nearby acres and called his area Mission Hills. That eventually became the name for the entire community.

    Today, its stately homes and trees, lush canyons, close-to-downtown location, and calm, moneyed ambience make Mission Hills one of San Diego's most expensive and exclusive residential areas. "Mission Hills is basically an old-money area, the first wealthy neighborhood in San Diego," says one local resident and businessman. "It's not a flashy neighborhood — it's very solid. And there's not a high turnover rate. People live here till they die."

    In Mission Hills, you'll find everything from neat bungalows to stately mansions. Most homes are old; many have spectacular views from La Jolla to Mexico. You'll see lots of Spanish-style architecture. Beloved local architect Irving Gill designed many of the homes.

    Mission Hills's boundaries are roughly north of Washington Street to the rim of Mission Valley and west of Brant Street to San Diego Avenue. Because there's no room to grow, the population has remained steady for a couple of decades.

    Just to the east of Mission Hills, sharing the same triangular mesa above Old Town, is Hillcrest. It's been called "a walking person's neighborhood" because of its concentrated business district and proximity to Balboa Park. Also, the city-enforced "Hillcrest Overlay Zone" ensures that all new building and development must be "pedestrian-oriented." But the location of the community itself makes it very convenient for drivers, since the mesa it sits on is bounded by Interstates 8 and 5 and Highway 163.

    Hillcrest got its start in 1907, when developer William Wesley Whitson bought the 40 acres from First to Sixth Avenue and University Avenue to Lewis Street. His Hillcrest Company put in all the streets and curbs and built the houses. The single-family homes — built by Whitson and later developers — look similar to those in North Park and other older parts of the city. They're mostly charming California bungalows or Spanish style. Many are being renovated; others have been replaced by condos.

    This community is a popular office location for doctors (it's sometimes called "Pill Hill") because the community has two major hospitals — Mercy and UCSD Medical Center.

    In the last couple of decades, Hillcrest's commercial district has become very trendy. You'll find some of the hottest restaurants and chicest boutiques. But many small Hillcrest businesses have been around for years, so the area holds onto that villagey neighborhood charm.

    Hillcrest attracts a wide variety of residents. There are retired folks who have lived there for decades, plus many young professional singles and a large gay population. Like Mission Hills, it's an ideal residential choice for people who work downtown or love the downtown nightlife because of its proximity.

    Shopping and Dining
    The commercial center of Mission Hills is Washington Blvd. and Goldfinch Street, Here you'll find shops and services, restaurants and cafes.

    Hillcrest's tree-lined streets are dotted with charming and quirky shops and boutiques, galleries, and antique stores. It's also known for its specialty bookstores. Hillcrest has some of the finest restaurants in the county, particularly on Fifth Avenue. When the sun goes down there is plenty of nightlife — clubs, live music, and art films at the Hillcrest Cinemas.

    House Prices
    The median price for a single-family home in 2008 was $700,000. The median price for a single-family luxury home is $1,895,000 million. Please note that our “Home Price Points” are based on the luxury market.
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    Story by Jacqueline Shannon
    Photography by Latara Dragoo

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    Print Date: 7/23/2019
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