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Editor’s Note: The Lowdown on South Bay

A look inside this month's issue dedicated to San Diego's iconic South Bay
Film photograph of San Diego's South Bay featuring vintage low rider cars in downtown Chula Vista
Photo Credit: Delana Delgado

I’ve always covered South Bay people and places in the pages of San Diego Magazine, but we’ve never dedicated an entire issue to the area. That changes this month, with our first-ever South Bay issue. It accompanies our inaugural Taste of South Bay food-and-drink extravaganza, coming to Novo Brazil Brewing in Imperial Beach on Feb. 25. We love South Bay and are excited to be exploring its culture, food, and art in our pages and in person.

I didn’t grow up in San Diego—I’m actually from Long Island, New York, a suburb of a few million people right outside of the city. But I’ve lived in SD for nine years, and I hang out in South Bay as much as I can because it reminds me of home. The planned neighborhoods, the strip malls with sneakily excellent food, the cultural enclaves, the hometown pride. More often than not, whenever I meet someone doing something particularly interesting in San Diego, they tell me they come from one of the cities down south.

South Bay is one of the main arteries of San Diego County: bedroom communities sandwiched between two world-class cities, simultaneously feeding into and feeding off of them. Around and inside South Bay’s neighborhoods, the military, biotech, education, and other regional industry engines chug along, powering the rest of the world and our borderlands. Its people make iconic regional dishes, like sisig from Lisa’s Filipino Cuisine and birria from Ed Fernandez, and they are linchpins in our cross-border arts scene. Too often, Chula Vista and the rest of ’em get written off as sleepy suburbs. We know they’re a lot more dynamic than they get credit for.

Our first step was hiring Imperial Beach graphic artist Richie Moon. His colorful illustrated depictions of everyday South Bay icons have inspired us for years, so we asked him to bring his vision of what a regionally specific set of lotería cards might look like to our cover. He’s recently collaborated with the likes of Foos Gone Wild, Daddy Yankee, and SDFC, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to give him another hometown stage.

To get the skinny on the area, we talked to city governments, tourism boards, and chambers of commerce; South Bay chefs, like Claudia Sandoval , Claudette Zepeda , and Phillip Esteban; business owners, including Joann Cornejo of Machete Beer House; and creative types, like the musicians from Thee Sacred Souls , Moon, and stylist Linda Waisbord.

We’re also giving readers a sneak peek at the progress made at Chula Vista’s waterfront, which is getting a big hotel and lots of other walkable bells and whistles, and dropping by a budding tennis league in Chula Vista which aims to get Latino athletes into a traditionally white and wealthy sport. Associate Editor Amelia Rodriguez and photographer Ariana Drehsler visit the ranches near Border Field State Park to see middle and high school girls in colorful gowns perform a little-known equestrian sport. Web content editor and outdoors enthusiast Cole Novak, who lives in Coronado and grew up in Chula Vista, guides us through the best spots to surf, hike, bike, and gawk, from the Silver Strand to Otay Lakes. Chief content officer and food critic Troy Johnson leads us down Chula Vista’s bustling Third Avenue, which has come into its own in recent years. Finally, we consider how the new border wall has changed Friendship Park.

When I think about this issue and the people who contributed to it, one word sticks in my brain: “pride.” We’re proud of these pages and the work that went into them. Our subjects and sources are proud, too. They love where they hail from. When it came to naming the feature, it was obvious: “South Bay Proud.” We think it says it all. Thanks for reading. We’ll see you at Taste of South Bay!

By Jackie Bryant

Jackie is San Diego Magazine's managing editor. Prior to that, she was a long-time freelance journalist covering cannabis, food/restaurants, travel, labor, wine, spirits, arts & culture, design, and other topics.

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