The current flag of San Diego was adopted in 1934 and consists of 3 vertical bands, red, white and gold. The gold may allude to the precious metal that defined California in the early days, the red and gold are a nod to the colors on the Spanish flag and the red and white may have a connection to the American flag.
In the middle is the seal of the city as well as the number 1542 which is when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered and claimed the area for Spain. Inside the seal are a few elements: the words “The City of San Diego | State of California | Semper Vigilans” (the City’s official motto is “ever vigilant”). Two pillars represent the ‘Pillars of Hercules’ that exist on the Spanish flag and suggest exploration beyond known limits, a belfry suggests the early settlement by the mission fathers and two dolphins joined at the tail depict the connection of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans at the Panama Canal (San Diego was the first US port of call on the western side of the canal for ships traveling north). Inside a shield sits a ship to represent Cabrillo’s, some waves to represent San Diego’s proximity to the ocean, an orange tree to represent agriculture and 2 winged wheels to represent both manufacturing and transportation.