Updated: Sep 18, 2019
It's not just a street: everything here can built you a home
At the heart of North San Diego County, situated on dryland bluffs at the edge of the Pacific Ocean lays Solana Beach. The sandy hills and palm trees weren’t always the norm; the first settlers made their home on now-extinct marshes and grasslands. As time passed and landscapes changed, the territory became a diverse county thriving off ranches and lima bean crops. Today, the Solana Beach community is no longer home to ranches or crops outside of its historical houses, but the diversity of its inhabitants — and the art that lasted through the generations — lives on in a section of Solana Beach called the Cedros Design District.
The district wasn’t originally meant for design. At some point in the 1950s, a defense contractor by the name of Bill Jack was slated to develop Quonset huts along a then-barren Cedros Avenue. The huts were a building staple in the decade following World War II due to its simplicity; the long metal buildings needed no foundation or support beams and sported distinct arched roofs and cutout windows in place of panes. These made a cheap alternative to other buildings and were generally used for storing lumber, metal and other such Post-War necessities.
Cedros District pioneer and San Diego local Dave Hodges decided to introduce a bar and music venue in 1974. Solana Beach was then home to only roughly 5,000 people, and his friends claimed that the venue would go “belly up.” Hodges soon bought one of the Quonset huts at the center of Cedros Avenue and aptly named his subsequent watering hole Belly Up[AT2] , which became the first business to develop and drove popularity to the area.
45 years later, Belly Up remains in operation as the oldest venue on Cedros Avenue, playing host to nightly musician performances adjacent to its daytime café, The Wild Note. Due to its immediate and prolonged popularity, Belly Up hence inspired the transformation of Cedros Avenue into the Cedros Design District, particularly during 1992 when city officials invested in branding the stretch of property with the intention of revitalizing the previously overlooked street.
Today, Solana Beach is home to just under 14,000 people, and the metal archways welcoming visitors to the district is modeled after the roofs of the Quonset huts that put Cedros Avenue on the map.
Belly Up is still the central shop on Cedros Street, and although its music venue is empty during the afternoon, the clientele of small groups of families and friends happily chat away in the Wild Note’s warm outdoor patio, soaking up the sun and leaving the shady indoor tables nearly untouched.
Cedros Design District is unique in its focus on local art and artisans without a single chain store in sight. Even Alabaster Floral, a small open-air houseplant arboretum, displays its main plant attractions in and around a wide variety of handmade pottery, stands, outdoor furniture and locally sourced rugs.
Clearly, art is not limited to paint on canvas here. Art of all forms tickles all the senses with beautiful displays of food as well.
Part of of Cedros Avenue’s appeal is the Sunday Solana Beach Farmer’s Market, which starts at 1:00 p.m. and where family-owned farms sell fresh produce alongside artisans and their handmade jewelry, crafts, holistic medicines and more.
One subsection of the Sunday farmer’s market are large tents that sell grilled American tri-tip steak, Jamaican jerk chicken and even Greek gyros. Community[AT3] members of all ages, shapes and sizes mill about with their friends, children and leashed pets, while some walk the length of the street to adjoining art galleries, photo studios and artisan furniture shops.
Even the art galleries are unique to each other. David Alan’s Japanese-inspired home pieces sit on a comfortable outdoor display, juxtaposing Aaron Chang’s nearby ocean-inspired gallery, where he prefers to display his pieces on canvases and even a surfboard.
Each shop works in conjunction with one another. At the north end of Cedros Avenue, home and interior design services sit directly adjacent to furniture stores, tile and flooring shops and even lumber — everything anyone needs to buy or build a home can be found in one area. A two-minute walk south at the intersection of Rosa and Cedros, customers can shop for clothes, grab a light coffee and pastry, visit a spa and take a Pilates class.
Clothing shops on the West end of the street display local designer pieces marketed towards all shapes and sizes, and under the shade of one shop even sits a musician and his guitar, calmly strumming to the beat of the slow bustle that matches the sunny mood.
Despite the constant sun, Solana Beach typically remains at a comfortable temperature most weekends due to the consistent winds that pass through from the sea. Whether or not the weather plays into the mood of the district’s visitors is another story completely.
What does reign prevalent in Cedros Design District is how integral art and design is to sustain a community. Despite changes in seasons, climate and businesses all around the Solana Beach area, Cedros Avenue has remained popular since the introduction of Belly Up and its influence of art and music. In fact, it has arguably been the reason as to why Solana Beach remains idyllic.
Locals and visitors alike can enjoy Cedros. Parking is free and available along the street and in designated lots, and the train station is just a block away. One may not need to live in Solana Beach to enjoy it; just a walk down Cedros Avenue might just revitalize the creativity and lively art forms that made Cedros Avenue, Cedros Design District.
The city has come a long way since its roots as a grassy swampland. The changing countryside and inhabitants could have left a street such as Cedros a shantytown of huts filled with lumber and metal scraps. Instead, a few forward-thinking and art-loving locals curiously created Cedros Design District — a bustling community foundation out of the once-rusting Quonset huts…buildings that previously had no foundation of their own.