National City, California
Welcome sign in 2012
Welcome sign in 2012
Flag of National City, California
Official seal of National City, California
"In the Center of It All"[1]
Location within San Diego County
Location within San Diego County
National City is located in Southern San Diego
National City
National City
Location in the United States
National City is located in San Diego County, California
National City
National City
National City (San Diego County, California)
National City is located in southern California
National City
National City
National City (southern California)
National City is located in California
National City
National City
National City (California)
National City is located in the United States
National City
National City
National City (the United States)
Coordinates: 32°40′41″N 117°05′57″W / 32.67806°N 117.09917°W / 32.67806; -117.09917
Country United States
State California
County San Diego
FoundedJuly 7, 1868
IncorporatedSeptember 17, 1887[2]
 • TypeCouncil–manager
 • MayorRon Morrison[3]
 • City council[4]
Marcus Bush
Luz Molina
Jose Rodriguez
Ditas Yamane
 • City clerkShelley Chapel
 • City treasurerR. Mitchel Beauchamp
 • City managerBen Martinez
 • Total9.12 sq mi (23.61 km2)
 • Land7.29 sq mi (18.89 km2)
 • Water1.82 sq mi (4.73 km2)  20.17%
Elevation66 ft (20 m)
 • Total56,173
 • Density6,200/sq mi (2,400/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code619
FIPS code06-50398
GNIS feature IDs1661090, 2411216

National City is a city located in the South Bay region of the San Diego metropolitan area, in southwestern San Diego County, California.

The population was 56,173 at the 2020 United States census, down from 58,582 at the 2010 census. National City is the second-oldest city in San Diego County, having been incorporated in 1887.[7]


Historical affiliations Spanish Empire 1769–1821 First Mexican Empire 1821–1823 United Mexican States 1823–1848 United States 1848–present

Human presence within the modern city limits of National City may have begun as early as 130,000 years ago, as allegedly evidenced at the Cerutti Mastodon site.[8] Archaic period sites have been found along Sweetwater River which runs through the city limits of modern-day National City.[9] Before the entry of Spanish into the area which modern day National City occupies was part of the territory of the Diegueño tribe, also known as Kamai, and later Kumeyaay.[10] Later in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century there was a Kumeyaay village, north of the modern National City boundaries, on Chollas Creek.[11]

The Spanish named the 26,000 acres (11,000 ha) of land El Rancho del Rey (the Ranch of the King), used by Spanish soldiers to graze horses. After independence from Spain, in 1810, the Mexican government renamed it Rancho de la Nación (Ranch of the Nation). Governor Pío Pico granted Rancho de la Nación to his brother-in-law John (Don Juan) Forster in 1845. President Andrew Johnson, in issuing the land patent, listed the name as simply "The National Ranch",[12] the English translation of the land grant name, "Rancho de la Nación".[13]

In 1868, Frank Kimball and his brothers Warren and Levi, contractors and builders from San Francisco, purchased the entire rancho and thus began the foundation of the city, retaining the National name.[14]

Frank Kimball first brought novelty and change to the area by building his personal residence. His home included a bathtub as well as hot running water, making it the first modern house in the entire county. However, it was more than his personal innovative endeavors that allowed the region to flourish. By constructing the first roads and railroad in what is now National City, Frank and his brothers most notably were responsible for introducing modern transportation to the residents of the community. The brothers also implemented the area's first post office and a wharf for sea-bound imports and exports. These large ventures, coupled with smaller personal missions, both contributed to the overall goal of creating a community unparalleled to the times. A lasting mark of the Kimballs was the trees they imported and planted from Europe and Asia, accomplished via a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These trees can be found dotted throughout the city to this very day. It was the passion and influence of the Kimballs as well as other early pioneers that made way for the city's incorporation on September 17, 1887.[15]

In the mid-20th century, businesses on National Avenue catered to the entertainment of sailors stationed at Naval Base San Diego, and became known as the "Mile of Bars". In the late 20th century, the city, seeking to end the association of the street with drinking culture, urged the growth of automobile dealerships, transforming the area to be known as the "Mile of Cars".[16] Part of the change of business types was the closure of a Pussycat Theater in 1999.[17] The last of the bars that was on the "Mile of Bars" was the Trophy Lounge, which lasted until at least 2004.[18] In the early 21st century, the city began to utilize eminent domain to create new developments;[19] this met some criticism, to include on Reason TV in a video narrated by Drew Carey.[20]

Sanctuary city debate

As of 2017, National City was home to an estimated 25,000 immigrants and refugees, or two out of every five residents.[21]

Former Mayor Nick Inzunza declared National City a sanctuary city, meaning that it limited cooperation with federal immigration enforcement efforts, in a proclamation which he presented to immigrants' rights activists on September 30, 2006 during dueling rallies that brought about 400 people to City Hall.[22] This was the result of a statement Mayor Inzunza made on National Public Radio on September 8, 2006. This proclamation divided the city between the stance of the ex-mayor and the federal and state regulations regarding this matter.

On November 7, 2006, Ron Morrison was elected mayor of National City. On November 28, 2006, Mayor Morrison appeared on the KPBS program Full Focus with Gloria Penner and was asked if National City will continue to be a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants. Morrison responded "absolutely not."

More recently, on June 19, 2017, the National City Council voted unanimously to adopt a "Compassionate City resolution" in support of immigrants, a partial reversal of former Mayor Morrison's stance.[21]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.1 square miles (24 km2). 7.3 square miles (19 km2) of it is land and 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2) of it (20.17%) is water. National City is bounded by San Diego to the north and northeast, Bonita to the southeast, and Chula Vista to the south across the Sweetwater River. San Diego Bay lies to the immediate west of the city. Also, within the boundaries of National City on the eastern side of town is the unincorporated area of San Diego County known as Lincoln Acres. National City is 15 minutes away from the US–Mexico Border (Tijuana).

National City has road access by the Interstate 5, Interstate 805, and California State Route 54, in addition to surface streets. National City Blvd, which once served as part of the historic U.S. Route 101, still serves as a north–south arterial street parallel to Highland Ave. Plaza Blvd and 30th Street/Sweetwater Road serve as east–west arterial routes. It has rail access through the San Diego Trolley's Blue Line. The nearest commercial airport is San Diego International Airport.

In 2012, National City was honored as the most walkable city in San Diego County.[23] It currently holds a walk score of 71,[24] among the highest scores for cities of similar size.[24] However, its current score also puts National City among bigger cities like Seattle, Washington (74) and Portland, Oregon (66). San Diego's current walk score is 56.[25]


View of businesses along East 8th Street

Although there are no specific communities identified by the city of National City, certain areas have self-identified as communities. The Old Town[26] community is bordered by McKinley Ave. (to the west) and National City Blvd. (to the east), and 24th Street (to the south) and 8th Street (to the north). While Lincoln Acres is an unincorporated area of San Diego County, it is located wholly within the boundaries of the incorporated city of National City and both share the postal code (91950). The South Port Business Center, an industrial park in which many businesses operate, is bordered by I-5 to the west, National City Blvd. to the east Mile of Cars Way (24th St.) to the north, and W. 28th St. to the south. The residents near Las Palmas[27] and El Toyon Parks[28] have neighborhood councils where they can voice their concerns with the city's elected officials.

The Neighborhood Council Program was developed in an effort to improve communication with the community and to bring services directly to National City residents.[29] The program helps to unify neighbors to further enhance the image of the city, instilling civic pride into neighborhoods. Regular monthly meetings are held in each of the three Neighborhood Councils. Agenda topics are driven by resident requests, current events, and a desire by city officials to keep residents abreast of new programs and upcoming developments. Meetings are usually attended by police and fire officials, as well as members of the City Council.

Besides attending regular meetings, Neighborhood Council participants assist the city in improving their neighborhoods by volunteering during clean-up and beautification events and by helping to reduce crime. Residents also participate in family events sponsored by the Neighborhood Council Program such as National Night Out and Movies in the Park, as well as other city-sponsored events.


National City, California
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Source: [30]
Metric conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm

National City's climate is characterized by warm, dry summers and mild winters, with most of the annual precipitation falling between December and March.[30] The city has a mild climate year-round, with an average of 201 days above 72 °F (22 °C) and low rainfall (9–13 inches [23–33 centimetres] annually). Frequently, particularly during the "May gray/June gloom" period, a thick "marine layer" of cloud cover will keep the air cool and damp within a few miles of the coast.

On average, the warmest month is August. The highest recorded temperature was 108 °F in September 1988. On average, the coolest month is December. The lowest recorded temperature was 15 °F in April 2003. The maximum average precipitation occurs in February.[30]


Like most of Southern California and the San Diego County region, the majority of National City's current area was originally occupied by chaparral, a plant community made up mostly of drought-resistant shrubs. National City's broad city limits encompass the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge and the most northern area of the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. The Sweetwater River runs from the Cuyamaca Mountains, through National City and Chula Vista via a flood control channel (natural route as opposed to a canal) and empties into the San Diego Bay. Most of west National City is flat with an average elevation of 72 feet (22 m), which made it historically desirable and well suited for the Spanish to graze their horses. The eastern areas of National City tend to have canyons and ridges with an existing wildlife.


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[31]


Most recent data from the 2020 United States census[32] reported that National City had a population of 56,173, with a population density of 6,200 people per square mile (2,400/km2). The demographic breakdowns are as follows: 4,470 (8.0%) were non-Hispanic White, 2,239 (4.0%) African American, 957 (1.7%) Native American, 11,094 (19.7%) Asian, 335 (0.6%) Pacific Islander, and 12,337 (22.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 37,086 (66.0%). The median household income was $51,735, and persons living in poverty was estimated at 15.2%


The 2010 United States Census[33] reported that National City had a population of 58,582. The population density was 6,426.7 inhabitants per square mile (2,481.4/km2). The racial makeup of National City was 24,725 (42.2%) White (11.7% non-Hispanic White), 3,054 (5.2%) African American, 618 (1.1%) Native American, 12,402 (20.2%) Asian, 482 (0.8%) Pacific Islander, 3,638 (6.2%) from other races, 2,829 (4.8%) from two or more races and 16,175 (27.6%) Other. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 36,911 persons (63.0%).

The Census reported that 52,830 people (90.2% of the population) lived in households, 5,341 (9.1%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 411 (0.7%) were institutionalized.

There were 15,502 households, out of which 7,402 (47.7%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 7,376 (47.6%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 3,437 (22.2%) had a female householder with no husband present, 1,300 (8.4%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 959 (6.2%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 83 (0.5%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 2,694 households (17.4%) were made up of individuals, and 1,226 (7.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.41. There were 12,113 families (78.1% of all households); the average family size was 3.79.

The population was spread out, with 14,939 people (25.5%) under the age of 18, 9,472 people (16.2%) aged 18 to 24, 15,892 people (27.1%) aged 25 to 44, 12,076 people (20.6%) aged 45 to 64, and 6,203 people (10.6%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30.2 years. For every 100 females, there were 105.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 106.5 males.

There were 16,762 housing units at an average density of 1,838.9 per square mile (710.0/km2), of which 5,197 (33.5%) were owner-occupied, and 10,305 (66.5%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.1%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.6%. 19,165 people (32.7% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 33,665 people (57.5%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census[34] of 2000, there were 54,260 people, 15,018 households, and 11,804 families residing in the city.

As of 2007, 19.5% of National City residents have incomes listed below the poverty level, a figure above the 12.4% California state average.[35] In 2000, the estimated household income was $29,826. As of 2009, the estimated household income is $39,158, which is below the California state average of $59,958.[36]


National City had, at some point through the 1980s, one of the highest homicide rates in all of Southern California.[37] In 1993, the city had the second-highest violent crime rate in all of California.[38] Crime was, in large part, one reason the city earned the moniker "Nasty City" and, through the late 1980s and early 1990s, it averaged roughly one homicide per month, which was significant, for a city of barely 50,000.[39]

Although crime has dropped dramatically since the 1980s and 1990s, National City still has significant gang and drug activity, and has led San Diego County in crime through the 2000s.[40] In a recent study among California cities with the highest violent and property crime rates over 2014–2016, National City ranked 9th, with a violent crime rate of 299.0 over that three-year period.[41] More recent data from 2016 to 2020 shows that National City was at or near the top in overall crime, and at the top in violent crime per FBI Index Crime rate data by jurisdiction in San Diego County.[42]



With tourism being a major industry in San Diego County, in January 2012, the National City Chamber of Commerce and National City lodging businesses formed the National City Tourism Marketing District as a benefit assessment district to help fund marketing and sales promotion efforts for city lodging businesses.[43] The NCTMD includes all lodging business (hotels, motels and inns), existing and in the future, available for public occupancy located within the city limits boundaries. An annual assessment of 2.5% of gross short-term room rental revenue collected by lodging business goes to fund the NCTMD and its activities of promoting the safety and enhanced image of National City in order to increase tourism as well as to market National City as a tourist, meeting and event destination.

Top employers

According to the city's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[44] the top employers in the city were:

# Employer # of employees
1 Paradise Valley Hospital 1,138
2 National Elementary School District 462
3 Sweetwater Union High School District 400
4 Wal-Mart 400
5 NMS Management 300
6 Dixieline Lumber 285
7 City of National City 275
8 Ball Automotive Group 250
9 Macy's 250
10 Motivational Systems, Inc. 245
11 Mossy Nissan 298

Arts and culture

Entrance to the Mile of Cars
Inside the Westfield Plaza Bonita
House in the Historic District, near the Mile of Cars

Museums and other points of interest


In the California State Senate, National City is in the 18th Senate District, represented by Democrat Steve Padilla.[48] In the California State Assembly, it is in the 80th Assembly District, represented by Democrat David Alvarez.[49]

In the United States House of Representatives, National City is in California's 52nd congressional district, represented by Democrat Juan Vargas.[50]

Beginning in 2022, the city council will be elected by a district system rather than at-large, which was favored by Filipino American residents who believed their vote was diluted in the at-large system.[51]


National City's 10 public elementary schools are within the National School District [52]

Elementary schools
Charter school

National City's public middle and high schools are within the Sweetwater Union High School District

Middle school
Junior High school
High school
Private schools


In August 2005, the National City Public Library opened the doors of its newly built, 49,508 sq ft (4,599.4 m2) state-of-the art facility. The library offers more than 160,000 books and has one of the largest computer centers in the State of California's public library system with over 60 computer units.[53]

On December 18, 1884, Frank Kimball opened the city's first public library in his own home. In April 1884, the library was moved to the downstairs room of Granger Hall on National Avenue. In 1895, it was moved to the Boyd Block, currently McKinley and visually, 16th Street. From 1911 to 1954, National City operated its Carnegie Public Library in the present site of the National City Civic Center. The library operated in the present-day Art Center since 1954 until the opening of the new location in 2005.

The National City Public Library houses the Kile Morgan Local History Room which houses a significant number of original archives and manuscripts of the National City founding families, as well as maps, artifacts, high school yearbooks and scrapbooks. [54]

Notable people

See also: Category: People from National City, California

In popular culture

Sister cities

National City has two sister cities as designated by Sister Cities International:


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Further reading