Normal Heights was named for the San Diego Normal School, a teacher's college that was the forerunner to San Diego State University. A major early influence on the community was Bertram J. Carteri, who arrived in 1926 and began to build single-family bungalows. With the restoration of the trolley line in the early 1920s, Carteri began to build what is now known as the Carteri Center on Adams Avenue between 33rd and 34th streets, which has been declared a potential historic district. The most significant structure is the Louis L. Gill-designed bungalow court first named El Sueño; now known as Santa Rosa Court.
The Normal Heights Community is made up of three neighborhoods, which are Adams North, Adams Park and Cherokee Park. Adams North is developed as a predominately single-family neighborhood, while Adams Park and Cherokee Park include a broader mix of single-family homes, older apartment courts and large apartment developments.