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San Diego is a major city in California, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, approximately 120 miles (190 km) south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico. San Diego is the eighth largest city in the United States and second largest in California and is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. San Diego is the birthplace of California and is known for its mild year-round climate, natural deep-water harbor, extensive beaches, long association with the U.S. Navy, and recent emergence as a healthcare and biotechnology development center. The population was estimated to be 1,322,553 as of 2012.
Historically home to the Kumeyaay people, San Diego was the first site visited by Europeans on what is now the West Coast of the United States. Upon landing in San Diego Bay in 1542, Juan Cabrillo claimed the entire area for Spain, forming the basis for the settlement of Alta California 200 years later. The Presidio and Mission of San Diego, founded in 1769, formed the first European settlement in what is now California. In 1821, San Diego became part of newly independent Mexico, and in 1850, became part of the United States following the Mexican-American War and the admission of California to the union.
The city is the seat of San Diego County and is the economic center of the region as well as the San Diego–Tijuana metropolitan area. San Diego’s main economic engines are military and defense-related activities, tourism, international trade, and manufacturing. The presence of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), with the affiliated UCSD Medical Center, has helped make the area a center of research in biotechnology.
San Diego was originally centered in the Old Town district, but by the late 1860s the center of focus had relocated to the bayfront in the belief that this new location would increase trade. As the “New Town” – present-day Downtown – waterfront location quickly developed, it eclipsed Old Town as the center of San Diego.
The development of skyscrapers over 300 feet (91 m) in San Diego is attributed to the construction of the El Cortez Apartment Hotel in 1927, the tallest building in the city from 1927 to 1963. As time went on multiple buildings claimed the title of San Diego’s tallest skyscraper, including the Union Bank of California Building and Symphony Towers. Currently the tallest building in San Diego is One America Plaza, standing 500 feet (150 m) tall, which was completed in 1991. The downtown skyline contains no super-talls, as a regulation put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration in the 1970s set a 500 feet (152 m) limit on the height of buildings due to the proximity of San Diego International Airport. An iconic description of the skyline includes its skyscrapers being compared to the tools of a toolbox.