The La Mesa Dinosaur

Toby the T-Rex perched atop a hill in the San Diego
neighborhood of La Mesa

There’s a new resident in town and his name is Toby The T-Rex. In September 2018, much to the surprise of locals, a Tyrannosaurus Rex Dinosaur mysteriously appeared in the Eastridge area of San Diego. Nicknamed the La Mesa Dinosaur, the large metal sculpture was found behind locked gates on an empty soon-to-be developed plot of land. Local residents were stumped as to how an 8-foot tall T-Rex could quietly sneak into their neighborhood.

So how did he get there?

Similar to the OB Mermaid, word of the dinosaur spread quickly and several theories on its origins began to circulate. Some San Diegans believed the dinosaur to be a marketing ploy, while others thought it was a statement piece to tell developers not to tread on this land. The true story behind Toby the T-Rex is actually much sweeter than that.

“The mystery is solved. My sons, my wife, and I installed ‘Toby The T-Rex’,” confesses Jeffrey D. Phair, owner and president of The Phair Company, the family-run real estate firm behind the development project. The interest in the dinosaur was a surprise to Jeff. It was not his intention for the T-Rex to become one of San Diego’s newest mysteries. The sculpture was actually a spontaneous nostalgia purchase made by himself and his wife Julie on a recent trip to Borrego Springs.

“Thirty years ago, when my sons were young, they had a fascination with dinosaurs,” shares Jeff. In fact, their favorite toy was a 3-foot tall T-Rex they named, you guessed it, “Toby The T-Rex.”

Growing up, the Phair family would vacation in Borrego Springs where several of Ricardo Breceda’s famous larger than life sculptors can be found. Dinosaurs, in particular, have a very special place in the artist’s metal animal kingdom. His first sculpture was a 20-ft tall T-Rex he had created at the request of his then 6-year-old daughter Lianna. It’s no surprise that these fantastic metal beasts had sparked the interest of the Phair boys in those early childhood days. They begged their parents to take home a towering dinosaur of their very own.

“Maybe someday boys,” Jeff would tell them. Well someday finally arrived, but when your parents show up at your house with an 8-foot metal dinosaur for you to enjoy with your kids, you suddenly need to find space for him. While the Phair boys were appreciative of the thoughtful gift, parents Jeff and Julie quickly found themselves stuck with an 300-lb dinosaur. It was the “La Mesa Lips” that inspired Jeff to bring Toby The T-Rex to the empty plot of land he owns.

La Mesa Lips

Courtesy of Jeff Phair

“The next day I was driving to the site of my La Mesa Summit Estates development, and I saw the pink lips painted on the large boulder,” shares Jeff. “Those iconic lips have been there for decades,” he added. In that moment he realized he had the perfect place for his new giant friend and so together, as a family, the Phairs introduced the La Mesa Dinosaur to San Diego.

Now this is our favorite part.

The Phair family shared with WAY San Diego that a new park will be ushered into the neighborhood as part of the La Mesa Summit Estates development project. That park will become the forever home of Toby The T-Rex to delight future generations of children for decades to come. Now that’s WAY San Diego!