San Ysidro Walking Tour

San Ysidro MapToday, San Ysidro is a neighborhood of San Diego and yet the area is not contiguous with the city. Instead, San Ysidro alongside the Tijuana River Valley, Otay Mesa, Nestor and Palm City (all part of San Diego) are cut off from San Diego by the cities of Chula Vista and National City.

In 1957, San Ysidro and the rest of the area was annexed into San Diego due to concerns over irrigation. Thereafter, San Ysidro received services from San Diego, however, most residents complained that generally they were forgotten. The perception of being a “forgotten limb” was so strong that some activists wanted to deannex San Ysidro during the 1970’s.

Whatever the truth, San Ysidro still maintains a very distinct micro-culture. It also has historic buildings and a charm that gets under your skin and won’t let go.

San Ysidro is bounded to the East and West by two large freeways: the I-5 and the I-805. Both freeways were built under the direction of 11th District Engineer Jakob Dekema, who was responsible for the creation of our San Diego freeways throughout the county. In some communities, such as Del Mar, he was so hated that people burnt effigies of him. He strongly believed that the Roman civilization was successful precisely because of its roads and impressive infrastructure. Dekema wanted freeways built and did not apologize for demolishing historic sites or destroying existing communities.

In 1951, Highway 101 was replaced by “Highway 5” (now Interstate 5), which brought more tourists to the border region. Highway 101 was converted to Beyer Boulevard and East Beyer Boulevard. Businesses were bulldozed to make way for the new highway, including a plumber’s shop and two bars. Many of the bulldozed businesses did not return, and others were eventually replaced by corporate chain stores. (Historic Context Statement pg. 36)

When the two freeways came into San Ysidro, the community changed dramatically. Instead of a sleepy town where everyone knew everyone, the community fragmented. Within a decade, over 50 million people were passing through San Ysidro and the Port of Entry, making it the busiest land port of entry in the world.

Today, San Ysidro commemorates its past with four roads: San Ysidro Boulevard is the main thoroughfare that remembers when this area was its own town. Dairy Mart Road commemorates the time when dairy and truck farmers lived in the area and the townspeople had chickens and rabbits in their backyards. Smythe Avenue and Beyer Boulevard pay tribute to the two prominent men of San Ysidro who created historic landmarks that still exist today.


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