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San Diego, CA

5 Safe, Affordable Neighborhoods in San Diego

Thinking about moving to San Diego? Not only is this one of the best cities in the U.S. for veterans and retired military but it also boasts 70 miles of stunning beaches and some of the best schools in California. Check out our list of the top five safe, affordable neighborhoods in America’s Finest City!

Gaslamp Quarter

High Rise Condominiums in Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. Photo by Instagram user @teknikality

Photo via @teknikality

  • Home Price: $189,600 median purchase; $1,030 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 47% of San Diego neighborhoods
  • Perfect For: Singles, young professionals

The historic Gaslamp Quarter offers a similar urban lifestyle as Downtown San Diego, but without the high price tag. Residents moving to this hip, culturally vibrant neighborhood will enjoy being close to the action, with The Gaslamp Promenade and public events like weekly street dance Silent Revival: A Gaslamp Disco just outside the door! In addition to having great public transit via the Metropolitan Transit System, Gaslamp Quarter is highly walkable, too, so getting around is simple no matter how you prefer to travel.

Things to Do in the Gaslamp Quarter

Catch a concert or musical inside the century-old Spreckels Theatre. Enjoy a day of retail therapy at Westfield Horton Plaza. Take yourself out to the ballgame at PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres. Cosplay your favorite character or attend panels about your favorite pop culture franchises at the San Diego Convention Center’s annual Comic Con International each summer. Take advantage of bottle service or get $3 White Claws on White Claw Wednesday at American Junkies. Find elegant Italian entrees like Cavatelle Michelangelo or Scaloppina Piccata at Asti Ristorante. Listen to live music as you savor dishes like Short Rib Crumpet or a Veggie Power Bowl at Cafe 21. Try Eastern European fare from Pierogi to Winter Rabbit and beyond at Pushkin Russian Restaurant. Or savor Wild North American Hard Shell Lobster or share a whole, 34-pound Wild New Zealand Pink Bream at iconic San Diego seafood restaurant, Water Grill.

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Normal Heights

Spanish-Style Bungalow in Normal Heights, San Diego. Photo by Instagram user @ey_you

Photo via @ey_you

  • Home Price: $353,318 median purchase; $1,176 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 48% of San Diego neighborhoods
  • Perfect For: Singles, young professionals, families

Centrally located in San Diego, Normal Heights offers the best of both worlds—an active nightlife scene and plenty of family-friendly things to do! This affordable San Diego neighborhood is perfect for everyone, thanks to its eclectic vibe, friendly community, and low crime rates. Those looking to make a home in Normal Heights will find a variety of charming Craftsman and ranch-style homes, as well as good schools like Normal Heights Elementary and Preuss School UCSD.

Things to Do in Normal Heights

Try on vintage apparel or browse carefully curated lifestyle items and home goods at La Loupe Vintage. Check out the art and other goods from local makers at the monthly Half Moon Market hosted by Little Dame. Play basketball with friends or bring your kids to the playground at Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park. Attend two-day, outdoor music festival Adams Avenue Street Fair. Start off with Pork Spring Rolls for your appetizer then have Mi Xao Chicken, Udon Yakisoba, or other Asian fusion dishes for dinner at Dao Fu. Sink your teeth into comfort food like Pollo Asada Grande Tacos or Lola’s Fried Chicken at The Rabbit Hole. Try unique ramen like the spicy Red Gorilla or the vegan-friendly Angry Veggie at Nozaru Ramen Bar. Or get great Italian food from DiMille’s, like Chicken Marsala or Veal Piccata.

Rancho Bernardo

  • Home Price: $553,456 median purchase; $1,732 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 94% of San Diego neighborhoods
  • Perfect For: Singles, young professionals, families, retirees

Nestled in the northern hills of San Diego is the beautiful master-planned community of Rancho Bernardo. Home to offices for major employers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard, as well as the corporate headquarters for Sony Electronics, Rancho Bernardo is a fantastic place to live and work in San Diego. The presence of high-quality schools like Westward Elementary School and Rancho Bernardo High School also make this San Diego neighborhood ideal for families, too!

Things to Do in Rancho Bernardo

Pamper yourself with a spa treatment at the relaxing Rancho Bernardo Inn. Celebrate with RB Alive! Street Festival, featuring all-ages activities, delicious food, art, cultural events, and even a car show! Tee off at the gorgeous 27-hole Oaks North Golf Course. Spend a day outdoors hiking the Bernardo Bay Loop around scenic Lake Hodges. Reserve a tasting room and sip on Chardonnay, Burgundy, and other delicious wines at the Bernardo Winery. Split a charcuterie board or try dishes like Chicken Parmesan, Short Rib Pappardelle, and others at The Barrel Room. Dig into American staples like Classic Mac or a Burger of the Gods at URGE American Gastropub. Make reservations at Veranda Fireside Lounge and Restaurant and enjoy upscale dishes like Seared Pacific Salmon or Salt Spring Mussels. Or order up Vietnamese fare like Crab Omelette Soup or Oxtail Pho at Pho Ca Dao & Grill.

Rancho Penasquitos

Larger Two Story Home in Rancho Penasquitos, San Diego. Photo by Instagram user @megsurana

Photo via @megsurana

  • Home Price: $602,482 median purchase; $1,678 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 93% of San Diego neighborhoods
  • Perfect For: Families, retirees

Rancho Penasquitos is a safe and quiet San Diego neighborhood with a suburban feel. The beautiful landscape of the neighborhood is best represented by its most notable geographic feature, Black Mountain. In fact, the area’s outdoor recreation is one of the main draws of the neighborhood. Families in San Diego will love Rancho Penasquitos’ large parks, low crime rates, and great local schools like Sunset Hills Elementary School, Black Mountain Middle School, and Mt Carmel High School.

Things to Do in Rancho Penasquitos

Hike to the Black Mountain summit or bike the trails at Black Mountain Open Space Park. Go on carnival rides, eat street food, and enjoy live music at the annual Fiesta de Los Penasquitos and Parade. Show off your skate skills at the Rancho Penasquitos Skate Park, featuring banked ramps, grind ledges, and more. Take art workshops, including those for doll-making, sewing, and more at Patti Medaris Culea Cloth Dolls. Fill up on pub fare like a French Dip or Fried Pickles at Knotty Barrel. Enjoy delicious, food-truck-style Mexican food like a Cheese Enchilada or Carne Asada Plate at Rodrigo’s Taco Shop. Go to Yenchim Garden Restaurant for Chinese entrees like Szechuan Pork or Shrimp Chow Mein. Or choose from the large sushi menu at Wonderful Sushi with options like the High Crab Roll, California Roll, and more.

Scripps Ranch

  • Home Price: $619,742 median purchase; $1,666 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 95% of San Diego neighborhoods
  • Perfect For: Students, singles, young professionals, families, retirees

If you’re looking for a safe San Diego neighborhood that offers a little something for everyone, Scripps Ranch is the place to be! With scenic parks, walking trails, and the beautiful Miramar Reservoir, it’s easy to get out and explore the neighborhood. Plus, there are tons of trendy bars, restaurants, and shops right in the neighborhood that you can enjoy without having to leave! You can also find higher education opportunities nearby with National University Scripps Ranch and Alliant International University.

Things to Do in Scripps Ranch

Get fresh produce, artisan goods, and more at the weekly Scripps Ranch Farmers Market. Attend the Fall Country Kick-Off Concert in the Park, a family-friendly and pet-friendly outdoor music experience. Go kayaking on the calm waters of Lake Miramar through Rocky Mountain Recreation. Shop local boutiques and nationwide brands at Scripps Ranch Marketplace. Sample house brews like India Pale Whale or Hazy IPA in the tasting room at Harland Brewing Co. Enjoy dinner on the patio at Yanni’s Bar and Grill, serving plates like Penne Roasted Vegetables and Linguine Salmon. Chow down on sandwiches like Lazy Lucy or a GarlicBomb DUB at RomBombBurgers. Or try entrees like Ginger Tumeric Bone Broth or Bechamel Roasted Veggies at 40N Pho and Grille.

Frequently Asked Questions About San Diego

Is San Diego a safe place to live?

Yes, San Diego is 43% safer than cities in California and 32% safer than other U.S. cities.

Is San Diego an expensive place to live?

San Diego could be considered an expensive place to live for anyone moving to California from outside of the state. The cost of living in San Diego is 7% higher than the California average and 51% higher than the national average. However, there are plenty of neighborhoods and suburbs in San Diego that offer a lower cost of living than the city as a whole.

What makes San Diego such a great place to live?

San Diego is one of the best places to live on the West Coast and best places for military retirement. This California city is particularly well-known for its beautiful oceanfront views and incredible year-round weather.


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Neighborhood statistics from AreaVibes