San Diego Hopes To Shed Its Military Town Image
Back in 1850, when San Diego was a small village located at the mouth of Mission Valley, entrepreneur William Heath Davis set out to reestablish a new civic center closer to the bay.
He bought a 160-acre parcel of bayfront land in the heart of what would become modern downtown and, in hopes of attracting a permanent engine to drive commerce and attract settlers from Old Town, donated a swath of land to the U.S. Army.
Although a lack of interest caused Davis' "New Town" to quickly fail, the Army, which built a barracks and supply depot, remained there through the Civil War and Davis' idea of using the military to drive the city's development never died.
As San Diego military presence grew throughout the decades, so too did its economic dependence on defense budgets, a position that allowed the armed forces to exercise mounting influence over the city's growth, politics and civic identity.
That relationship branded San Diego as a "martial metropolis" -- a personality it continues to carry today -- and the military's financial impact helped germinate a burgeoning West Coast city. As such, it became a major city devoid of the traditional pains of urbanization -- the pollution of heavy industry, dense housing, and labor struggles -- that others had to bear.