San Diego Unified School District would like to thank the citizens of San Diego for voting to keep our oldest high school in its historic location. We look forward to working with City of San Diego leadership to extend our current lease.

San Diego High School is the second oldest high school in the San Diego Unified School District, one of the oldest public schools in all of California, and the oldest still on its original site. The school has been part of the fabric of the City of San Diego since it opened as Russ High in 1882.  The school is located in Balboa Park under a lease with the city that will expire in 2024.

San Diego High School serves more than 2,430 students in the schools of business, science/technology and international studies. The high school serves students in the surrounding neighborhood, as well as from communities throughout the city. 

San Diego High has been nationally recognized for its top-ranked International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, and has an active alumni association with many distinguished graduates who have made a positive impact in the San Diego community and beyond.

If San Diego High has to be relocated from the site where it has stood since 1882, it will cost San Diego taxpayers approximately $300 million. If the high school doesn’t relocate, it not only saves taxpayers the $300 million; but, the school will receive millions of dollars in upgrades as part of a whole site modernization project. 

An amendment to the City Charter Section 55 would allow the City to authorize a continued lease for San Diego High School to remain at its current location. Towards the end, Measure I, “Charter Amendment Regarding Balboa Park and San Diego High School,” has been placed on the Nov. 8, 2016, ballot.   

Public Recreational Use at San Diego High School

San Diego High is located on approximately 32 acres, including 10 acres of educational/support buildings, 16.3 acres for physical education, sports and park-like activities (baseball, softball, stadium, tennis courts, handball courts, multipurpose courts and gymnasium), and approximately 5.5 acres of parking.

The school offers its campus, auditorium, classrooms, gymnasium, fields and grounds for a wide variety of public recreational and community-serving activities, permitted through the California Civic Center Act, which makes school sites available for community use after school hours.

In fact, San Diego High is one of the most highly-used sites in the district for recreational and public use. During the 2014-15 school year, San Diego High School and the adjacent Balboa Stadium had a combined 81 permits for 1,073 events (both one-time and recurring), serving an estimated 40,000 community users.

Examples of current activities occurring include: the annual Stand Down Veterans Village event, youth sports leagues, faith-based groups, adult sports leagues including basketball, soccer, track, football, and co-ed volleyball, Dwarf Athletic Association of America softball, and San Diego Tennis Federation.

Joint-Use Park Partnership

San Diego Unified School District has a 60-year history of collaborative partnering with the City of San Diego to provide park and recreation space for residents and families. Currently, over 280 acres of district-owned property serve as shared park, track, field and play space open to the public. Most recently, the city and school district announced the addition of 30 new joint-use park sites in the next five to 10 years.

A long-term or permanent lease for San Diego High School at its existing site must be secured for San Diego High School to continue to serve students at its original, historic location.  To that end, the school district is seeking an amendment to City Charter Section 55 and a long-term extension or permanent lease for San Diego High School facilities.


San Diego’s High School has occupied Balboa Park longer than any other public institution.  San Diego High predates the 1915 Pan-American exposition that built Balboa Park. 

On January 19, 1873, six years after Alonzo Horton had purchased 960 acres of what is now downtown San Diego for $265.00, the San Diego Union advocated putting a public school on a hill at a southeast edge of City Park (today Balboa Park).  On April 13, 1874, Horton deeded the proposed school site to the city.

In March 1881, Joseph Russ of Humboldt County, owner of a lumber yard in San Diego, offered to donate lumber for a school.

On April 15, 1881, the school board called for an election to pay for a school building.

On May 14, 1881, San Diego voters approved, 163 to 40, bonds for $12,000 to cover costs of construction and furnishings.

The city eventually paid $18,428.73 for the building, exclusive of the donated lumber.

On June 14, 1881, the school board selected a 560 by 660ft. tract of City Park, near 13th and A Streets.

This 8.48-acre portion grew to today’s approximately 23.5 acres with a neighboring stadium occupying an additional 10.5.

On August 8, 1881, the San Diego Board of Trustees agreed to “set apart” land in City Park for a school; however, the board never issued a formal resolution of the grant, nor did they seek State of California validation

Kate Sessions, San Diego’s esteemed horticulturist, was principal from January to March 1884, and assistant principal from April 1884 to June 1885. She taught algebra and geometry in the eighth grade. 

Notable Alumni/staff: (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) 

Planned Capital Improvements

San Diego High School’s Site Master Plan outlines the long-term vision for new facilities and improvements in alignment with educational goals and community needs.

Over $30 million in whole site modernization projects are planned for San Diego High School at its existing site, including:

  • New performing arts/classroom building
  • Modernization of library
  • Re-designed student quad
  • Renovation and modernization of existing buildings
  • Upgraded stadium and athletic facilities