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Community Profiles: Midway-Pacific Highway


The Midway-Pacific Highway Community (formerly known as Midway/Pacific Highway Corridor) is an urbanized community situated north of Downtown between Old Town and Point Loma. Midway-Pacific Highway encompasses approximately 800 acres of mostly flat land, and is comprised of main areas: the central Midway area, the Pacific Highway corridor and the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

The Midway area has a commercial core containing numerous shopping centers, institutional facilities, multifamily residential developments, visitor-oriented uses, older industrial areas and U.S. military properties. It is also the location of the Pechanga Arena, formerly known as the San Diego Sports Arena. The area is characterized by wide streets, flat topography, and a varied mixture of auto-oriented large and small commercial developments. The Pacific Highway corridor, located between Interstate 5 on the east and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and San Diego International Airport on the west, contains commercial and industrial uses, multifamily residential developments and airport-related commercial uses.

The U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot, located in the southwestern portion of the community adjacent to Barnett Avenue, was developed in the early 1920s after significant dredging and filling along the shores of San Diego Bay.

Community History

Prior to the arrival of Spanish settlers in 1769, the Midway - Pacific Highway community planning area was within the territory of the Kumeyaay people. The Kumeyaay village of Kosti/Cosoy/Kosaii/Kosa’aay was described as being located near the mouth of the San Diego River. A Kumeyaay path and the Spanish trail from the ship landing at La Playa connected Point Loma to Old Town across what is now Midway - Pacific Highway.

Early maps of the area around Old Town show the San Diego River’s original forked path from Mission Valley into both Mission Bay and into San Diego Bay through Midway - Pacific Highway. In 1853, George Derby, an army land surveyor, engineered the construction of a dike which diverted the course of the river into the channel that is now known as the mouth of the San Diego River.

In 1850, approximately 687 acres of land in the Middletown area (including Pacific Highway), located between Old Town and New Town (Downtown), was conveyed to a group of 10 early pioneers by Joshua Bean, the City's first mayor. These pioneers acquired and subdivided the land in an attempt to compete with New Town. The names of some of the original 10 investors are remembered in the exisitng street name system along the Pacific Highway, including Emory, Sutherland, Noell, Estudillo, Wright, Bandini, Couts and Witherby.

Also in the 1850s, Louis Rose, a Jewish resident of Old Town, acquired land between Old Town and La Playa. In the early 1860s, he deeded five acres on present-day Kenyon Street to Adath Yeshurun, San Diego’s first Jewish congregation, for a cemetery.

By the early 1900s, central Midway - Pacific Highway was known as Dutch Flats, presumably because of the preponderance of standing water in the sandy flats of the former river delta. In the 1920s the Marine Advanced Expeditionary Base (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) was built along Barnett Avenue, which was then the main thoroughfare from the New Town area to the Point Loma community. Also in the 1920s, the rise of the local aviation industry began in the Dutch Flats area. In 1922, T. Claude Ryan opened up a flying school in the area. Ryan Field was located near the intersection of Midway Drive and Barnett Avenue. The Ryan flight school led to the opening of an aircraft manufacturing plant as well. Ryan’s aeronautical company developed some of the most creative designs in aviation history, including a custom M 1 monoplane for Charles Lindbergh. By the 1930s a variety of commercial, industrial and some residential development had occurred in the Pacific Highway area. During WWII, areas along Pacific Highway were used for numerous wartime factories, including Reuben H. Fleet’s Consolidated Aircraft factory.  Responding to the influx of wartime and aviation workers, in the 1940s the Midway area became the location of approximately 4,000 temporary wartime housing units in the Frontier Housing development.

In the post-war period, some industrial uses remained in the community, and land that was no longer needed for wartime uses was developed over time with auto-oriented commercial uses and institutional uses. Among these redevelopment projects was the San Diego International Sports Arena, completed in 1966 on the site of the former Frontier Housing complex.