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Chula Vista (; Spanish: beautiful view ) is the second largest city in the San Diego metropolitan area, the seventh largest city in Southern California, the fourteenth largest city in the state of California, and the 74th-largest city in the United States. The population was 243,916 as of the 2010 census.
Located just 7.5 miles (12.1 km) from downtown San Diego and 7.5 miles (12.1 km) from the Mexican border in the South Bay region of the metropolitan area, the city is at the center of one of the richest economic and culturally diverse zones in the United States. Chula Vista is so named because of its scenic location between the San Diego Bay and coastal mountain foothills.
Founded in the early 19th century, fast population growth has recently been observed in the city. Located in the city is one of America's few year-round United States Olympic Training centers and popular tourist destinations include Aquatica San Diego, Mattress Firm Amphitheatre, the Chula Vista marina, and the Living Coast Discovery Center.
Fossils of aquatic life, in the form of a belemnitida from the Jurassic have been found within the modern borders of Chula Vista. It is not until the Oligocene epoch that land life fossils have been found; although Eocene epoch fossils have been found in nearby Bonita. It isn't until 10,000 years ago, that human activity has been found within the modern borders of Chula Vista, primarily in Otay Valley of the San Dieguito people. The oldest site of human settlement within the modern boundaries of Chula Vista, was named Otai by the Spanish in 1769, and had been occupied as far back as 7,980 years ago. Another place where humans first settled within the modern boundaries of Chula Vista was at the Rolling Hills Site, which dates back to 7,000 years ago.
In the year 3000 BCE, people speaking the Yuman (Quechan) language began movement into the region from the Lower Colorado River Valley and southwestern Arizona portions of the Sonoran desert. Later the Kumeyaay tribe came to populate the land, on which the city sits today, who lived in the area for hundreds of years.
In the year 1542 CE, a fleet of three Spanish Empire ships commanded by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, sailed into San Diego Harbor. Early explorations by Spanish conquistadors, such as these, led to Spanish claims of the land. The historic land on which Chula Vista sits became part of the 1795 land grant known as Rancho del Rey or The King's Ranch. The land eventually was renamed Rancho de la Nación. After Mexico became independent from Spain, what is now Chula Vista became part of Alta California. Beginning in 1829, the land that is now Chula Vista was divided among Rancho Janal, Rancho Otay, Rancho de la Nación and Rancho La Punta; these were owned by José María Estudillo, José's sister Maria, John (Don Juan) Forster, and Santiago E. Argüello respectively.
During the Mexican–American War, California was claimed by the United States, regardless of the California independence movement that had briefly swept the state. Though California was now under the jurisdiction of the United States, land grants were allowed to continue in the form of private property. In 1873, the United States Army built a telegraph line between San Diego and Fort Yuma which ran through Telegraph Canyon in Chula Vista; its construction was under the command of Captain George F. Price of the 5th Cavalry Regiment out of Camp McDowell. In the 1870s and 1880s mining was done on Rancho Janal.
The San Diego Land and Town Company developed lands of the Rancho de la Nación for new settlement. The town began as a five thousand acre development, with the first house being erected in 1887; by 1889, ten houses had been completed. Around this time, the lemon was introduced to the city, by a retired professor from the University of Wisconsin. Chula Vista can be roughly translated from Spanish as "beautiful view"; the name was suggested by Sweetwater Dam designer James D. Schulyer.
The 1888 completion of the dam allowed for irrigation of Chula Vista farming lands. Chula Vista eventually became the largest lemon-growing center in the world for a period of time. Additionally, the Coronado Belt Line Railroad was built through Chula Vista, connecting Hotel Del Coronado with the National City, where Southern California Railroad terminated. During the depression at the end of the century, industrial employment in Chula Vista was limited to the La Punta Salt Works and packing houses.
The citizens of Chula Vista voted to incorporate on October 17, 1911. The State approved in November. One of its first city council members was a former Clevelandite Greg Rogers, who was also a leader of the Chula Vista Yacht Club. The yacht club would the first on the West Coast to build race specific boats, which resulted in a uniquely designed sloop. In 1915, a Carnegie Library was built on F Street. In the 1910s, Chinese, Filipino, and Mexican farm laborers worked the fields within the city, with most commuting in from Downtown San Diego and Logan Heights.
In January 1916, Chula Vista was impacted by the Hatfield Flood, which was named after Charles Hatfield, when the Lower Otay Dam collapsed flooding the valley surrounding the Otay River; up to fifty people died in the flood. Later in 1916, the Hercules Powder Company opened a 30-acre bayfront site, now known as Gunpowder point, which produced substances used to make cordite, a gun propellant used extensively by the British Armed Forces during World War I. In 1920, the San Diego Country Club opened in Chula Vista, with its clubhouse designed by Richard Requa who had previously worked on the California Pacific International Exposition. In 1925, aviation began in Chula Vista, with the Tyce School of Aviation, operating the Chula Vista Airport. In 1926, the salt works purchased Rancho Janal and grew barley and lima beans.
Although the Great Depression affected Chula Vista significantly, agriculture still provided considerable income for the residents. In 1931, the lemon orchards produced $1 million in revenue and the celery fields contributed $600,000. Japanese American farms played a significant roll in developing new crops outside of lemons, especially celery. In the 1930s, lead by Chris Mensalvas, Filipino and Mexican farm workers striked against the celery farms. To the east, on land that use to be Rancho Janal, dairy farming and cattle farming was done on over 4,000 acres. By the end of the 1930s, the city's population of over 4,000 residents were mostly Caucasians, with small populations of Japanese and Mexican Americans. Prior to World War II, anti-Japanese sentiment had existed in Chula Vista, due to competition between Japanese farmers and White farmers, however an association was formed which decreased those sentiments.
In November 1940, the city purchased the Chula Vista Airport for Rohr Aircraft. The relocation of Rohr Aircraft Corporation to Chula Vista in early 1941, just months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, changed Chula Vista. The land never returned to being orchard groves again. At the Rohr factory, the 11,000 employees worked on power units for the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. In 1945, The Vogue Theater opened.
Due to Executive Order 9066 the Japanese Americans who lived in Chula Vista were sent to Santa Anita Racetrack then the Poston War Relocation Center. One of those Japanese Americans from Chula Vista was Joseph K. Sano, who was a air corps veteran of World War I, and a member of the American Legion; during World War II, Sano served in the Military Intelligence Service Language School at the University of Michigan. In 1944, the state of California attempted to seize land in Chula Vista owned by Kajiro Oyama, a legal Japanese resident who was then interned in Utah. Oyama was correctly charged with putting the property in his son Fred's name with the intent to evade the Alien Land Law because Fred was a native-born citizen. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court as Oyama v. California where the court found that Kajiro's equal protection rights had been violated.
The population of post-World War II Chula Vista tripled from 5,000 residents in 1940 to more than 16,000 in 1950. After the war, many of the factory workers and thousands of servicemen stayed in the area resulting in the huge growth in population. The last of the citrus groves and produce fields disappeared as Chula Vista became one of the largest communities in San Diego County. In 1949, the city limits of Chula Vista expanded for the first time. Due to the construction of the Montgomery Freeway the Arguello Adobe of Rancho La Punta was demolished. In 1955, the Big Ski Drive-In opened; until it closed in 1980, it was one of the largest drive-in theaters in the nation. By the 1960s, Chula Vista continued its expansion with the annexation of part of Bonita. That same decade, Filipinos and Mexicans began to move into Chula Vista in significant numbers; these included Filipino navy veterans. In 1963, Chula Vista became the second largest city in San Diego County. From 1960 to 2013, the South Bay Power Plant, a 700 megawatt four boiler plant, occupied 115 acres (47 ha) of the Chula Vista waterfront.
In 1985, Chula Vista made the largest annexation in California history, which included the neighborhoods of Castle Park and Otay. In January 1986, Chula Vista annexed the unincorporated community of Montgomery, which had previously rejected annexation in 1979 and 1982. At the time of the annexation the community was virtually surrounded by its larger neighbor. Later, San Diego gave way, allowing Chula Vista to annex the Otay River Valley, which was opposed by residents in Otay Mesa & Nestor. Over the next few decades, Chula Vista continued to expand eastward. Plans called for a variety of housing developments such as Eastlake, Rancho del Rey and Otay Ranch neighborhoods. During this expansion a walrus fossil was found, of an extinct species of toothless Valenictus, after the species was named for the city. The quick expansion east of Interstate 805 was not embraced by all of the cities residents, leading to advocacy that new housing developments be built with parks, schools, and emergency services. In 1991, Chula Vista elected its first female mayor, Gayle McCandliss, who died from cancer a few weeks after being elected. In 1995, the United States Olympic Committee opened an Olympic Training Center in Eastlake on donated land; it is the USOC's first master-planned facility and is adjacent to Lower Otay Reservoir. In the last decade of the century, a desalinization plant opened to process water from wells along the Sweetwater River; it was expanded less than two decades later, which included a pumping station built in Bonita.
During World War I and II The army maintained a base on what is now the corner of Main Street and Albany Avenue. It initially served as a border post during World War I, and was reestablished in December 1942. It was home to the 140th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division. The regiment conducted war games against the Camp Lockett based 10th Cavalry, and were defeated. The base was closed in February 1944, and the division went on to see combat in the European theater. All traces of the post have since been removed.
In 2003, Chula Vista had 200,000 residents and was the second largest city in San Diego County. That year, Chula Vista was the seventh fastest growing city in the nation, growing at a rate of 5.5%, due the communities of Eastlake and Otay Ranch. Chula Vista is growing at a fast pace, with major developments taking place in the Otay Valley near the U.S. Olympic Training Center and Otay Lake Reservoir. Thousands of new homes have been built in the Otay Ranch, Lomas Verdes, Rancho Del Rey, Eastlake and Otay Mesa Areas. In mid-2006 officials from Chula Vista and the San Diego Chargers met to potentially discuss building a new stadium that would serve as the home for the team; yet in June 2009, the Chargers removed Chula Vista as a possible location for a new stadium. The South Bay Expressway, a toll-road extension of state route 125, opened November 19, 2007, connecting freeways 805 and 905 with State Route 54.
As a result of the Mexican Drug War, many Mexicans from Tijuana began to immigrate to Chula Vista. Being in close proximity to Tijuana though has had some drug war activity occur within Chula Vista. Yet in 2009, Chula Vista - along with nine other second tier metropolitan area cities such as Hialeah and Southern California's Santa Ana - was ranked as one of the most boring cities in America by Forbes magazine, citing the large population but rare mentions of the city in national media.
In 2013, Forbes called Chula Vista the second fastest growing city in the nation, having recovered from the slow down during the Great Recession, which saw the city lead the nation in having the highest mortgage default rate. In 2014, a survey conducted at the request of the city found that the majority of San Diegans surveyed had a negative perception of the city. By 2015, there were over 31,000 Filipino Americans living in Chula Vista; they make up the majority of the 48,840 Asian Americans who live in Chula Vista. In 2017, Chula Vista purchased the Olympic Training Center and renamed it to Elite Athlete Training Center; the United States Olympic Committee plans to continue to use the facility and pay rent to the city. That same year, a post office in the Eastlake neighborhood was renamed Jonathan "J.D." De Guzman Post Office Building, in honor of a city resident who died while a San Diego Police Department officer in 2016; having immigrated from the Philippines in 2000, De Guzman was active in his community in Chula Vista, and went on to serve as a police officer for 16 years until his death.
A current development plan in Chula Vista is to develop the bayfront.
Owning up to its Spanish name origins - beautiful view - Chula Vista is located in the South Bay region of San Diego County, between the foothills of the Jamul and San Ysidro Mountains (including Lower Otay Reservoir) and San Diego Bay on its east and west extremes, and the Sweetwater River and Otay River at its north and south extremes. The geography of Chula Vista is impacted by the La Nacion and Rose Canyon Fault zones; it has moved rocks from Pleistocene and younger eras. Yet, as late as 13,000 years ago, soils in the Rancho del Rey area have been unaffected by fault activity.
Chula Vista is the second largest city, by area, within San Diego County. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city covers an area of 52.1 square miles (135 km2), 49.6 square miles (128 km2) of it land, and 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2) or 4.73% of it water.
Chula Vista has within its city limits the Sweetwater Marsh unit of the San Diego Bay NWR. It also maintains several city maintained open space areas.
The original Chula Vista encompasses the area west of Hilltop Drive and north of L Street. The community of Montgomery was annexed by the city, after several failed attempts, in 1986. The community consists of most of the area south of L Street, west of Hilltop Drive and north of San Diego's city limit.
Beginning in the late 1980s the planned communities of Eastlake, Otay Ranch, Milennia, and Rancho del Rey began to develop in the annexed areas east of Interstate 805 and California State Route 125. These communities expanded upon the eastern annexations of the 1970s, including the area around Southwestern College. In 1986, Eastlake began to be built. In 1989, Rancho del Rey was established. In 1999, Otay Ranch began to be built on 23,000 acres.
Like the rest of lowland San Diego County, Chula Vista has a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSh/BSk), with Mediterranean characteristics, though the winter rainfall is too low and erratic to qualify as an actual Mediterranean climate.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Chula Vista had a population of 243,916. The population density was 4,682.2 people per square mile (1,807.8/km²). The racial makeup of Chula Vista was 130,991 (53.7%) White, 11,219 (4.6%) African American, 1,880 (0.8%) Native American, 35,042 (14.4%) Asian, 1,351 (0.6%) Pacific Islander, 49,171 (20.2%) from other races, and 14,262 (5.8%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 142,066 persons (58.2%).
The Census reported that 242,180 people (99.3% of the population) lived in households, 656 (0.3%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 1,080 (0.4%) were institutionalized.
There were 75,515 households, out of which 36,064 (47.8%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 42,153 (55.8%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 12,562 (16.6%) had a female householder with no husband present, 4,693 (6.2%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 3,720 (4.9%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 502 (0.7%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 12,581 households (16.7%) were made up of individuals and 4,997 (6.6%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.21. There were 59,408 families (78.7% of all households); the average family size was 3.60.
The population was spread out with 68,126 people (27.9%) under the age of 18, 24,681 people (10.1%) aged 18 to 24, 70,401 people (28.9%) aged 25 to 44, 56,269 people (23.1%) aged 45 to 64, and 24,439 people (10.0%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33.7 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.2 males.
There were 79,416 housing units at an average density of 1,524.5 per square mile (588.6/km²), of which 43,855 (58.1%) were owner-occupied, and 31,660 (41.9%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.4%; the rental vacancy rate was 4.5%. 143,330 people (58.8% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 98,850 people (40.5%) lived in rental housing units.
In 2000, the city's population was 173,556. The racial make up of the city during the 2000 census was 55.1% White, 22.1% Other, 11% Asian, 5.8% of two or more races, 4.6% African American, 0.8% Native American, and 0.6% Pacific Islander. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 49.6%. Of these individuals, 28.7% were under the age of 18.
In 1990, the city's population was 135,163. The racial make up of the city during the 1990 census was 67.7% White, 18.1% Other, 8.2% Asian, 4.5% African American, 0.6% Pacific Islander, and 0.6% Native American. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 37.2%. Of these individuals, 26% were under the age of 18.
In 1980, the city's population was 83,927. The racial make up of the city during the 1980 census was 83.1% White, 7.9% "Race, n.e.c.", 6.1% Asian and Pacific Islander, 2.1% African American, and 0.7% Native American. Persons of "Spanish Origin" made up 46.6% of the population.
Chula Vista maintains a business atmosphere that encourages growth and development. In the city, the small business sector amounts for the majority of Chula Vista's business populous. This small business community is attributed to the city's growth and serves as a stable base for its economic engine.
Tourism serves as an economic engine for Chula Vista. The city has numerous dining, shopping, and cinema experiences. As with many California cities, Chula Vista features many golf courses. Some of the city's notable attractions included the Chula Vista Nature Center, Otay Valley Regional Park, Mattress Firm Amphitheatre, OnStage Playhouse, the Chula Vista Marina, Aquatica San Diego, and the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The Nature Center is home to interactive exhibits describing geologic and historic aspects of the Sweetwater Marsh and San Diego Bay. The Center has exhibits on sharks, rays, waterbirds, birds of prey, insects, and flora. Otay Valley Regional Park is located partially within Chula Vista, where it covers the area of a natural river valley.
The marina at Chula Vista is located in South Bay including multiple marinas and being home to the Chula Vista Yacht Club. Sports fishing and whale watching charters operate the regional bay area. The Olympic Training Center assists current and future Olympic athletes in archery, rowing, kayaking, soccer (association football), softball, field hockey, tennis, track and field, and cycling.
Chula Vista Center is the city's main shopping mall, opened in 1962.
According to the City's 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
Chula Vista is home to OnStage Playhouse the only live theater in South Bay, San Diego.
Other points of interest and events include the Chula Vista Nature Center, the J Street Harbor, and the Third Avenue Village. Downtown Chula Vista hosts a number of cultural events, including the famous Lemon Festival, Starlight Parade, and Chula Vista Rose Festival.
Mattress Firm Amphitheatre is a performing arts theatre that was the areas first major concert music facility. OnStage theater stages high quality productions, serving as a large contributor to the cultural arts setting in Chula Vista.
Chula Vista is the site of the Olympic Training Center. The U.S. national rugby team practices at the OTC. Chula Vista is also home to Chula Vista FC which gained national attention with its 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run.
In 2009 Parkview Little League won the 2009 Little League World Series, earning the nickname "The Blue Bombers".
In 2013 Eastlake Little League won the American Championship at the 2013 Little League World Series.
According to the city's most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the city's various funds had $322.9 million in Revenues, $287.5 million in expenditures, $1,232.7 million in total assets, $258.6 million in total liabilities, and $181.0 million in cash and investments.
Presently the city council is led by Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. It has four other members: John McCann, Patricia Aguilar, Stephen Padilla and Mike Diaz.
As of 2018 the city's police and fire departments are understaffed, and ambulance services are contracted out to American Medical Response.
Following 2011 redistricting by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, the city's federal representation was split between the 51st and 53rd congressional districts. In the California State Senate, the city remained entirely in the 40th Senate district. However, in the California State Assembly, it was split between the 79th and 80th Assembly districts.
At the state and federal levels, Chula Vista is represented entirely by Democrats. In the State Senate, Chula Vista is represented by Democrat Ben Hueso. In the Assembly, it is represented by Democrat Shirley Weber (79th district) and Democrat Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (80th district). In the United States Senate, it is represented by Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, and in the United States House of Representatives, it is represented by Democrat Juan Vargas (51st district) and Democrat Susan Davis (53rd district).
As of January 2013, out of the city's total population, 114,125 are registered to vote, up from 103,985 in 2009; the three largest registered parties in the city are the Democratic Party with 47,986, Republican Party with 31,633, and Decline to State with 29,692. In a survey conducted by The Bay Area Center for Voting Research in 2004, it found that Chula Vista had a 50.59% conservative vote compared to a 49.41% liberal vote.
The Sweetwater Union High School District, headquartered in Chula Vista, serves as the primary secondary school district. The Chula Vista Elementary School District, the largest K-6 district in the State of California with 44 campuses, serves publicly educated kindergarten through sixth grade students.
Chula Vista is home to one of the four private colleges in San Diego County and is host to Southwestern College, a community college founded in 1961 that serves approximately 19,000 students annually.
The city has been trying since 1986 to get a university located in the city. In 2012, the city acquired a 375-acre (152 ha) parcel of land in the Otay Lakes area intended for the development of a University Park and Research Center, and chose a master developer for the project; who later backed out of the project. State Assemblymember Shirley Weber has proposed that the state open a satellite or extension campus of the California State University system at the site, with the hope that it will grow into a full university.
Chula Vista is served by The Star-News and The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Chula Vista is served by multiple Interstates and California State Routes. Interstate 5 begins to the south of the city and runs through its western edge. Interstate 5 connects Chula Vista to North County and beyond to Greater Los Angeles and Northern California. Interstate 805 serves as a bypass to Interstate 5, linking to the latter interstate in Sorrento Valley. Interstate 905 runs from the Otay Mesa Port of Entry and is one of three auxiliary three-digit Interstate to meet an international border. State Route 54 and State Route 125 serve as highways to East County cities via north and northeastern corridors.
Chula Vista has three sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International.
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