Normal Heights was named for the San Diego Normal School, a teacher's college that was the forerunner to San Diego State University. A major early influence on the community was Bertram J. Carteri, who arrived in 1926 and began to build single-family bungalows. With the restoration of the trolley line in the early 1920s, Carteri began to build what is now known as the Carteri Center on Adams Avenue between 33rd and 34th streets, which has been declared a potential historic district. The most significant structure is the Louis L. Gill-designed bungalow court first named El Sueño; now known as Santa Rosa Court.
The Normal Heights Community is made up of three neighborhoods, which are Adams North, Adams Park and Cherokee Park. Adams North is developed as a predominately single-family neighborhood, while Adams Park and Cherokee Park include a broader mix of single-family homes, older apartment courts and large apartment developments.
Normal Heights is centrally located in the city of San Diego, on a mesa just south of Mission Valley. Its borders are defined by Interstate 805 to the West, Interstate 8 to the North, Interstate 15 to the East, and El Cajon Boulevard to the South.
Like other urban mesa neighborhoods north of Balboa Park, Normal Heights has a high rate of pedestrian activity. The stretch of Adams Avenue between Texas Street on the west and Ohio Street on the east is sometimes referred to as Antique Row, due to its numerous antique stores. A landmark neon sign over Adams Avenue at Felton Street identifies the neighborhood.
Several important neighborhood events take place in Normal Heights. The Adams Avenue Street Fair, Southern California's largest free music festival, is typically held the last weekend in September. Adams Avenue Unplugged, formerly the Adams Avenue Roots Festival, another free music festival, is held the last weekend of April. Another large Art Around Adams is a local community art event where unique and talented artists showcase their work inside and outside businesses and spaces along Adams Avenue.
The community contains three public elementary schools, Adams Elementary School and Normal Heights Elementary School, run by the San Diego Unified School District, and the public charter school San Diego Global Vision Academies which is K-8 California Distinguished School co-located on the Adams Elementary Campus. The neighborhood also houses St. Didacus Catholic School, as well as a nonprofit private Leeway Sudbury School, for students ages 4 through 18.