On The Town: La Jolla By The Sea, Southern California’s Quintessential Coastal Community

La Jolla beach
The San Diego community of La Jolla remains a jewel of Southern California's scenic coastline.

Hundreds of seaside communities sit along the rolling, sundry shores of California, each a prominent display of the famous coastline. Still, none perhaps exemplifies the particular splendor of Southern California more than San Diego’s La Jolla.

Walk along the 7 miles that comprise the coast of La Jolla and you find stretches of soft-sanded beaches that turn into sea-sprayed bluffs with views of Mount Soledad, tide pools and the mighty blue Pacific. Teeming with surfers, kayakers, and frequently seen sea-lions, all while basking in some of the most enviable weather in the world — it’s not hard to see why La Jolla is often called the “jewel” of San Diego.

While the coast creates the western border, the eastern limits are shaped by Interstate 5, running north to south, intersecting only at the University of California San Diego campus. This means neighborhoods remain largely unbothered by pass-through commuter traffic. The community achieves a small-town feel while still being part of a large destination city whose downtown is only 12 miles to the south.

The Housing

One of the first Californian colonies to be settled by the Spanish, La Jolla’s development began in the late 19th century, inspiring the architecture for centuries to come. Today, even modern developments evoke the Spanish Mediterranean or California Ranch styles that originated from the area.

Many residential neighborhoods such as Lower Hermosa and La Jolla Heights are business free, master-planned communities with guarded entries and consist mostly of single-family homes.

Since the 1970s, development on the La Jolla coastline has been under a 30-foot height limit. While the limit has driven up coastal property prices, it has also ensured ocean views for most residents, even those to the east.

4 beds, 8 baths, 6,338 square feet, listed for $14,900,000

The architectural home on a bluff overlooking the ocean is listed for $14,900,000

The Price

In 2009, the median sales price for homes sold in La Jolla was the highest in the nation, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The landscape’s diversity means prices can vary greatly depending on location—approximation to the beach, views and space being large factors in price point. On the lower end, single-family homes hover around $1,000,000.

“The median home price in 2020 so far is $2,295,000, which is right around the tipping point where you start to have some combination of a little more land, move-in condition improvements, a desirable location, possibly some view, though rarely all of those, at that price point,” said Drew Nelson of Willis Allen Real Estate.

Home prices can go for $20,000,000 and up, especially for newer-built oceanfront properties that boast estate-like space and luxury.

The Vibe

Known for their famous coastline, La Jolla residents are a self-proclaimed beach community, even in the most eastern neighborhoods. Year-round availability for outdoor activities and near-constant sunshine give La Jolla a sprite and healthy demeanor, with local shops and restaurants mirroring this fresh and bright quality.

“Having such a vibrant village makes La Jolla feel like a place you do not have to leave,” Nelson said. “You can live, work, play, shop, dine and have all of your recreational activities without getting on the freeway.”

The Village, a quietly bustling beachside neighborhood, is the mainstay for dining and shopping. Along Prospect St., restaurants such as renowned George’s at the Cove offer fine dining with sprawling views. Amongst many shops and businesses about town are walls displaying stunning murals by artists such as Isaac Julien or Roman De Salvo.

The Schools

The public schools in La Jolla are some of the highest-ranked in the San Diego School District.

Students can start at one of three award-winning elementary schools—Bird Rock, La Jolla or Torrey Pines—all of which feed into Muirlands Middle School and then La Jolla High, which serves about 1,350 students. Each year, approximately 95% of graduating seniors from La Jolla High enter universities or colleges.

High schoolers enrolled in private schools will attend either Bishop’s or La Jolla Country Day School.

In 2019, the Bishop’s School was recognized as one of the most sought-after private schools in the country. It boasts a 9:1 student-to-teach ratio.

“To top it all off, La Jolla is home to UCSD,” Nelson said. “It has a gorgeous campus, some incredible architecture, and draws world-renowned scientists, innovators and researchers to the area.”

The Surroundings

A quick drive south on I-5 brings you to important San Diego destinations, such as Mission Bay Park and San Diego International Airport. One hour north on I-15 gets you to Temecula, an inland city popular for wine tastings. Forty-five miles to the north is Orange County, with Los Angeles just beyond.

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