Area and Population of Fallbrook, CA, Including Bonsall and Rainbow

Table of Contents

Current Area and Population

Historical Population Projected Population of Fallbrook

Current Area and Population


Fallbrook is an unincorporated area in North San Diego County, and hence its demarcation is not a precisely-drawn legal document, as it would be if it were incorporated. However, the "greater Fallbrook area" would still be loosely-defined even if Fallbrook were a city, just as the "greater Escondido area" is ill-defined.

The one area that is undisputedly Fallbrook is what might be called "central Fallbrook", "urban Fallbrook", the core area, the downtown, or the heart of Fallbrook. Its boundaries have been "officially" demarcated by Caltrans (I presume), which has placed official-looking green-and-white signs welcoming the visitor to Fallbrook, placed at:

The western boundary is clearly provided by the Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station. To my knowledge, there are no signs at the northern boundary on either De Luz Road or Sandia Creek Drive, but the north boundary of central Fallbrook is clearly around 0.5 mile north of East Mission Road on De Luz Road.

This area is roughly the same as the "Fallbrook Central Area" which is shown in more detail on the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce Fallbrook Map by Sullivan Publications entitled "Fallbrook: Including Bonsall, Deluz (sic), Pala Mesa, Rainbow & Surrounding Communities". This definition was apparently used for the U.S. 1990 Census, which found 22,095 people living in that area, as stated on those signs.

The "Greater Fallbrook Area" is harder to define, but there is general agreement from at least 5 sources on its rough boundaries:

  1. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) calls the Greater Fallbrook Area its Subregional Planning Area 55, which includes De Luz, Rainbow and Bonsall. The boundaries are:

  2. This is the area shown on the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce Fallbrook Map.

  3. The map in the Fallbrook Directory is essentially identical to the Chamber of Commerce map.

  4. This area also corresponds to zip codes 92028 and 92003, with a small sliver of zip code 92084 (Vista) that is between Gopher Canyon and the ridgeline between Gopher Canyon and Moosa Canyon (Camino del Rey).

  5. The mail ballot for the election regarding a change in status of the Fallbrook Hospital was sent to 20,627 registered voters of Fallbrook, De Luz, Ranbow and Bonsall.

The 1990 U.S. Census found 37,334 people living in SANDAG's Area 55, which was updated by the state Department of Finance to 41,185 people as of January 1996. The 37,334 number is found on the rest of the signs welcoming people to Fallbrook, placed at:

The Fallbrook Community Planning Group uses a 1990 number of 35,459, subtracting 1,875 Rainbow residents part of the Rainbow Community Planning Group.

It is amusing to note that ~32,500 copies of the Fallbrook Directory were printed in December, 1999, and all but 2000-3000 kept for subsequent requests were distributed (VN 2/24/00, A3). That's enough for every man, woman and child to have their own!

It would be very interesting to survey residents near the boundaries to see where they consider their residence to be. Betty Johnston, the former editor of the Enterprise and now writer/columnist for the NCT, has wanted to do such a survey for some time. She wrote me that:

Some people living in the unincorporated area between Vista and Gopher Canyon Rd. consider that they live in Bonsall (which I have always found a little strange); and some feel that Vista runs all the way to the Bonsall Bridge (E. Vista Way/76 intersection). The territories served by Vista Fire, N.County Fire, and Deer Springs Fire tend to overlap here and there, with resultant confusion if someone calls for emergency medical service (I know - we live in Bonsall, near a couple of the boundaries, and I've had to call twice - with interesting results).

I had suspected that people choose their town allegiance in unincorporated areas mostly by school district boundaries, but two counterexamples have changed my opinion. The Fallbrook Union High School boundaries used to extend to what is now the edge of Vista. Betty Johnston wrote:

I have in my fallbrook office a print-out of an interesting piece of e-mail I received a while back re earlier boundaries of fallbrook high school district; it evidently extended all the way to Vista Grande (a hilly street in Vista, on the ridge which overlooks Vista Valley Country Club, which is considered by those who have homes there to be in Bonsall. This is the Gopher Canyon area that the post office says is in Vista...

Cheryl Spelts wrote:

When we moved to Vista in 1975, according to the school district boundaries I was supposed to attend school in Bonsall. We lived in an area called Elevado Heights, which is located just off Vista Grande and Warmlands. All the kids in the area had waivers to attend school in Vista, but the school board had decided that to stop granting them. So my mother and the other parents went to the school board and had the boundary lines re-drawn. It only made sense since we really were in Vista. Some parts of Gopher Canyon feel like Bonsall, but Elevado is definitely in Vista!

People who live in Fallbrook Oaks, on Gird Road near SR76, send their kids to Bonsall elementary school but consider that they live in Fallbrook, not Bonsall.

Community allegiance may be a complicated matter, determined by several factors such as where one buys groceries, gets their car repaired, votes, etc., in addition to school district boundaries.

If you live near any of the boundaries of the Greater Fallbrook Area, I'd love to know whether you consider yourself part of that area! Email me with your answer!

All of the official green-and-white signs list the elevation of Fallbrook as 685 feet. That elevation corresponds only to a narrow strip of downtown Fallbrook, from roughly:

My guess is that the elevation refers to the old library. If anyone knows the actual source, please email me.


In 1963, the California Division of Highways requested that the San Diego County Board of Supervisors set the boundaries of Bonsall so that they could be shown on maps.

The suggested limits encompassed an area of some 22 square miles. The 3/7/1963 Enterprise, quoted in NCT 3/8/98, B1, stated:

In addition to the 'four corners', thought by Supervisor DeGraff Austin to be the limits of Bonsall, the area included land to the limits of Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, Moosa Canyon, Gopher Canyon and Highway 395.

There were 8,924 residents in 1997. (NCT 3/16/00, B1)

In 1998 there are about 6,400 registered voters in the Bonsall Union School District. (VN 10/22/98, 26.)

In 1999, there are 2,411 single-family properties in Bonsall, with a 1999-2000 assessed value of $518 million, up 12.5% from the previous year. (VN 8/12/99, 25.)


The Caltrans Rainbow boundary signs are placed on I-15 at:

and state the population of Rainbow as 1,092, and elevation as 1,045.

The Rainbow Property Owner's Association put up two beautiful signs in 1998 at:

Unfortunately, some miscreant stole the northbound entrance sign on 1/2/00, which will cost $1,650 to replace. The signs are made out of redwood and painted by Rainbow Signs of Fallbrook. If you have any leads on the whereabouts of the sign, email Bill Harding or call him at 760 728-2088. (NCT 4/9/00, B1, B4) If you wish to return the sign anonymously, you can also contact me (Tom Chester) at 723-0087.

The Fallbrook Community Planning Group uses a 1990 number of 1,875 Rainbow residents.

A SDUT article on 3/8/98, the New Homes advertising section, states that "Rainbow Valley is about one mile square, but if you include the mountains, which is where most people live, the community is about 12 miles square."

This note was inspired by the article "Fallbrook having an identity problem" in the SDUT 9/6/97, B5.

Historical Population of Fallbrook, CA Area

Most of these estimates are probably for the Greater Fallbrook Area, but most of them do not say what area they are referring to.

YearPopulationRate of Growth (%/year)Source
1882~600--Fallbrook 1869-1977
--NCT 2/15/98, B1, quoting Enterprise 2/14/63
Fallbrook 1869-1977, quoting Enterprise
1920600--Fallbrook 1869-1977
19231,500-2,000--Fallbrook 1869-1977
19638,0006.9 (1911-1963)NCT 2/15/98, B1, quoting Enterprise 2/14/63
196413,171~10 (1961-1964)NCT 4/4/99, B1, quoting Enterprise 4/2/64
196817,640--U.S. Post Office estimate in a larger area than census tracts, from Fallbrook 1869-1977
197621,199--U.S. Post Office estimate in a larger area than census tracts, from Fallbrook 1869-1977
198014,0417.3 (1970-1980)Census
199037,33410.2 (1980-1990)Census
199641,1851.6 (1990-1996)California Department Finance

Historical Population of Bonsall, CA

From the 3/7/1963 Enterprise, quoted in NCT 3/8/98, B1, an estimated 599 people in some 22 square miles.

Historical Population of Rainbow, CA

"In the 1970s the population was about 700 and today it's around 1,500", estimated Craig Ohlson, captain of the Rainbow Valley Volunteer Fire Department, president of the Rainbow Valley Property Owner's Association, member of the Vallecitos School District and a local Realtor. (Source: SDUT 3/8/98, New Homes advertising section p.1)

Projected Population of Greater Fallbrook, CA Area

YearPopulation Growth Rate

Scary, isn't it?!

Of course, geometric growth never continues forever, and hence the prospect of 1 million people in Fallbrook is not very likely, despite the observed 10.2% annual rate of increase between 1980 and 1990. However, it is unlikely that Fallbrook will always stay below 100,000.

San Diego County projects a population of 69,000 for Greater Fallbrook in the year 2020 (VN, 3/12/98, 32), which is a rate of growth of slightly over 2%, just above the lowest rate of increase in the table above. This is much slower than the 7% growth rate from 1980 to 1996, and so that population estimate should probably be considered a lower limit to the size of Fallbrook at that time.

The Bonsall community plan as of early 2000 gives the maximum 2020 population at 17,217 residents, compared to 8,924 residents in 1997. County planner Rose Blake has told Chuck Davis, chairman of the Bonsall Sponsor Group, that the revision to the 2020 plan currently being made (to be completed in 2002) will probably lower the 2020 number to under 16,000. The difference is due to parcels that have areas too steep, or too wet, to be developed. Current zoning allows the maximum development per acre by putting homes closer together on the buildable parts of a parcel to make up for not being able to develop homes on the non-buildable parts. The revision allows the maximum development per acre only on the buildable parts of the parcel. (NCT 3/16/00, B1, B2)

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Copyright © 1997-2005 by Tom Chester.
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Last update: 28 January 2005.