Bonita is a census-designated place (CDP) in southern San Diego County, California, nestled between the cities of Chula Vista, National City, and San Diego. The population was 12,538 at the 2010 census
According to the United States Census Bureau, Bonita has a total area of 5.1 square miles (13 km2). 5.0 square miles (13 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (2.71%) is water.
While Bonita is politically designated as an unincorporated community, bounded by the incorporated cities of Chula Vista, San Diego and National City, it is closely associated with the geography of the Lower Sweetwater Valley. Thus considered, Bonita occupies about a five mile (8 km) stretch of the Sweetwater River, its valley, and surrounding hills on either side, bounded upstream (east) by the Sweetwater Reservoir, and downstream (west) effectively by Interstate 805. The community crosses west of I-805—an area less than 160 acres (0.65 km2)—reaching as far south and west as East H Street and Hilltop Drive. Its northern boundary is State Route 54 and its southern extent reaches approximately one mile (2 km) south of the river
The word Bonita is a feminine word for "beautiful" in the Spanish language. It was the name of a ranch owned by Henry Ernest Cooper, Sr. in 1884, and was used by the nearby post office. The ranch itself was used to cultivate lemons, which were first grown in the area beginning in 1871. During the early years lemon industry was thriving, where it became the originator of the bonnie brae variety, named after the first lemon ranch in the community.
In 1888, the Sweetwater Dam was built, creating the Sweetwater Reservoir and forever changing the geography of the region. Soon after, in 1906, the dam broke as a result of extensive rains which overfilled the reservoir, and the Lower Sweetwater Valley was completely flooded.
Bonita has experienced minor flooding throughout history, generally as a result of high seasonal rains attributed to El Niño. The floods most affect the Central Avenue river crossing, as no bridge has ever been built, unlike the Bonita Road and Willow Road crossings which are bridges, the former of which was rebuilt in the late 1990s.
In the 1990s and 2000s, the development of State Route 125 (The South Bay Expressway) became a major issue to Bonita residents, much as Interstate 805 and State Route 54 did during their development. Opponents argued that Bonita's rural nature would be compromised without benefit while proponents argued that the highway would reduce the significant increase in surface-street car traffic the community had seen since the 1980s when the eastern Chula Vista communities surrounding Eastlake were developed. The tollway opened in November 2007, and sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 22, 2010 when the cost of litigation over construction of the road threatened to overwhelm its ability to operate and pay off on its loans.
On April 14, 2011, South Bay Expressway LP emerged from bankruptcy and in a closed session on July 29, 2011, the SANDAG board of directors voted to purchase the lease to operate the state Route 125 toll road for approximately $345 million.
The Bonita Historical Museum is the principal repository of historical information for the Lower Sweetwater Valley.
The climate in Bonita is a combination of the coastal and inland valley climates of San Diego County : warmer (and sunnier during the May Gray and June Gloom periods) than areas directly adjacent to San Diego Bay or the coast, but not as hot as communities in inland valleys such as El Cajon, or even nearby Spring Valley. In summer, Bonita's climate is pleasant
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