Santee's nice. I went to school there when one of them was brand new
A little busy right now, what with the street traffic and light cameras, but once the freeway goes thru in 5 months it should be quieter
It really depends. Pretty much every city/neighborhood has good areas and bad areas. The cities that are "only" good are so much money, if you could afford it, you wouldn't be posting asking about safe neighborhoods. (Del Mar, La Jolla, La Costa, etc.)
El Cajon really does not have too high of a crime rate. More of a bad reputation. It's the valley floor: cheaper living. As you move out onto the neighboring mountains the money houses start to appear.
my take on neighborhoods. I have been a SD native for 30 years. I have lived all over the county.
I like mira Mesa, Scripps ranch, Rancho penasquitos, carmel mountain, poway, rancho bernardo and sorrento mesa.
The above are very low crime rate. Super safe to live and the only thing you have to worry about in mira mesa is the high school kids/hoodlums but they are not that bad. Oh and Mira mesa BLVD... UGH.
from there I also liked Clairemont Tierrasanta little high of crime but not as bad as inner city and south bay (exception Eastlake)
AVOID east of the 805 and south of the 94 Yes rent is cheap but the farther south you go down here the crime goes up.
and I never had an issue with la mesa.
El Cajon is actually a nice city to live in. and on the up and up is actually santee or as locals refer to it as CLANtee.
as for North County. Safer areas are San Marcos, Parts of vista, parts of oceanside, carlsbad, encinitas, del Mar. and obviously Rancho santa fe. Which has more money per capita than beverly hills. Old money in those parts.
and if you could swing it La Jolla.
other coastal that I would consider is south la jolla, bird rock and north PB. Once you get into PB proper might as well be a college kid or military.
From there you have Mission Beach/Bay which is okay but you will have bleed over from PB and my personal favorite beach community is OB. Mostly locals. Mostly pot heads. But some Dang good beer and if ANYONE has a chance check out SOUTH BEACH BAR AND GRILL for San Diego's Best fish Tacos
By the water is spendy no matter the hood, you just have to look at the bargin rate for rent of summer vs winter. If the rent fluctuates during the season chances are you want to avoid it.
Chula Vista has some very nice areas so goes east lake and bonita, la mesa, lemon grove which are all south of the 8.
Inland Santee, Lakeside, Ramona, Poway, Rancho Bernardo, parts of escondido and san marcos.
It really depend on where you will be working, we have commute issues, large commute issues