The suburbs of San Diego call to all types of people looking to escape city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround San Diego to avoid all the hustle and bustle.
So the question arises: do the suburbs maintain a semblance of the larger-than-life appeal of their more famous neighbor?
Today, we’ll use Saturday Night Science to determine which San Diego ‘burbs need a little tender loving care – the sore thumbs of the San Diego area if you will. Realistically, you can only expect some of the suburbs to live up to San Diego proper, although Del Mar certainly tries.
Of course, not all suburbs of San Diego are created equally, which is precisely why we set out to find the best ones.
We examined the 17 biggest suburbs of San Diego to find out the worst places to live. And while you won’t necessarily find them on the worst places to live in California lists, these ten places are a little too far downwind of San Diego in terms of quality of life.
Now don’t freak out.
What’s the worst suburb of San Diego? Spring Valley ranks as the worst suburb of San Diego for 2023 based on the most recent Census and FBI data.
Read on to see how we determined the places around San Diego that need a pick-me-up. And remember, don’t blame the messenger.
And remember, there are some good places to live around San Diego too.
For more California reading, check out:
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The 10 Worst San Diego Suburbs To Live For 2023
1. Spring Valley
Median Income: $54,191 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.6% (4th highest)
Median Home Value: $100,400 (lowest)
More on Spring Valley:
We’ll get the ball rolling with Spring Valley, the absolute worst place to live around San Diego according to the data.
And in the world of worst rankings, Spring Valley beat the competition pretty handily thanks to scoring in the bottom 15% in three major categories. Income is the worst in the San Diego area, and to make matters worse, the city ranks worst when it comes to home values.
But hey, at least it’s cheap to live there. But there’s a reason for that… it’s Spring Valley.
You won’t feel bad about not having a great income for the area. There aren’t a bunch of places to spend your money anyway.
Median Income: $70,115 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.5% (13th highest)
Median Home Value: $498,000 (4th lowest)
More on Escondido:
Welcome to Escondido. Home to KMart, Big Lots, and a lot of gas stations.
This city is 22.2 miles to San Diego. Income levels here are the 4th lowest in the metro area, where families bring in about $70,115 a year, which only goes so far even on a shoestring budget.
But on the bright side, there are a lot of fast food joints in the area.
Median Income: $58,193 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.7% (2nd highest)
Median Home Value: $492,500 (3rd lowest)
More on El Cajon:
Back up the highway we go for the third worst San Diego suburb you can live in. You might have expected to see El Cajon on here. While the cost of living is low, your entertainment and work options are limited. And that’s an understatement.
In terms of numbers, it’s in the worst 15% for insurance, and the adult high school dropout rate is poor compared to other San Diego suburbs.
But at least there are lovely parks to bring the kids during the day.
Median Income: $68,917 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.8% (7th highest)
Median Home Value: $639,200 (11th lowest)
More on Imperial Beach:
If you live in Imperial Beach, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 3rd lowest San Diego suburb for median household incomes.
Not only that, but this is the 7th worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near San Diego. Remember, we looked at 17 cities for this study.
Imperial Beach is about 17.3 miles to downtown.
Median Income: $79,196 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.8% (11th highest)
Median Home Value: $534,100 (6th lowest)
More on Vista:
Vista has the distinction of being a San Diego suburb. Which means that’s about all it has going for it.
All snarkiness aside, Vista has the 6th lowest home values in the metro San Diego area, where the median price is $534,100. The median income is $157,708.
Vista has an unemployment rate of 5.83% which ranks 11th worst.
Median Income: $92,913 (11th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.5% (highest)
Median Home Value: $565,400 (7th lowest)
More on Chula Vista:
Chula Vista has 274,818 residents that probably know it’s a pretty crummy place to live when you look at the data. (Or, if you’ve ever been there, you don’t need to look at the data.)
Incomes are towards the bottom, and the poverty rate sits at 9.12508067828434%.
Median Income: $71,082 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.1% (3rd highest)
Median Home Value: $478,400 (2nd lowest)
More on Lemon Grove:
Ah, Lemon Grove. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around San Diego.
It’s the place with the 3rd most out of work residents in the San Diego metro area (8.1%).
Median Income: $80,837 (8th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.2% (8th highest)
Median Home Value: $568,700 (8th lowest)
More on Oceanside:
Oceanside is a city about 29.9 miles from San Diego, but San Diego probably wishes it was further away. It ranks as the 8th worst burb for 2018.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a worse place to live. Oceanside has the 4th most uninsured people, 8th worst incomes, and has the 8th highest unemployment rate (6.23%) in the entire San Diego metro area.
Homes only cost $568,700 for a reason. That’s cheap for San Diego standards.
Median Income: $75,616 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.1% (5th highest)
Median Home Value: $600,000 (9th lowest)
More on La Mesa:
If you absolutely have to live near San Diego, then La Mesa might be a place for you to consider as it’s only the 9th worst San Diego suburb.
About 7.13% of residents are out of work.
Median Income: $90,620 (9th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.4% (14th highest)
Median Home Value: $616,600 (10th lowest)
More on San Marcos:
Rounding out the ten worst San Diego suburbs to call home is San Marcos.
Located 22.1 miles outside the city, San Marcoss is a real pit when you look at the data. Its residents have the 14th highest unemployment rate (4.43%), and poverty is far above the area average.
Methodology: Determining The Worst Suburbs Around San Diego for 2023
To figure out how bad a San Diego suburb is to live in, we only needed to know what kinds of things people like and then decide what suburbs have the least amount of those things.
It’s Saturday Night Science.
We threw a lot of criteria at this one to get the best, most complete results possible. Using the most recent American Community Survey data from 2017-2021, this is the criteria we used:
- High unemployment rate
- Low median household incomes
- Low population density (no things to do)
- Low home values
- A lot of high school dropouts
- High poverty
- High rate of uninsured families
We defined a suburb as any town within 30 miles of San Diego.
We also limited the analysis to places with over 4,000 people. This left us with a grand total of 17 suburbs to evaluate around San Diego.
We ranked each place with scores from 1 to 17 in each category, where 1 was the “worst.”
Next, we averaged the rankings for each place to create a quality-of-life index.
And finally, we crowned the city with the worst quality of life index, the “Worst Suburb near San Diego.” We’re looking at you, Spring Valley.
We updated this article for 2023, which reflects our tenth time ranking the worst suburbs around San Diego.
Summary: The areas around San Diego where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2023
Well there you have it — the worst of the ‘burbs surrounding San Diego with Spring Valley casting itself ahead of the pack.
As we mentioned earlier, the suburbs around San Diego aren’t all bad. Del Mar takes the cake as the best place to live around San Diego.
- Del Mar
- Solana Beach
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Detailed List Of The Worst San Diego Suburbs