A Village Within a City
About 1950, two enterprising men combined their engineering and construction skills to develop what became San Diego's largest and most innovative post-war subdivision. Lou Burgener and Carlos Tavares called their community Clairemont after Tavares' wife, Claire. Its design represented a new concept in community living because the developers were unwilling to impose the traditional grid system of uniform blocks and streets, but, rather, hired engineers to create a plan of gently winding streets and scenic view lots to take advantage of the deep canyons and lofty bluffs overlooking Mission Bay. Local architects, Harold Abrams, Benson Eschenbach and Richard George Wheeler, designed 20 floor plans for the first development of 500 homes. Built in South Clairemont, these deluxe houses ranged in price from $13,000 to $20,000, featured spacious floorplans, large view windows, fireplaces, tiled bathrooms, paneling and latest kitchen built-ins. After years of housing shortages, San Diegans rushed in to buy these modern homes.
Within a few years, several thousand houses had been constructed, including single family homes, duplexes and apartments. Since Clairemont was somewhat removed from the city proper, commercial business and retail shopping, schools, libraries and other city amenities were designed into the overall plan. Although the concept of suburban living seems commonplace today, this approach was considered novel and Tavares' vision for Clairemont had far-reaching implications for San Diego as it stretched the city limits outward and began the now familiar pattern of migration from city to suburb.