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Cities Along SR-78 In San Diego’s North County Seek Identity

Photo credit: Google Maps

State Route 78, one of the original state highways designated in 1934, stretches from Oceanside through heavily populated cities in northern San Diego County.

The San Marcos City Council will vote Tuesday night on whether to spend nearly $50,000 on a campaign to promote North County as a good place to do business. The campaign involves five cities and is based on research that started by asking about North County’s image.

The San Marcos City Council will vote Tuesday night on whether to spend nearly $50,000 on a campaign to promote North County as a good place to do business.

Establishing an identity is a primary goal for five North County cities along the state Route 78 corridor: Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido. They’ve decided working together to attract businesses and jobs is likely to be more effective than competing with each other.


North County Branding Report

North County Branding Report

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Photo credit: North Star Destination Strategies

A bar chart showing which communities people most consider to be part of North County San Diego.

Market research carried out for the cities suggests there are plenty of different ideas about what exactly makes up San Diego’s North County. Does it include everything north of state Route 52? Is it the nine cities north of the city of San Diego? How about the unincorporated areas east of Interstate 15?

The cities commissioned North Star Destination Strategies to design a common brand for the region. North Star began with a survey. What they found was fewer than half of those questioned see Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe or Poway as in North County, but more than 90 percent think of the five cities along the Route 78 corridor as North County.

The survey results, called “North County Communities along the 78 Corridor,” asked people to characterize each city by comparing them to a vehicle. Carlsbad’s image evokes a Lexus: trendy and good looking. Oceanside is more like a Chevy: tough and macho. San Marcos is a Toyota: solid and practical. Vista brings to mind a family oriented Ford. Escondido is a Ford pickup, not flashy but utilitarian.

Asked about what North County’s economic goals should be, a group of leaders in the survey said creating jobs is No. 1, along with investing in better transportation and leveraging higher education assets.

Now, all five cities are signing an agreement to contract with an agency to plan, develop, coordinate and execute a North County Route 78 corridor economic development strategy.

San Marcos is the last of five North County cities to earmark money for the contract to launch a two-year campaign.

Symptomatic of the problem of defining North County, the cities have chosen to contract with the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., based in downtown San Diego, rather than with the North County Economic Development Council, based in San Marcos.

Carl Morgan, executive director of the North County EDC, said his agency represents a wider definition of North County than the Route 78 corridor, but he supports the initiative.

The North Star contract included coming up with a logo to represent the five North County cities, but it hasn't been unveiled yet. One of its challenges will be to help resolve the differing definitions of what North County really means.

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