Railroads proved difficult and expensive to build into the region, and the bay was too shallow and narrow to serve as an efficient harbor for oceangoing ships. As a result, San Diego remained isolated from other American cities, dooming it to slow growth for decades.
The situation improved after 1900, when the San Diego Chamber of Commerce -- a small, tightly knit and powerful group of the city's leading businessmen -- persuaded the federal government to start improving San Diego so that the US Navy could begin the develop the harbor for its own purposes. Chamber leaders argued that commercial shipping, and therefore the city itself, would benefit from such federal activity; a viable harbor would stimulate commercial as well as industrial growth, and San Diego would soon become the dynamic metropolis it was meant to be.
Hungry for the kind of economic success that urban growth typically engendered, the Chamber of Commerce touted San Diego as a site of limitless commercial and industrial potential. Among its other principal pitches, the Chamber promoted the region's near-perfect climate, not only for the sake of agricultural production, but more especially for the health benefits that elderly and infirm residents could hope to enjoy here by virtue of the petpetually sunny skies and clear, dry air.
Despites its plainly stated interest in industrialization as a crucial key to future growth, the Chamber of Commerce -- in stark contrast to efforts made by boosters in Los Angeles and San Francisco -- concentrated its attention on the Navy Department and did little to induce industrialists to locate their enterprises in San Diego. Elsewhere in the United States, municipal governments and chambers of commerce typically offered free land, tax breaks and cash incentives to lure factories to their cities. San Diegans, however, always believed that the balmy climate and other "natural amenities" ought to be inducement enough. No wonder so few manufacturers chose to locate in San Diego!