Rancho Bernardo and North Poway
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Overview of RB & North Poway

 Attention those considering Rancho Bernardo: If you are 55 or older, you can buy a single-family home in Rancho Bernardo for well under $400,000! (10 as of May, 2008) Escape the hurricanes, tornados, and snow and live in the best Southern California community for very little money. There are 10 such homes vacant today! Call us at 760-749-2654.


Preface: You have every right to ask: Who is Hemphill, and why should I give his analysis of RB and North Poway any weight?

My wife and I lived in North Poway for 22 years. I have been the President and Chairman of the Green Valley Civic Association; founded and owned a computer company in RB; served as President of a data collection company in RB; served as President of the Kiwanis Club of Rancho Bernardo; published more than 800 columns in RB newspapers; was the recipient of the Rancho Bernardo First Annual Celebrity Roast. In 1981 I was appointed by Oak Industries which had its International Headquarters in Rancho Bernardo to a position as the Independent Trustee of its stock in a Los Angeles TV station. I ultimately became the CEO of that station.  In 1997 I was the  “Honoree of Distinction” in the field of Business and Philanthropy of the Soroptimist International of Rancho Bernardo.

In addition, I have sold a LOT of real estate in the area.

This website is designed to bring you a very opinionated and personal view of RB and North Poway -- this is not the usual "Chamber of Commerce" information...I don't have to please lots of people. This information is RB and North Poway through my eyes, with all its warts as well as with all of its substantial benefits. Fortunately, you can supplement my views with just plain statistics and bland information at many other sites.

Don't hesitate to call me at 760-749-2654 if you have any questions, or send me an e-mail to allen@allenhemphill.com

I don't have a "staff" -- just me and my wife Jean, so you can get through directly to me anytime.

When you are finished with my site, you might try:

www.rbernardo.com (This is a terrific site!)


Rancho Bernardo and North Poway

The twin communities of Rancho Bernardo and North Poway share many attributes, and have some definite differences. Rancho Bernardo is commonly called RB, and will be so called in this article. Before deciding to live in one or the other, you need to make that decision based upon knowledge of the two. Although each community is governed by separate city governments – San Diego and Poway, in truth these two communities are joined at the hip, and the relationship is symbiotic.

RB is the northernmost community in the City of San Diego. Poway is a separate City, and North Poway is contiguous to the eastern boundary of RB. There is a great affinity between the two communities of North Poway and Rancho Bernardo. South Poway bears no resemblance to RB and North Poway.

RB is mostly an upscale urban setting. In RB there is no question that you live in a cosmopolitan suburb of a major city. It is characterized by both a small downtown, with local neighborhood shopping, and a large number of neighborhood sports and activities clubs. The residents are sophisticated, highly active and involved, and come from all over the world.

North Poway, on the other hand, is a more rural setting, but it is a very upscale rural setting. North Poway has neither a downtown nor neighborhood shopping centers – and most of its sports and activities are in private country clubs. This is a more relaxed atmosphere, and even more affluent than RB.

Both RB and North Poway share the business district of RB for shopping, because North Poway has no commercial district, and RB is a lot closer to North Poway than “downtown Poway.”  Because Poway is a huge community of more than 46 square miles, the downtown area of Poway is quite a drive for the residents of North Poway, who, in general, do not identify themselves with the City of Poway. Not only do North Poway residents shop and use the business section of RB but drives through RB enroute to the freeway. I suspect that many North Poway residents have never seen downtown Poway.

For several decades I lived in North Poway but I owned or operated computer related businesses in RB, and this is not unusual. Many RB business owners live in North Poway, as do many of the executives of the high-tech businesses in the RB Industrial Park

When, in 1977  I started selling real estate in both areas, I would describe the difference between the Buyers in the two areas thusly: Buyers in RB wanted to know what community center they could belong, and Buyers in North Poway wanted to know what kind of trees grow best.

That is a gross oversimplification, but it is useful shorthand for the attitudinal difference between the two communities. Yes, although it is a little recognized fact, the family income of Poway is higher than that of RB because RB has a larger retired population and Poway has North Poway, its most affluent neighborhood.

Yes, the homes in North Poway are more expensive, on average, because they (usually) have more land associated with them, but it is the attitudinal difference that is the most striking. And, yes, there are land estates in RB and urban-like condos in North Poway, but in general, North Poway is a much more rural setting.

All of Poway and RB share the Poway Unified School District, about which more in due course, except to say it is the magnet that draws many families to the area, and deservedly so.

Both communities have neighborhoods that are controlled by CC&Rs. Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions. Think of them as privately enforced zoning rules, but they are NOT voluntary in the sense that you can do them or ignore them. They may be stringently enforced, un-enforced, or even legally unenforceable because they are legally flawed or because they have not been enforced for so long that they have lapsed – but it is your responsibility to know before you wind up in court. Any of your neighbors can take you to court to enforce the CC&Rs, and courts tend to strongly come down on the side of enforcing legally constituted CC&Rs.

And, it is not just the letter of the CC&Rs – it is how rigidly each neighborhood within a community enforces them. That varies by community, and some communities have review committees that are populated by reasonable humans. Some do not. Most people try to keep their places looking good, and they do not want to build a 12 story, candy-striped massage parlor in their front yard. If you own barking dogs or like to change the oil in your big rig in your driveway, you need to be particularly sensitive to the CC&Rs.  Fore warned is fore armed, and it is safe to assume that all CC&Rs are vigorously enforced because even if they are not today, they may be tomorrow under a new group of people.

More about CC&Rs in each neighborhood as we go along. I will attempt to divide each community into its component neighborhoods, with photographs to show a representative view of each neighborhood, and if possible, an actual copy of their CC&Rs.

“Downtown” Shopping in RB

Yes, Virginia, there is a “downtown, but without the usual high rises. RB has many “low-rise” office buildings, and numerous small shops in the center of the community. Everything from a modern car wash, a Denny’s, 11 banks and S&Ls, several fine jewelry stores, book store, etc. – and a BIG Von’s Grocery. There is a huge public library and community center, a big 24-Hour Fitness, a great Soup Plantation…you get the idea. There is comprehensive shopping available.

So long as you are not shopping for a large appliance or a men’s suit, you can probably find it in RB, and even those can be found within five minutes of either the Northern or Southern border of RB.

RB is certainly different in its shopping, but when you consider that it is not, as it once was, an isolated community, everything is locally available. If you want to go to fine restaurants, grocery stores,  or have need of attorneys, retirement homes, or banks and investment houses you will have a more than ample supply.

Of course there are many shops as well, just don’t look for a TV set!

The surrounding shopping areas of Carmel Mountain Ranch and South Escondido have great shopping plazas, and there you can buy ANYTHING. There is a Nordstrom to the North just five minutes away, and that same shopping center (North County Faire in South Escondido) has a Sears, Broadway, and many other stores. Less than five minutes in the other direction is Carmel Mountain Ranch with a Borders Books Music and Cafe, Circuit City, and COSTCO - so shopping is not a problem.

Dining in RB

One thing you can easily do in RB is to go out for dinner. Your choices range from five star dining at El Bizchoco in the RB Inn to great Chinese at Chin’s Szechwan or the Fortune Cookie, or my favorite, European cuisine at The French Market.

You can almost start an argument in any crowd by declaring what you think is the best restaurant in RB. Some will swear by Bernardo’s but I like breakfast at the Inn, lunch at the Soup Plantation or Chin’s, and dinner at The French Market. There are the usual fast food emporiums --- Burger King, Jack-in-the-Box, Rubio's and light fare at Denny’s, El Torito, and CoCo’s, but you can eat at those places anywhere in San Diego County.

RB and North Poway residents are renowned world travelers, and have excellent Epicurean taste, so it is the fine restaurants that shine here. El Bizchoco, Bernardo’s, and The French Market can hold their own with anyone, anywhere. Zagat holds them in high esteem.

Even the middle range places are better in RB than you would expect – Chin’s, The Fortune Cookie, and Coco’s – because RB and North Poway residents are a more demanding and discriminating lot than most.

RB Industrial Park

Both North Poway and RB residents work in the 700 acre RB Industrial Park. 

We “old timers” remember the tiny beginnings of that park, so far from civilization. If you own a Sony TV set, it was probably assembled in the RB Industrial Park, where the huge Sony plant runs three shifts a day. If you own a Hewlett-Packard printer or plotter, it was probably built in the H-P factory in RB where the buildings seem to go on forever.

Currently there is SAIC, and Siemens, and General Dynamics, and Unisys, and ....

Obviously, RB Industrial Park is very large and has many small and large companies. It is almost 700 acres packed with employment opportunities.

These are the people I personally use -- these are NOT recommendations

Because I am in the business I am in, making recommendations opens me to personal liability – but I can tell you who I personally use in RB. I like and respect these people – back in Texas where I grew up, we would say, “I could ride the river with him.” That is a very high compliment, but being excluded from this list is no slap. Newer professionals have a hard time breaking my old habits.

My attorney for the past 36 years has been R. Michael Walters of the Law Firm of Walters and Ward in RB. He specializes in Wills and Trusts now, but I have used him as a business advisor and attorney. Great advisor, and good friend.

RB has several medical facilities, but one, Scripps Clinic is undergoing a major management overhaul -- so I am leaving that facility at least until the management system stabilizes.   Right now, if I was in trouble I would go to the Sharp facility. In the end, the Doctor is more important than the facility, and most of the local Doctors are terrific. RB residents have been lauded in magazines as some of the healthiest in the world -- and for very good reason. The local residents take advantage of the great medical facilities, good Doctors, fine local gyms, and the fantastic weather that permits them to get outdoors. scripps.jpg (60525 bytes)


(Scripps Clinic, technically on the border of RB and Carmel Mountain Ranch.)

My Banker is Joel Lockwood at Union Bank in RB. Joel has been my Banker for more than a decade, so he has been in his position for a long, long time. (22 years and counting.) It’s hard to get teary-eyed about your Banker, but Joel is a different kind of Banker. He harkens back to the old days when a Banker knew his depositors by name, and the names of their children. Joel runs a genuine small town bank in a sophisticated community. 

I don’t use an investment advisor, but I have had a close friend who used Dean Pfremmer with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in RB. He handled my friend’s account honorably and competently for decades. My friend could not have been better served.

My jeweler is Fred at Unicorn Jewelry. I have trusted him for decades because jewelry is a business of trust. This is a family-owned and operated business that really believes in service. San Diego has a known and well-deserved reputation as “Scam Diego” because some of the most egregious scams have been started here, but Unicorn Jewelry keeps terrific customer loyalty with just plain and steady honesty, decade to decade.

Retirement Homes are not usually a subject for discussions, but we all grow older and everyone has parents. Often the parents live in the local area. We were responsible for many years for the well-being of a long-time family friend, so we have had personal experience with Retirement Homes and Nursing Homes.

Our own experience is that Casa de las Campanas and the Remington Club are the class of the area. We have personal experience with Casa, and it is a fine facility with capabilities from fully independent living to the final stages of life. Casa is very expensive, but it is top quality. If you want “Hyatt Regency” living, Casa can provide it. I would live there today if I could afford it.

We also like Redwood Towne Court in nearby Escondido, or its sister facility, Redwood Terrace. My personal opinion is that Redwood Terrace is overdue for a renovation, but some will like its old and homey atmosphere.

All retirement/nursing facilities are extremely dependent upon their management, and management turns over with surprising frequency. It is like a restaurant, which depends upon a great cook – turnover can make things better or worse. Therefore you need to check carefully as to the latest conditions. That is easy to do because all nursing homes are required to have a book with the latest California state inspections and complaints in the lobby.  I have had experience with one bad facility nearby, but it was not in RB or North Poway.


RB and Poway share the Poway Unified School District. It has been decades since the newspaper "Times Advocate" (now known as the North County Times) called me “the Poway School Districts most constant critic.”

Today it is a good school district, but it is good compared to a diminished national standard. Nationally, our schools are poor and in California they are worse. But with that in mind, Poway is a good California school district. It is not as good as the local Realtors brag about, and certainly not as good as the PR people at the Poway Unified School District insist it is, but it is good. It is probably the third best school district in San Diego County, but the higher rated school districts are in VERY EXPENSIVE AREAS. The PUSD has the best schools that can be had in a reasonably priced home-buyers area.

I have always wanted the school district to be as good as they claim they are, but they are decidedly NOT a bad school district. I can remember the time they were a BAD school district but their former Superintendent, Bob Reeves started a long road to a turnaround 26 years ago.

O.K., the PUSD is a good school district – and the school district is HUGE, and covers several communities: Poway, RB, Penasquitos, and Carmel Mountain Ranch. Obviously, within the district there are good schools and better schools.

The best thing about the PUSD is that it is consistent. There are no great schools, but there are no poor ones either.

The good news is there are no bad schools in the Poway School District. The worst schools in the County have numbers in the 700 range, but as you can see the worst of the PUSD schools are in the mid 700 region and by far most are in the 800 region.



O.K. What is Not So Good

Very little, actually. There is the usual bickering, caused by the attractiveness of the community. Rancho Bernado has attracted a lot of people who were “someone” somewhere else, as a Mayor, newspaper editor, or CEO, or…

When they get here, it seems some find all the “Important” spots filled with some other “suit” who got here first – so there is a tendency for them to try to start something new so they can be the new important guy or woman.

In most cases, these people just want to contribute, not be the “Big Man on Campus.” They are accustomed to doing things. I remember that shortly after I started publishing a weekly column for the Bernardo News, I received a fully marked-up column in the mail, with a note that said I might want to see what a real editor would do to my column. The author of the note was a retired Editor of the Washington Post, and while he disagreed with almost every word I wrote he offered to edit my columns for free – an offer I could not, and did not refuse. I learned a lot from him until his death.

Whatever your subject, there is someone in this community who is MORE than willing to help you, and usually they are a world recognized expert simply wanting to be helpful. Who’s Who could do an entire book just on the residents of RB and North Poway – and, in fact, I was in Who’s Who in the World and other Who’s Who in America publications for a decade. You could fill a hall with honorees in RB, but most keep a very low profile.

These helpful people far outnumber the ones who want to continue their importance.

So, what else is not so good. Well, some of the drivers are “not so good.” Every time I write about “RB drivers” I get annoying phone calls, but it is a fact that the community has some really bad drivers. In one of my legacy columns, I opined that it was not the age of the drivers, per se, that was the problem. I still think that these drivers were always bad drivers, but they were bad drivers in Lawrence, Kansas -–where you can be a bad driver and live. In Southern California, the demands are greater, the speed higher, and advanced age simply does not permit them to learn new tricks so easily.

There are not that many “bad” drivers, or that many fractious people, but when you have a near perfect community and are looking for the negatives, those few blemishes stand out.




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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Allen Hemphill
Last modified: August 13, 2012