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North County Neighborhood Guide: Rancho Bernardo

Lake Hodges

Rancho Bernardo is technically the northernmost residential community in the City of San Diego, but it is very much its own community with a distinct identity. It is home to several well-known corporations and technology companies that employ an estimated 50,000 people and has a 2011 median household income of $100,410, which was significantly higher than the median household income across San Diego ($60,797).

According to the City of San Diego, the community is approximately 6,500 acres in size, and it has an estimated population of about 49,000. The Rancho Bernardo Business Association helps this business-oriented community stay in touch with morning networking meetings, Lunch and Learn seminars, and monthly networking receptions. At the same time, local wineries and country clubs ensure that residents have plenty of options for fully enjoying their leisure time.


The earliest known inhabitants in this area were the indigenous people we call the Kumeyaay Indians. They lived here at least 2,700 years before the first European settlers arrived in 1769 when the area came under Spanish rule until 1821. During the Mission Era, the area was given the name El Paraje O Cañada de San Bernardo. In 1821, the land came under Mexican rule, and the Rancho Era began. The land that includes the area now known as Rancho Bernardo was granted to an Englishman who had become a Mexican citizen, converted to Catholicism and adopted the name Jose Francisco de Sales Snook.

Under his ownership, the land was primarily used for agricultural purposes — specifically, raising cattle and sheep. After the death of Snook and, later, his wife, the land was given to family members, and then sold to Thomas Fox for James McCoy in 1867. McCoy subdivided and sold the land to new owners who also subdivided and sold the land. This subdivision into smaller ranches lead to enough of a population increase to support the establishment of a post office in 1872 that was known simply as Bernardo.

Rancho Bernarndo Road Circa 1964

By the late 1920s, the well-known Daley family was leasing the land from the current owners, the San Diego Water Company. In 1943, George Daley purchased the land, which then went to his nephews Lawrence Daley and Donald Daley upon his death. In 1961, Donald and Lawrence partnered with developers Harry Summers and W.R. Fitz to form Rancho Bernardo, Inc. with the intention of building a planned community with residential, commercial, educational and recreational properties.

The area was annexed into the City of San Diego in 1962 and development began. In 1963, the Rancho Bernardo Inn and a shopping center opened and the first residents started moving in.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the Rancho Bernardo area, be sure to stop by the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society Museum to explore their educational exhibits.


According to, the average estimated value of detached homes in Rancho Bernardo in 2010 was $671,057. This is significantly higher than the average estimated value across San Diego, which was $595,913 that year. The median rent in Rancho Bernardo in 2011 was $1,671, which is significantly higher than the average rent across San Diego at that time ($1,201).

According to, the current median value of homes in Rancho Bernardo (attached and detached) is $529,300 at the time of this writing, and the median listing price of homes currently on the market is $489,900.

The most affordable housing unit I can find on the market at this time is a two bedroom, one bathroom, 962-square-foot townhouse listed at $228,000. It should also be noted that this is a short sale in an age-restricted community. There is also a one bedroom, one bathroom, 708-square-foot condominium that is not a distressed sale and is not in an age-restricted community on the market for $230,000.

The highest-priced luxury home I can find on the market at this time is a six bedroom, seven bathroom, 5,490-square-foot home on just over an acre listed at $1,695,000.

The vast majority of single-family, detached homes in Rancho Bernardo are owner-occupied, and most of the attached residences in this area (such as townhouses or condominiums) are also occupied by residents who own the unit.

While thousands of homes have been built each decade since the 1960s, the biggest housing booms occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. The community is mostly built out at this point, so prospective buyers looking at this neighborhood will most likely need to purchase an existing residence in order to call Rancho Bernardo home.

Original Ranch Bernardo Sales Office

Restaurants, Shopping & Entertainment

This master-planned community was designed to be self sustaining, and this is apparent in the variety of dining and shopping options available within the neighborhood. Residents of Rancho Bernardo do not need to drive far to accomplish daily errands and reach just about any retailer or service they would need, including gas stations, banks, health care providers, real estate agents, insurance agents, lawyers and more. Everyday essentials, such as Vons, Alberstons, the post office, PostalAnnex+ and CVS Pharmacy are centrally located within the community, as well as plenty of options for grabbing dinner on the way home from work, such as Jack in The Box, McDonald’s and Subway.

Other dining options include Pearl Chinese Cuisine, The Kebab Shop, Carvers Steaks & Chops, Pho Ca Dao & Grill, Stir Fresh Mongolian Grill, Souplantation, Saigon Bistro & Grill, Big Dev’s Down Home BBQ, Urge American Gastro Pub, The Barrel Room and Brothers’ Provisions.

The shopping centers located throughout the neighborhood also offer solutions for most of your shopping needs, including Big 5 Sporting Goods, Kahoots Pet Store, GNC, jewelry stores, auto parts stores and retailers specializing in home goods. Of course, there are extended shopping options within driving distance in Escondido and the neighborhoods surrounding Rancho Bernardo, such as Carmel Mountain Ranch, which is home to most of the big names you want to have nearby, such as The Home Depot, Nordstroms Rack, Staples, Best Buy, Party City and Trader Joe’s.

For those who prefer boutique shopping and supporting local businesses, there are also the specialty shops at Rancho Bernardo Inn and the Artist Village and Shops at Bernardo Winery.

For short-term visitors or folks here on business, there are several hotels in Rancho Bernardo, including the Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express, The Radisson and The Marriott, but for those who want to experience a bit of Rancho Bernardo history and the Rancho Bernardo lifestyle, there is the Rancho Bernardo Inn. Aside from the specialty shops mentioned above, the Rancho Bernardo Inn offers a golf course, luxury accommodations, a spa, and a resort club with swimming pools, tennis courts and a fitness center. The Inn also offers dining options, including Cafe Granada, the Bar, Veranda Fireside Lounge & Restaurant and Avant.

The Bernardo Winery is also an integral part of Ranch Bernardo history and is the oldest operating winery in Southern California. The winery was established in the late 1800s and has been family owned since 1927. The winery is home to Cafe Merlot, which offers a popular Sunday brunch, Jazz Buzz breakfasts and farm-fresh produce available for purchase. The Village Artists and Shops includes artists’ studios, a coffee shop, a sweets shop, a botanical shop, a clothing store, a bag store and more. This is also where you will find The Vine Theater, which is a performance space at the winery offering performances by Mojalet Dance Collective and other performers. The winery also offers events throughout the year, including live music and wine tasting, a spring bridal fair, an annual women’s week, a Valentine’s Day dinner, and an annual arts and crafts fair.

Other annual community events taking place throughout Rancho Bernardo include the Annual Rubber Ducky Race, Savour RB Food Faire, Christmas Tree & Menorah Lighting and the popular street fair, RB Alive!

Rancho Bernardo Dog Park

Parks & Recreation

Lake Hodges, which is in the Rancho Bernardo community, and nearby Lake Poway offer locals and visitors the opportunity to enjoy hiking trails, fishing and boating. For those who are more inclined to spend an afternoon on the green, there are also plenty of golf courses to ensure you never tire of the game. There is the 27-hole executive Oaks North Golf Course, the 18-hole Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Course, the 18-hole championship course at Bernardo Heights Country Club, and the 18-hole, 6,511-yard golf course at The Country Club of Rancho Bernardo. Of course, there are many other golf courses in driving distance, including courses in nearby Carmel Mountain Ranch and just to the north in Escondido.

The primary community park in this neighborhood is the Rancho Bernardo Community Park, which is home to the Rancho Bernardo-Glassman Recreation Center, the Ed Brown Senior Center and the Rancho Bernardo Dog Park. This 40-acre community space offers eight sports fields, two outdoor basketball courts, six tennis courts, lawn bowling, a gymnasium and meeting rooms.

The recreation center offers a variety of programs and classes, including a Tiny Tots program, basketball and tennis programs, martial arts classes and dance classes. The two-acre, off-leash dog park features three separate pens where dogs can play that are each equipped with double-gate entries for safety and a water spigot and biodegradable, disposable bag dispensers for taking care of business.

For those in search of a quieter, more intimate park experience, there is also Webb Park, which is tucked away behind a restaurant and features a pond with ducks, fish and turtles.

This active community also is home to Rancho Bernardo Pop Warner, Rancho Bernardo Little League, Rancho Bernardo Youth Basketball, Rancho Bernardo Girls Softball, the Rancho Bernardo Tennis Club and Lake Hodges Bowl Club.

Other nearby parks and outdoor recreation areas include Black Mountain Open Space Park to the south, the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve to the northwest, and Escondido’s Kit Carson Park and Felicita Park.

Rancho Bernardo High School


Residents living in Rancho Bernardo are served by the prestigious Poway Unified School District. Public elementary school students living in this area generally attend Monterey Ridge Elementary School, Turtleback Elementary School, Westwood Elementary School, Highland Ranch Elementary School, Stone Ranch Elementary School or Chaparral Elementary School.

Public middle school students attend either Oak Valley Middle School or Bernardo Heights Middle School. High school students generally attend either Rancho Bernardo High School or Del Norte High School.

National University and University of Phoenix have Rancho Bernardo locations for adult learners looking to expand their education.


Rancho Bernardo is east of Black Mountain Ranch and Escondido’s Del Dios neighborhood, south of the Escondido neighborhoods of Lake Hodges, Kit Carson and San Pasqual, north of Carmel Mountain Ranch and Rancho Peñasquitos, and west of Poway.

Additional Information

Rancho Bernardo is an upscale North County neighborhood that is close enough to San Diego to allow easy access from commuters, but far enough from downtown to have its own identity and community feel.

There are plenty of opportunities for community involvement, charitable endeavors, socializing among peers in private country clubs, taking out-of-town guests wine tasting and enjoying an afternoon of boutique shopping.

If you are in search of suburban living close to city amenities that allows you to enjoy your leisure time while staying connected to a thriving business culture, this community should be at the top of your list to explore.


Photo Credits (in order of appearance): Wikimedia Commons/Philkon; Rancho Bernardo Historical Society; Rancho Bernardo Historical Society; Rancho Bernardo Community Park; Poway Unified School District Real estate data gathered from, and

AJ Davis-Varela: AJ is a freelance writer and blogger at Articles by AJ specializing in travel, real estate, natural wellness and green living. She is a magazine columnist, a former San Diego newspaper columnist, has been published in a variety of print and online publications, and regularly contributes to several websites and blogs. You can connect with AJ on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+