San Diego 92037

If it seems as if San Diego sprang to sudden prominence as a global capital for innovation, at least part of the explanation can be found atop the oceanside bluff known as Torrey Pines Mesa.

This perch has one of the most prestigious zip codes in the world, 92037, used by the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, The Scripps Research Institute, and The Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Across the street from the Salk is the University of California, San Diego, with its own zip code, 92093. Just down the road are General Atomics and the San Diego headquarters of SAIC, Science Applications International Corp., both government contractors that operate as R&D conglomerates.

Torrey Pines Mesa also may be the most stunningly scenic vista in a city renowned for its Mediterranean-like views of coastal cliffs and beaches, sun-splashed bays, and urban skyline.

The mesa encompasses a 2,000-acre wildlands park, with trails that drop 300 feet through deep ravines to the Pacific Ocean. Coastal fog and rain occasionally sweep through the partly wooded bluff, which is usually bathed in sunshine. The zip code includes the Torrey Pines Golf Course, which hosted the U.S. Open earlier this year, and parts of fabled La Jolla, the affluent seaside resort. As it turns, 92037 also includes the latest office for Xconomy, on North Torrey Pines Road.

Leading researchers who relocate to San Diego often cite the combined allure of this scenic landscape and scientific firepower as a major reason for making the move.

It was part of the reason why K. Barry Sharpless, who shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in chemistry, moved to San Diego from MIT 17 years ago. Sharpless told me years ago he particularly enjoyed the ocean swim from La Jolla shores to La Jolla Cove, a roundtrip distance of roughly 2 miles.

Ron Evans, a professor in the gene expression lab at Salk (and a San Diego Xconomist), described the research institute where he works as “an architectural masterpiece” designed by Louis Kahn on a bluff selected personally by Jonas Salk, best known for his development of a killed-virus polio vaccine.

“It was meant to be symbolic of the movement of Americans from East to West,” Evans told me last week. “This is the last West Coast outpost overlooking the Pacific, constructed by Salk at the peak of his fame. Not only does it have magnificent views of the ocean and cliffs, but it is an uncluttered landscape. One never gets tired of that.”

Still, the emergence of Torrey Pines Mesa as a scientific powerhouse did not happen by chance, says Mary Walshok, a UCSD Associate Vice Chancellor and sociologist who has studied Silicon Valley and other technology clusters.

San Diego has a 100-year history of courting the U.S. Navy and relying on the military for its economic development, Walshok says. The Navy and Marine Corps continue to maintain major military bases in the region today.

Yet Walshok credits John J. Hopkins, president of General Dynamics Corp. … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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4 responses to “San Diego 92037”

  1. Caught22 says:

    Should be “Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute” in the second paragraph.

    • Bruce V. BigelowBVBigelow says:

      Thanks for reading! This story was posted in 2008 and the institute did not change its name to Sanford-Burnham until 2010. If we tried to keep such names updated, there would be no time to do anything else.