Though its name in Spanish means “the table,” La Mesa’s official city motto is “Jewel of the Hills.” Both descriptions apply, as many areas of the 9.1-square-mile city are flat but surrounded by gentle to steep hillsides.
If you’re up to it, a great way to get nice views of the area is to climb the secret stairs, a public stairway in the residential neighborhood above downtown La Mesa. The bottom is at Windsor and Canterbury drives, with three levels of stairways ascending to Beverly Drive – 445 stairs in all.
Stretching along both sides of Interstate 8 about 15 miles east of downtown San Diego, La Mesa is an incorporated city of 57,065, according to the 2010 census, up from 54,749 a decade earlier.
The East County Regional Center is about five miles farther east, convenient for attorneys and others who use the services of San Diego Superior Court, Sheriff, Probation, District Attorney and other county offices.
Once dotted with groves of lemon trees and settled by Spanish missionaries, La Mesa has grown into a sprawling suburb that is now home to nearly 58,000 people. Although it's just east of San Diego, the hilly, arid climate is strikingly different from other parts of the county. The sun is usually shining when it's overcast along the coast.