The Kensington neighborhood in San Diego is known
today for its appeal as a historic residential area with
single-family homes, distinct in their California style.
This reputation can be attributed to the efforts of real
estate developers, especially the Davis-Baker Company of
In 1926, Davis-Baker opened a project called "Kensington
Heights," using an aggressive marketing plan to sell property in a declining real estate market.Their promotional
efforts for a specific architectural
style made Kensington Heights appealing to buyers. At the
same time, Davis-Baker created a visual identity for the
neighborhood which became emblematic of the other housing
developments with Kensington in their name.
The neighborhood we think of today as Kensington is a
collection of five original subdivisions: Kensington Park,
Kensington Park Annex, Kensington Park Extension, Kensington
Talmadge, and Kensington Heights. Kensington Heights was
the last of the parcels to be developed, and consisted
of 115 acres overlooking Mission Valley. This area today makes an ideal residential location;
it sits high on a dry mesa surrounded by chaparral-wooded
canyons, overlooks a broad rambling valley, and is cooled
by breezes from the ocean.
The Kensington location was first considered for development
in 1909 as a potential site to build luxury homes for retired
executives of the Santa Fe Railway Company. The
land was part of the ex-mission rancho owned by Santiago
Arguello. In 1885, this part of the ex-mission lands was
surveyed and sold for the first time. The property changed
hands over the years and eventually a parcel of 157 acres
became the property of the Kensington Park Land Company
on April 8, 1910.
The Kensington Park Land
Company divided and sold tracts of land to developers whose
business was the creation of individual properties designed
to accommodate residences and businesses.
All the Kensington tracts were handled in the same general
way by land development companies. A tract was surveyed
and divided into lots, initial improvements such as streets
and sidewalks were added, and the new subdivision was
opened for business. Lots were then sold and new owners
built their homes however they pleased. The Kensington
Heights project was different from the beginning because
Davis-Baker planned to build houses before selling the
lots, and require houses built by others to conform to
certain aesthetic standards. They did this so that the
neighborhood would have a specific character and style,
setting it apart from the surrounding developments.
Kensington Park Land development projects were choice
real estate parcels which enticed investors from other
parts of California, especially the Los Angeles area. George
Forbes was a typical investor; he was an experienced businessman
and real estate speculator who had purchased some of the
Kensington land with a mind toward realizing large profits.
A real problem for Forbes was San Diego's declining real
estate market. In 1926, the San Diego market was at the
end of a speculative boom. There had been tremendous population
growth matched by a high volume of residential building
ever since 1920.
The Kensington area already contained
four subdivisions, and was an unlikely prospect for developers
to open yet another new project.
During the real estate boom, developers had little incentive
to do anything more than divide the property and sell lots
as quickly as possible. Developers simply placed a few
advertisements in the San Diego Union and eager
investors presented themselves to purchase vacant lots.
An advertisement for Kensington Annex was typical of the
time, describing the atmosphere of San Diego as "sublime."
used gimmicks such as associating their project with movie
and radio personalities, to lure potential
buyers to the new housing sites.
Read the full story at www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/95spring/kensington.htm
Look for current Real Estate in Kensington, San Diego.