Mission Hills Neighborhood Guide

Mission Hills Real Estate is highly desired given that the neighborhood is one of the oldest and most preserved areas of San Diego. With charming craftsman-style homes, safe and secure neighborhoods, and good schools, it tops the list as one of the best areas to live in San Diego.

Mission Hills is close to just about everything. A mere ten minutes to Downtown San Diego, Mission Valley, Hillcrest, Bankers Hill, Midtown, San Diego Bay, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, or Little Italy, you are right in the middle of it all without feeling like you are. The neighborhoods of Mission Hills are quiet and serene while still being able to access the best of what San Diego has to offer.

If you are looking for an established community that takes immense pride in keeping things charming, safe, and clean then you need to come to take a look at Mission Hills. Having lived in Mission Hills myself for many years, it’s one of my favorite San Diego neighborhoods.

Mission Hills Real Estate Main

Mission Hills has a rich history of being home to the city’s elite. It is still one of the most prestigious areas of San Diego to live. If you prefer being close to nightlife without being smack dab in the middle, Mission Hills is a great choice.

There has been a recent boom with many new restaurants and coffee shops making their way into Mission Hills. With its quiet residential feel, Mission Hills has a distinct sense of community and it possesses unmatched class and charm. Read through the details below, or use the quicklinks above to skip directly to sections of interest to find out more information about the great community of Mission Hills!

According to the Mission Hills Heritage website, the history of Mission Hills began when Captain Henry James Johnston came into San Diego Harbor on his Pacific Coast Steamship Company’s S.S. Orizaba. The Orizaba was a wooden side-wheel ferryboat steamship that operated between San Francisco and San Diego beginning in 1865. Every time he came into port, the captain looked up to the barren hills overlooking the harbor. He was so enamored by the hills that he purchased the property with hopes to build a home there to retire. His daughter eventually lived on the property and built a Victorian home that still stands today.

Her son, Henry Leverett Miller, was the main drive behind Mission Hills’ development. He changed the street grading and the street names and redrew lot lines. He changed Johnston Road to Sunset Boulevard and named his new subdivision Inspiration Heights. He is responsible for the stucco pillars along Sunset and the iconic palm trees lining the street.

Mission Hills was officially created on January 20, 1908 when the first subdivision map (#1115) was filed at the County Recorder’s Office. In the 1910s, Mission Hills became one of the many San Diego neighborhoods connected by the Class 1 streetcars and an extensive San Diego public transit system that was built by John D. Spreckels. The street cars were a staple in Mission Hills until they ended service in 1939. I find myself imagining what it would be like to have streetcar service in the area now!

Historical Architecture

Mission Hills is home to carefully preserved homes that were built in the 20th century by world-renowned architects. These architects included: William Hebbard, William Templeton Johnson, Emmor Brooke Weaver, Nathan Rigdon, Richard Requa, Sim Bruce Richards and Joel E. Brown. Master Builders such as the Pacific Building Company, Morris B. Irvin, and Martin V. Melhorn contributed by building in the vernacular architecture. These vintage homes have significant design history and many are registered by the city to have historical significance and are required to be properly maintained.

* Source: Wikipedia


Mission Hills is often associated with one of it’s most famous residents, Kate Sessions, who was said to have ‘singlehandedly planted Balboa Park’. She was once a teacher, but after being locked in a school locker by pranksters, she decided to leave the profession. She became an avid horticulturist and founded the “Mission Hills Nursery” which has been providing residents with fresh flowers and plants since 1910 and is still in business today.

* Source: Mission Hills Heritage

Mission Hills is located northeast of Downtown San Diego. The City of San Diego describes Mission Hills as being the area north of Horton Avenue, South of Mission Valley, West of Dove Street, and East of Old Town.

The boundaries of Mission Hills as shown on a proposed 2015 city zoning map
The boundaries of Mission Hills as shown on a proposed 2015 city zoning map

Nestled between Hillcrest, Mission Valley, Old Town and Little Italy, Mission Hills looks over the beautiful San Diego Bay (as well as San Diego’s airport). The main town center is located on Washington St. and is home to restaurants, shops and cafes. Off of Washington St. there are many residential neighborhoods filled with charming and affluent homes. Just north of Washington you will find the beautiful Pioneer Memorial Park, which is nestled between homes as well as the local school. This expansive park is a popular location for locals to get together and relax, play sports, or host events.

If you are feeling more in the mood for nightlife you can roam down Washington or University to the many wine bars, cafes and restaurants. You are also just minutes from Hillcrest, which is home to many clubs and bars. Right along the I-5 freeway you have the option of a few bars, pubs, and comedy club for great entertainment. Mission Hills is conveniently located in the middle of San Diego and close to just about everything. Head down Washington towards the I-5 to get to Downtown, Little Italy, Bankers Hill, Old Town, or Mission Valley. You also have the option to take Washington or University to head over to Hillcrest, North Park, Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, or University Heights. You will be surprised at how central Mission Hills can be while still maintaining the serene quiet residential environment.

Mission Hills is a glorious collection of beautifully maintained craftsman houses, many of which are historically significant. A great mix of old meets new is the defining characteristic of these homes. Most homes are classically designed, although you will see some Spanish inspired homes as well as a handful of modern properties as well. Charming old homes that are often remodeled to offer modern conveniences while still maintaining nods to it’s previous history are common. If you are looking for a home that has a story and doesn’t look like every house around it, Mission Hills is the place to search.

Mission Hills has panoramic views of San Diego Bay from the western-most side of the neighborhood. Perched on the hills north of downtown, Mission Hills has gorgeous views of Little Italy, Downtown cityscape, and the beautiful water of the bay. If you are looking on the back side of Mission Hills, many homes overlook lush serene canyons. Some homes also have views of bustling Mission Valley. No matter what side of Mission Hills you are on, you are likely not far from a great view.

mission hills gardens

Mission Hills is one of the most desirable neighborhoods to live in San Diego. Because of it’s history, location, and charm, it has drawn an affluent residential base. With good schools, beautiful large homes, and central location, home values have been historically strong. Below, you’ll find a graph showing the average sales prices of homes (detached homes as well as condos and townhomes) in the Mission Hills (92103) zip code. The data reflects the last five years and it is automatically updated to be current.

When doing a comparative market analysis to determine the estimated value of a home in today’s market, the price per square foot is often a key component of this analysis. An agent or appraiser will typically take the price per square foot range, (arrived at by selecting recently sold properties that are comparable to the subject property), and then multiply that price per square foot by the number of square feet in your home. Price per square foot can vary dramatically for certain homes, but the figures are often an excellent way to gauge the value of a property. Below, you’ll find the average price per square foot (detached homes as well as condos and townhomes), again taken over the last five years.

Single Family Detached Homes

Single family homes in Mission Hills start at over $1,000,000. Homes above Washington Street and in the more desirable North Mission Hills area tend to be more expensive than those below it towards Midtown. Most bay view homes are likely to be in the multi million dollar price points, depending on the size and age of the home. With the substantial increases in home values, Mission Hills Real Estate has been a great investment for many buyers.

Mission Hills Condos

While there are many more homes than condominiums in Mission Hills, there are some new developments that have been built in the last few years. “The Hills” is a newer building that boasts really great modern design and features. They are located just off Washington Street close to the town center. Condos start off below $1 million and can exceed that depending on location and the building’s amenities. Condos are mainly located around Washington Avenue and provide easy access to the local shops and restaurants in the area. There are a few smaller buildings in more residential locations that can more affordable as well.

Walkability in Mission Hills is very dependent on how close you live to Washington Street or University Avenue. If you live close to the town center located on Washington, then you are close to many coffee shops, stores, cafes, grocery stores, and restaurants. However, you would still need another means of transportation to get around town. If you are located back in the neighborhoods around Mission Hills then it might be a longer walk and a bike or car may be a better choice to get around easily.

  • Pioneer Park – This spacious park is located just off Washington Place and is directly next to Grant School, and oddly enough this park used to be a Catholic cemetery. Gravestones still line the outside edge of the park as well as a plaque giving respect to the 4,000 bodies buried there. Don’t let this scare you off because the park is very beautiful with large oak trees and ample open grass. There also is a children’s playground and a few picnic tables perfect for a sunny San Diego day.
  • Heritage Park – This 7.8 acre park is located on the edge of Mission Hills and Old Town on Juan Street and features seven historic Victorian buildings that were saved from demolition and moved to this location for preservation. Among the buildings is San Diego’s oldest synagogue as well as several intricately designed former residences. It is a really unique park filled with history. A great place to walk around when you are looking for something to do in Mission Hills.

*Source Our Mission Hills Website.

The Pacific Sotheby's International Realty office located in the heart of Mission Hills
The Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty office is located in the heart of Mission Hills

Traffic in Mission Hills is minimal and there are many ways in and out of the neighborhood. You can take Washington down to I-5 or you can take it South until you get to the 163. University runs parallel and adds another way to get around town quickly. There are also several routes that cut through South Mission Hills to get downtown. Those can be quite tricky as many roads are dead ends and if you do not know your way it is easy to get lost. The areas which tend to sometimes back up with traffic are Washington and University Avenue during normal rush hours. Because you are so close to the main highways, commuting from Mission Hills is a breeze.

Commute times downtown are great when you live in Mission Hills. Simply go down to the I-5 south via Washington Ave. and you can be downtown in a matter of minutes. You are just a 20 minute drive up the freeway to North County and 20 minutes south on I-5 to South County. Getting to East County is 20 minutes as well once you get to the 94E via the I-5. You are smack dab in the middle of San Diego and everything is incredibly close.

Mission Hills falls within the San Diego Unified School District. For central San Diego, Mission Hills public education is generally well-regarded. Ulysses S. Grant Elementary School serves grades K through eight. There are no public high schools in Mission Hills, so students typically attend Point Loma High School or San Diego High School.

Mission Hills Schools
Mission Hills Schools

Private schools include Francis Parker Lower School (JK-5th grade), and St. Vincent De Paul (K-8)

National Comedy Theatre

When you are looking to get away from reality and sit back and enjoy some great comedy, it is right in your neighborhood in Mission Hills. The National Comedy Theatre offers great improv comedy shows at an affordable price. They hire some incredibly skilled performers that will leave you with your sides aching. The club is located off India Street right by the freeway. It is commonplace for locals to have dinner and a drink at Shakespeare’s Pub next door and then head over for a great comedy show.

Mission Hills Nursery

Mission Hills is known as the former home to Kate Sessions. One of San Diego’s treasured residents whose love for flowers made Balboa Park (and Mission Hills) what it is today. You can check out the great flowers and plants that Mission Hills has to offer with a visit to it’s oldest nursery, Mission Hills Nursery.

Heritage Park

A charming park that features several restored Victorian homes and home to San Diego’s first synagogue. You can spend the day walking around and enjoying the artistry that went into this classic architecture. Right on the edge of Mission Hills, this place is one of the most beloved spots of San Diego with unique preserved historical homes. There is also ample open room to enjoy a picnic or just sit back and enjoy the great San Diego weather.

Folk Art International

This art gallery is one of the most unique retail spaces in Mission Hills. You will find a variety of eclectic African and Asian art that is also available for purchase. This place is literally filled to the rafters with beautiful sculptures, jewelry and wood carvings. A great place to stop by and look around to appreciate one of the largest collections of African art in San Diego.

Presidio Park

One of the biggest parks in the area aside from Balboa Park, Presidio is located just outside of Mission Hills and offers cultural museums, historical sites, beautiful city views and great spaces for picnics. It is located just next to Mission Hills and Old Town and is one of the most popular and beautiful parks in the area. You would never guess you are so close to the city with the wide areas of grass and rolling hills. It is definitely a gem and is walking distance from much of Mission Hills.

Summer Concerts In The Park

One of the most beloved traditions in Mission Hills is the summer concerts in Pioneer Park that run from June to August. Local businesses and musicians get together to create 10 amazing concert nights that are free to enjoy. Bring the whole family and soak up the great music with a strong community atmosphere. Make sure to get there early and reserve a spot because it gets pretty crowded. Parking is also difficult because Pioneer Park is located in a residential area. While there is a small parking lot off Washington, it fills up during park events quickly. If you can, it is better to walk or bike and leave the car at home. More Information On “Our Mission Hills” website..

Garden Tours

Every year the distinguished Mission Hills Garden Club puts on an annual Garden Club Walk that is held on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend. They take residents on a walk of the city’s most beautiful private gardens as a way to fundraise and spread gardening inspiration. A great way to walk off the Mother’s Day brunch and see gorgeous gardens. For more details on the Our Mission Hills website.

4th of July Extravaganza

One of the biggest events in Mission Hills is the celebration of our nation’s independence. The celebration begins with a neighborhood parade that ends in Pioneer Park. The parade is filled with bikes, wagons, and even pets decorated in patriotic colors and outfits. The party continues with games for kids and families along with great food including a BBQ competition. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the free entertainment with concerts going on in the afternoon. More details at Our Mission Hills Website.

Brooklyn Girl

– Creative American cooking with a seasonal bent plus craft cocktails & oyster bar in a lively space.

Red Door Restaurant & Wine Bar

– Refined yet homey eatery featuring upscale American comfort fare made with garden-fresh produce.

The Red Door Mission Hills
The Red Door offers crisp and inviting atmosphere.

Harley Gray Kitchen & Bar

– New American restaurant offering several seafood options, plus a full bar with a daily happy hour.

Farmer’s Bottega Neighborhood Restaurant

– Fresh ingredients from local farms used to create delicious classic dishes.

Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria

– Casual pizza joint with a community feel. Great deep dish pizza along with burgers and hot dogs.

Mission Hills real estate guide - Lefty's Pizza
No matter how thick or thin the crust, if you’re a pizza fan you will love Lefty’s Chicago Pizza

Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill

– Delicious fresh seafood made to order. Blue Water is also a great place to pick up any seafood produce for home cooking. This is my favorite spot for fish sandwiches in all of San Diego.


– Cozy, unpretentious neighborhood diner with an old-school vibe & menu of American comfort classics.

Wine Vault & Bistro

– Charming spot offers eclectic fare, wine flights & a fixed-price menu served at communal tables.

Wine Vault and Bistro Mission Hills
Cozy ambience makes Wine Vault and Bistro a great place to dine – and enjoy a glass of wine of course!

Cafe Bleu

– Classy venue serves French & New American fare plus boutique wines & bottomless mimosas at brunch.

Izakaya Masa

– Cozy Japanese spot offering sushi, ramen & udon alongside a wide selection of sake, beer & soju.


– Stylish eatery offers craft cocktails & elevated American eats in a swanky setting or on the patio.

Starlite Mission Hills
High style prevails at the Starlite – a great place for a cocktail and a tasty meal.


– Thai eatery with a relaxed ambiance offers popular rotisserie chicken & unique sauces. Super fresh, healthy, and tasty meals. My second favorite Thai destination in San Diego.

Lucha Libre Taco Shop

– Authentic street-style Mexican dishes, plus a salsa bar & old wrestling matches on TV.

You’ll often hear Mission Hills real estate divided into references in “North Mission Hills” and “South Mission Hills.” While I’m not aware of any exact boundary, North Mission Hills tends to refer to the area above Old Town and North / East of Washington Street. South Mission Hills is primarily on the other side of Washington, and some parts of it have a more urban feel as it approaches the outskirts of downtown San Diego.

Mission Hills Historic District

Mission Hills is also divided into several historic districts. The Mission Hills Historical district consists of 75 homes along the 1800 block of Sunset Boulevard and Sheridan Avenue. Different rules apply to different districts and hold some historical value. The homes located in the Mission Hills Historical District are closer to Pioneer Park and the schools located in Mission Hills.

Fort Stockton Line Historic District

The Fort Stockton Line was created in 2007 consisting of 107 homes along parts of Fort Stockton Drive, West Lewis and Pine Street. Homes in either historic district may be eligible for the Mills Act property tax relief that is given to select historical homes in San Diego. Many of the homes in the Fort Stockton Line (and Mission Hills in general) are historically significant and thus desired both by those who appreciate historic homes and those looking for savings on property taxes.

If you’re ready to explore selling or buying a home in Mission Hills, or elsewhere in San Diego, please contact me via the form below or the contact information at the top of the page. I look forward to working with you and assisting with you Mission Hills real estate needs!

Restaurant photos courtesy of the respective restaurants. Main image courtesy of By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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About Marc Lyman

Marc Lyman gets results and his proven track record and client reviews leave little doubt. Marc grew up in Silicon Valley and graduated from UC San Diego in 1995 with a BA in Political Science and a minor in Psychology. Marc is known for his exemplary marketing, uncompromising ethics, and professionalism. His proactive approach helps ensure smooth transactions, with your interests always first and foremost. Marc's tenacious attitude, strong background in deal-making, and seasoned negotiation skills are tempered with a strategic, personable, and diplomatic approach. Contact Marc to facilitate your real estate success!