La Jolla was incorporated into the City of San Diego in 1850, but its international reputation makes it seem like a city to itself. The name is usually translated as "the jewel" and tourists often make their status known when they mispronounce the name using a hard "j." There is also a school of thought that the name derives from an Indian word meaning "the hole" referring to the caves that dot the cliffs. Whatever its origins, La Jolla has become synonymous with cosmopolitan living in San Diego.
The area was vacant land when it was incorporated into the City of San Diego. Settlers didn't really come until the 1880s when Frank Terrill Botsford arrived and began subdividing the land. The original lots sold for about $1.25 an acre--a true bargain compared with the million dollar an acre prices the land commands now.
When the railroad came through in the 1890s, the area began to develop as a resort. Its ocean front location and incredible ocean views were an instant hit with tourists and residents. Over the years La Jolla developed into a well-known destination for those interested in seaside resort living. It boasts world class shopping, gourmet restaurants and luxurious hotels. Celebrities frequent the area, and movie stars are often seen on the streets and in the shops.
La Jolla is also the home to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the Contemporary Museum of Art, San Diego, the La Jolla Playhouse and the Steven Birch Aquarium & Museum. Artists and writers settled in the area and Jonas Salk located his Salk Institute here as well. There are numerous biotech and high tech firms that call the area home.
Ellen Browning Scripps, the newspaper heiress, lived much of her long life in La Jolla and endowed her adopted town with a number of gifts. She was instrumental in locating the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla and her home became the Contemporary Museum of Art. She also started Scripps Hospital and the Children's Pool.
La Jolla has around 38,000 residents currently and the average house sells for over a million dollars.