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"It's Julian"

Drone photos of Julian, CA in the fall
Photo courtesy of Creative Flow Media

Anyone who has been in town for a bit has heard the saying “It’s Julian.” “It’s Julian” means that the conversation topic is a “thing” and it’s always going to be a “thing.” Locals frequently use this saying as justification for having a loose interpretation of rules or norms. It’s what we say when there’s no other reasonable explanation. It’s the only way to explain why things are done in a certain way. What can I say “It’s Julian.” Our unique geographical location and circumstances allow residents to live a one-of-a-kind lifestyle. It’s safe to say, we do things differently here. For most of us, that’s why we choose to stay or move up here. Just for the heck of it, let’s reminisce about some of the quirky things that make Julian, Julian.

The geographical area of Julian

In classic Julian fashion, even the boundaries of the geographical area we call Julian is up for interpretation. 92036 is the official zip code for Julian and it’s quite expansive. The catch is there are multiple districts that bend the lines oftentimes causing confusion. The Julian Historical District, Julian Union High School District (JUHSD), Julian Union Elementary School District (JUESD), Julian Community Service District (JCSD), Majestic Pines Community Service District, Pine Hills Mutual Water Co., Cuyamaca Water District, and Julian Community Planning Group are just some of the organizations that serve the needs of the community. Yep, they all have their own boundaries of jurisdiction that cover different regions within and outside of the Julian zip code. This is also why the population count fluctuates between a few hundred and a few thousand. I guess maybe we defined Julian more by our culture than geographical boundaries. I don’t know what to tell you other than it’s Julian.

High-density housing? No thank you!

One of the beauties of living in the backcountry is there’s no cookie-cutter high-density housing. If you haven’t figured it out already, most of the neighborhoods on county-maintained roads do not have a posted speed limit of 25 MPH. It’s because they do not have a high enough housing density to qualify for a posted speed limit. Yes, the speed limit is technically 55 MPH. A sheriff can still give you a ticket for reckless driving. Drivers are expected to drive 25 MPH or under in a neighborhood. It’s Julian, the gold miners forgot a few...scratch that...more like a lot of details when doing the city planning.

Permits, what are those?

Julian homes have a long history of having wonderful modifications done to them without the proper permits being pulled. Rumor has it that back in the day even if you got permits the inspector would just sign you off to avoid the drive. (I can assure you that is no longer the case. The County of San Diego has a long list of rules they expect you to comply with.) Property boundaries were also frequently estimated. Due to a combination of the community rebuilding after the wildfires and the gradual population switch, this is not as common as it once was. This is your fair warning, residents do not like tattle tails. It’s Julian, we’re old fashion on purpose.

Country Roads I’m lost

Speaking of city planning, who designed these roads? The best way to understand them is to try not to. Don’t even think about using GPS. We give directions like, “take the second left off Manzanita, at the fork stay right, at the next four-way intersection take the second road, follow it around the loop, my house is the third house on the right. Oh yeah, and if you hit the desert come back a block.” The good news is when on a public road, the speed limit is either 5MPH, 25MPH, or 55MPH. I now expect everyone to get the speed limit question correct the next time they get pulled over. It’s Julian, directions are uncanny.


Pedestrians carelessly crossing the street is a common pet peeve of locals. Yet, locals tend to have the mentality that they can cross where they please because this is our town. There’s no good solution at the moment because there are not two controlled intersections in a row in town, and crosswalks aren’t historical. It’s Julian, do as I say not as I do.

Even though you technically can not jaywalk in town when crossing the street, I highly encourage all pedestrians to be extra vigilant. I was a witness to a slow-moving vehicle hitting a pedestrian at the stop sign in town.

No parking? No problem.

Finding a parking spot, especially during peak tourism hours, can be a hassle. Some locals just double park while they quickly run into the store. Why not? It’s Julian.

I do not encourage drivers to break the law. Double parking is not legal and it adds to the congestion on the road.

“My primary residence address is...out of date.”

There’s a large portion of the local population with their old address listed as their primary residence. I didn’t really know this was a thing until I participated in a grassroot’s effort to get a measure on the local ballot. It seems to be that because the vast majority of the community received mail at the Post Office, it never occurs to us to update our primary residence address when we move around within the community. It’s Julian, formalities don’t really matter that much anyway.

Landlines are kinda still a thing

Back in the day (like ten years ago), when cell service was nearly non-existent on the mountain, everyone had a landline. You only had to remember the last four digits of phone numbers. When everyone used landlines, it was also a great security measure. If it was a (760) 765 phone number, you knew it was safe to answer the phone. It’s Julian, everyone knows everyone.


Part of the rural lifestyle requires you to be a do-it-yourself kinda person. It can be quite a challenge to find companies that deliver to, and service, the backcountry area. DIYing a project is a great way to get most projects done in a timely manner. There comes a point when you should hire a professional to do the job, like electrical. That being said, make sure the handyman you hire has the proper credentials to complete the job. Don’t forget, it’s Julian.

We do the right thing

At some point, you will get stranded on the side of the road, figuratively and literally. It’s a fact of life in these woods. The cowboy in a beat-up truck who stops to help you may give you one heck of a hard time, but he will rescue you. It’s Julian, we always lend a hand to our neighbors in need.

Make friends with those in high places

Government organizations and private companies are notorious for having a strict chain of command systems. In large operations, a chain of command is needed. In Julian, when you don’t like something, we just go talk to our buddy who is on the board of directors that oversees the local organization in question. It’s Julian, having friends with benefits is one way anything gets to get things accomplished.


We haven’t quite figured out professionalism. Business and personnel are mixed. We support each other’s businesses. Anyone willing to volunteer will have a seat on the board of directors, no experience necessary. When someone says they run on Julian time it means they run late. It’s Julian, we really do things differently on the mountain.

Cats and Dogs

Some residents fight like cats and dogs over anything and everything. Don’t believe me? Join any one of the ten different local Facebook groups. That being said, the second something happens the lines disappear and we come together to help each other out. It’s Julian, as odd as it sounds tragedy brings the community back together.

You can’t get away with much

Yes, I know this sounds contradictory after all the things we get away with that I just listed. In an environment where everyone knows everyone, it’s hard to get away with anything. The neighborhood watch program is actively in operation. Someone is always watching. So when you get in trouble at school your parents will know before you get home to tell your side of the story. And if you think you can get away with barely tapping someone else’s car, you're wrong. It’s Julian, small-town talk is our private security force.

In Conclusion

Despite having some different cultural norms, it is not an anything flies environment around here. We draw the line when bending the rules significantly affects someone else. Over the years, we’ve gotten our wrists slapped for bending the rules a little too far. So we’re just going to sweep those topics under the rug. The vast majority of residents moved to the region for freedom, privacy, and our old-fashioned ways. You can try to change the way things are done, but speaking on behalf of all those who tried, you probably won’t get very far. Our small-town culture is quirky, unique, one of a kind, and summed it up in two words. It’s Julian, and that is why we love it so much.


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