"North San Diego County", usually abbreviated to "North County", means different things whether you are in North County or in the city of San Diego. To most of us in the northernmost part of San Diego County, it means the part of the county including and north of the cities of Escondido and Carlsbad. For example, the "core market" for the newspaper North County Times is stated as: Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, La Costa, San Marcos, San Luis Rey, Camp Pendleton, Fallbrook, Bonsall, Escondido, Pala, Pauma Valley and Valley Center.
Technically, everything north of and including Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo and Ramona is in the upper half of San Diego County. It would clearly be more appropriate to place those cities in "Mid-County", but to my knowledge no one uses that term.
Instead, the usage outside of the definition in the first paragraph is that everything in the northernmost 55% of the county is "North County". This includes the cities of Del Mar and Poway.
In all cases, "North County" is taken to mean the actual northwestern part of the county, since to my knowledge there are only four other parts of the county: "San Diego"; "South Bay" - Chula Vista, National City and Imperial Beach; "the Mountains"; and "East County"! (Someone from those areas should enlighten me if I am wrong.)
Camp Pendleton, clearly geographically part of North County, is sometimes considered as a separate region altogether since it is not politically part of North County. For example, Jerry Schad in Afoot and Afield in San Diego County says:
The popular term "North County" really refers to a middle segment of San Diego County's long coastal plain, not the northernmost part. From a strictly geographical point of view, the northernmost quarter actually lies in Camp Pendeleton, a U.S. Marine Corps base. Public access to the coastline within Camp Pendleton is normally allowed only at San Onofre State Beach - a strip of bluff and beach leased by the state from the federal government.
Temecula and Murrieta in Southwest Riverside County are sometimes considered to be part of San Diego's North County, since they are closer in many ways to San Diego County than to the city of Riverside.
I thank Mike Kelleher for pointing out the need to define North County and for the existence of the term "South Bay".
Copyright © 1998-1999 by Tom Chester.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 9 August 1998; typo corrected 26 March 1999.