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In 1906, E. W. Patterson, manager of the South San Diego Investment Company, wanted to attract investors from the Imperial Valley. Convinced he needed a flashier name, he called the area Imperial Beach and lauded its four miles of sand dunes and blue Pacific. The name became official when the local post office adopted it in 1909.

aToday, the most Southwesterly City in the Continental U.S. lies between two borders: Mexico three miles across a protected marsh to the south; affluent Coronado to the north. A number of residents of the Crown City own property in I.B., where at least 65% of the population rents, many calling their owners “slumlords.”

The borders pinch. At night, helicopters clack and whoosh overhead, searchlights sweeping the streets and alleys for undocumented visitors from the south.
During the day, swimming in the mouth of the Tijuana River is out. The water’s too polluted. It wasn’t too polluted in the early ’50s, when the Tijuana Sloughs had California’s first “big-wave break.” Surfers brought their Bob Simmons eleven-foot, or Woody Brown eight-foot balsa gun boards to drop in on epic breakers.
For many years, I.B. was, as a resident boasted, “the last affordable beach town in Southern California for the working man.”

Also “a place where people who can’t afford to live near the beach live near the beach.”
That is changing. How, and how fast, is a hot plate topic.

Read about the most important annual events, landmarks, and institutions that make Imperial Beach  what it is. Plus 30 original nonfiction stories from the San Diego Reader archives.

Ideal for visitors and locals alike!


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