The 10 Worst San Diego Suburbs For 2022

We used science and data to determine which San Diego suburbs are the real pits.

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Not everyone is cut out for city life. Some people would prefer to live in the cities and towns that surround San Diego.

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 science and data 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't expect all 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.

Here are the 10 worst suburbs around San Diego for 2022:

  1. Spring Valley
  2. Escondido
  3. El Cajon
  4. Lemon Grove
  5. Imperial Beach
  6. Vista
  7. Chula Vista
  8. Oceanside
  9. La Mesa
  10. San Marcos

What's the worst suburb of San Diego? Spring Valley ranks as the worst suburb of San Diego for 2022 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.

Or, if you're thinking of moving to elsewhere in California check out the best places in California overall or the worst.

And remember, there are some good places to live around San Diego too.

Editor's Note: If you see a slight difference between the worst in state rankings and this suburb ranking, it's because of the methodology. We needed a way to include more places, so we eliminated crime and commute times as criteria for this analysis.

For more California reading, check out:

The 10 Worst San Diego Suburbs To Live For 2022

1. 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.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 5,172
Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Median Income: $50,549 (lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.6% (11th highest)
Median Home Value: $102,100 (lowest)
More on Spring Valley:

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 $65,326 a year, which doesn't go a long ways even on a shoestring budget.

But on the bright side, there are a lot of fast food joints in the area.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 150,396
Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 1)
Median Income: $65,326 (4th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.7% (10th highest)
Median Home Value: $473,700 (4th lowest)
More on Escondido:  Data | Photos

Escondido, CA

Source: Public domain

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 drop out rate is poor compared to other San Diego suburbs.

But at least there are nice parks to bring the kids during the day.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 103,249
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 2)
Median Income: $56,367 (2nd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.7% (3rd highest)
Median Home Value: $470,800 (3rd lowest)
More on El Cajon:  Data | Photos

El Cajon, CA

If you live in Lemon Grove, most likely you struggle to make ends meet every month. It ranks as the 5th lowest San Diego suburb when it comes to residents making money.

Not only that, but this is the 2nd worst unemployed suburb you can live in if you choose to live near San Diego. Remember, we looked at 17 cities for this study.

Lemon Grove is about 8.1 miles to downtown.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 26,739
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Median Income: $66,953 (5th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 8.9% (2nd highest)
Median Home Value: $456,400 (2nd lowest)
More on Lemon Grove:  Data | Photos

Lemon Grove, CA

Imperial Beach has the distinction of being a San Diego suburb. Which means that's about all it has going for it.

All snarkiness aside, Imperial Beach has the 11th lowest home values in the metro San Diego area, where the median price is $593,400. To put that into perspective, in Del Mar, the median income is $161,705, which is the best in the area.

Imperial Beach has an unemployment rate of 7.73% which ranks 4th worst.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 27,334
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 1)
Median Income: $59,795 (3rd lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 7.7% (4th highest)
Median Home Value: $593,400 (11th lowest)
More on Imperial Beach:  Data | Photos

Imperial Beach, CA

Vista has 100,659 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 11.300329899819411%.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 100,659
Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Median Income: $73,163 (7th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.3% (12th highest)
Median Home Value: $503,500 (6th lowest)
More on Vista:  Data | Photos

Vista, CA

Source: Public domain

Ah, Chula Vista. You rank as the 7th worst place to live around San Diego.

It's the place with the most out of work residents in the San Diego metro area (9.66%).

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 268,779
Rank Last Year: 7 (No Change)
Median Income: $86,132 (10th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 9.7% (highest)
Median Home Value: $526,500 (7th lowest)
More on Chula Vista:  Data | Photos

Chula Vista, CA

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 (5.69%) in the entire San Diego metro area.

Homes only cost $538,200 for a reason. That's cheap for San Diego standards.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 175,694
Rank Last Year: 8 (No Change)
Median Income: $75,411 (8th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 5.7% (8th highest)
Median Home Value: $538,200 (8th lowest)
More on Oceanside:  Data | Photos

Oceanside, CA

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 6.5% of residents are out of work.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 60,208
Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
Median Income: $71,287 (6th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 6.5% (5th highest)
Median Home Value: $564,900 (9th lowest)
More on La Mesa:  Data | Photos

La Mesa, CA

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 (4.06%), and poverty is far above the area average.

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 96,219
Rank Last Year: 10 (No Change)
Median Income: $86,408 (11th lowest)
Unemployment Rate: 4.1% (14th highest)
Median Home Value: $584,600 (10th lowest)
More on San Marcos:  Data | Photos

San Marcos, CA

Source: Public domain

Methodology: Determining The Worst Suburbs Around San Diego for 2022

To figure out how bad a place is to live in, we only needed to know what kinds of things people like and then decide what cities have the least amount of those things.

We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using the most recent American Community Survey data from 2016-2020, 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 drop outs
  • High poverty
  • High rate of uninsured families

FYI: We defined a suburb as being within 30 miles of San Diego.

Additionally, we limited the analysis to places that have 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 lookin' at you, Spring Valley. You can download the data here.

Read on below to learn more about what it's like to live in the worst of the worst. Or skip to the end to see the list of all the suburbs ranked from worst to best.

Summary: The areas around San Diego where the dream is more of a nightmare for 2022

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
  • Coronado
  • Solana Beach

For more California reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Worst San Diego Suburbs

Rank City Population Median Income Median Home Values
1 Spring Valley 5,172 $50,549 $102,100
2 Escondido 150,396 $65,326 $473,700
3 El Cajon 103,249 $56,367 $470,800
4 Lemon Grove 26,739 $66,953 $456,400
5 Imperial Beach 27,334 $59,795 $593,400
6 Vista 100,659 $73,163 $503,500
7 Chula Vista 268,779 $86,132 $526,500
8 Oceanside 175,694 $75,411 $538,200
9 La Mesa 60,208 $71,287 $564,900
10 San Marcos 96,219 $86,408 $584,600
11 Santee 57,407 $85,826 $478,000
12 Poway 49,780 $115,332 $716,300
13 Carlsbad 114,411 $112,933 $857,300
14 Encinitas 62,967 $120,488 $992,100
15 Solana Beach 13,301 $106,904 $1,333,200
16 Coronado 24,526 $108,992 $1,656,800
17 Del Mar 4,331 $161,705 $2,000,001

How Is Your Town In ?

Editor's Note: This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don't freak out we updated this article for 2022. This is our ninth time ranking the worst suburbs around San Diego.

About Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson earned his masters in Business Administration from the Drucker School At Claremont Graduate University. He has written for 39 publications across the country and ran the media relations department at Movoto, a real estate portal based in San Francisco. He has been featured in over 500 publications as an expert in real estate and as an authority on real estate trends.

Nick's the creator of the HomeSnacks YouTube channel that now has over 260,000 subscribers and is an excellent source to learn about different parts of the country.