Imperial Beach

From San Diego Public Policy and Fiscal History
Source: Google Map

Imperial Beach is one of the eighteen incorporated cities in the San Diego County. Located on the border of the U.S and Mexico, it is known as the "Most Southwesterly City in the Continental United States". Imperial Beach falls under 51st Congressional District.

Read SDCTA's municipal analysis of Imperial Beach.


This area is first settled by Americans in the 1880s. In 1887, the first subdivision map, which referred to this area as South San Diego Beach, was filed. It is later renamed into Imperial Beach to attract visitors from the Imperial Valley as a summer retreat beach resort. In the early 1900s, this city is also stationed by U.S Cavalry troops to quell the conflicts on the U.S-Mexico border. Imperial Beach is incorporated in July 18, 1956 as the 10th in the San Diego County.

Local Industries

Imperial Beach has experienced a relatively slow industrial development over its history. The first building was not built until 1903, and the roads were not paved until the 1940s. Prior to World War II, the merchandise was transported into the city by train, which run between Palm City and Coronado, and/or by horses. The economy is primarily agricultural-based. In the 1940s, the outbreak of World War II boosted the defense industry around San Diego Bay and therefore raising the housing price in Imperial Beach. The streets were also paved, lighting districted formed, and a community center was built during this decade. [1] Population grew in the following decades. The local businesses and industries also increased in support of the growing population. However, compared to other cities in the San Diego County, its economy growth was slow. It has one of the lowest sales tax revenue among all cities, and its government nearly went bankrupt in 1978.

Imperial Beach in the 1900s remained as a residential city instead of a tourist spot as the City of Coronado. Its tourism industry only started to develop in the last two to three decades. In 1999, the famous tourist spot, Portwood Pier Plaza, opened. In 2004, the City started to implement Redevelopment Plan to enhance the commercial corridor along Palm Avenue and Seacoast Drive. The first major hotel, the Pier South Resort, which hosted 78 rooms, was opened in 2014. In 2020, a 100 rooms Hampton Inn&Suites opened in the historical center of the City. The opening of these two hotels brought considerable amount of transient occupancy tax revenue to the Imperial Beach.

Currently, according to Data USA, the industries with greatest amount of employees are Accommodation & Food Services, Retail & Trade, and Health Care and Social Assistance. [2]


According to U.S census, the City of Imperial Beach had a population of 26,137 in 2020, ranked 14th among the 18 incorporated cities in the San Diego County. The population in 2020 represents a slight decrease of 0.7% from 26,324 in 2010. Based on the land size of 4.5 square miles, the current population density of Imperial Beach is 5808.2 residents per square miles. The makeup of the Imperial Beach is 51.15% Hispanic or Latino, for the non Hispanic or Latino, there are 33.33% white, 3.34% black or African American, 0.37% American Indian or Alaska Natives., 5.74%Asian, 0.45% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders, 0.46% from other races, 5.16% from two or more races. [3]

The American Community Survey reported that the median age is 32.6, lower than the San Diego county's overall median age, which is 36.1. 23.69% residents are under 18 years old, and 10.11% are above 65 years old. The sex ratio is 107.2.

In 2020, there are 9,361 households, out of 37.54% are married-couple households, 26.60% are male householder with no spouse present, and 26.82% are female householder with no spouse present. The average household size is 2.81. The average family size is 3.34. The median household income in 2020 is $59,795. The mean household income is $76,679. In comparison, the median household income of San Diego County in 2020 is $82,426, and its mean household income is $111,241. 2,435 people in the Imperial Beach fall below the 50% poverty ratios, and 5,512 fall below the 125% poverty ratios.

According to Regional Housing Task Force on the Homeless (2020), there are 16 street and sheltered homeless people in Imperial Beach. The San Diego County in total has 7,619 homeless people, and Chula Vista and El Cajon had the largest homeless populations of the southern and eastern County cities, 313 and 764, respectively. Imperial Beach has one of the smallest homeless population in the San Diego County.

As of June 2022, the San Diego County Report of Registration reports that there are 14,055 registered voters in Imperial Beach, 40.18% of them are registered as Democratic, 24.92% are registered as Republicans, 26.25% decline to state a party, 4.62% are registered as American Independence Party, 0.57% are registered as Green Party, 1.44% are registered Libertarian, 0.87% are registered Peace & Freedom, and 1.14% are identified as Miscellaneous, or Other political parties. Both current Mayor Serge Dedina (will retire by the end of 2022), and District Representative Juan Vargas are democrats.[4]


Imperial Beach is surrounded by three watery bodies: San Diego Bay, Pacific Ocean, and Tijuana River Estuary. This unique geography makes water management an important factor in the development of Imperial Beach. For years, water pollution has been a concern to the city and the county. The pollution comes from a wastewater plant located in the Tijuana discharging raw sewage into the ocean. [5] The pollution affects the health of the beachgoers and surfers. The federal and the municipal officials have played multiple efforts in reducing the pollution in the ocean. In 2020, the congressional district leaders secured a 300 millions federal fund to capture the Tijuana Sewage Spill. [6] The City of Imperial Beach also worked out a Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan in 2019 to address the issue of water pollution.

Work Cited