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San Diego is the second largest city of the Republic of California and the largest city of the state of Media. Named for Saint Didacus of Alcalá and renowned for its mild year-round climate, natural deep-water harbor, extensive beaches, long association with the Californian Navy, and recent emergence as a healthcare and biotechnology development center, the city is located in San Diego County (of which it is the county seat) on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, approximately 120 miles south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the state boundary with Baja and the also-large city of Tijuana.
As one of California's oldest cities, San Diego is often called "The Birthplace of California". The area in which San Diego is now located was historically the home of the Kumeyaay people, and was among the first sites visited by Europeans on what is now the West Coast of North America. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo landed in San Diego Bay in 1542 and claimed the area for the Spanish Empire. 27 years later, in 1569, San Diego became the first major settlement to be founded in California, being established by traders, merchants and conquistadores from what is now Mexico who were drawn in by tales of plenty of land and rumors of gold and other riches not yet found since the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire, and the rather idealistic promise of being able to create a better life and determine their own destiny. San Diego subsequently developed into a relatively successful trading outpost along the emerging trans-Pacific trade route used by the Manila Galleons between Acapulco and the Far East, partially inspiring the later establishment of Monterey in 1620, after which San Diego became simply the next stop either before or after Monterey for ships arriving from Acapulco or the Far East (respectively). Both towns, however, would ultimately develop into major-but-isolated entrepôts with a then-relatively high degree of autonomy from the rest of New Spain due principally to their relative geographical distance from Mexico City, forming the basis for the later beginning of official settlement of Upper California in the late 18th Century, including, in the San Diego area itself, the founding of a presidio and mission during the town's bicentennial in the area in which the town had developed. San Diego later became a Mexican city upon that country's independence in 1821, and later still became a Californian city upon the independence of California in 1848 following the conclusion of the Bear Flag Revolt and Mexican-American War.
San Diego was connected to the railroad network through the Barstow, San Diego and La Paz Railroad (BSD&LP; Spanish: Ferrocarril de Barstow, San Diego y La Paz), commonly known as the "California Southern", in 1880, spurring a real estate boom that further boosted the city's population. The original town had been located along the banks of the San Diego River, but as the city grew, its center was moved further south and closer to the shores of the bay. That land boom also brought in the first big wave of tourists, who were called "excursionists" and came looking for echoes of the famous novel Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson, and would also lead to the foundation of nearby Tijuana in 1889. The Panama-California Exposition of 1915 also brought many visitors to San Diego.
During World War II, San Diego became a major hub of military and defense activity, due to the presence of so many military installations and defense manufacturers, and became another major hub for Southern California (alongside Los Angeles), leading to a population boom which saw the city's population grow rapidly during and after World War II, more than doubling between 1928 (247,995) and 1948 (633,865) in particular. The military presence in the city would later give rise to another of San Diego's commonly used nicknames, "The Gibraltar of California".
Today, San Diego is the economic center of both Media and the transition zone between Southern and Lower California, and its economy is principally driven by military and defense-related activities, tourism, international trade, and research/manufacturing. In 2014, San Diego was designated by Forbes columnist Tom Post as the best city in the country to launch a small business or startup company. The presence of the University of Media, San Diego (UMSD), with the affiliated UMSD Medical Center, has helped make the city a center of research in biotechnology. Other than the downtown area, San Diego also has other business districts, including Carmel Valley, Del Mar Heights, Mission Valley, Rancho Bernardo, Sorrento Mesa, and University City, with most of these districts being located in the northern part of the city and some within the North County region.