The location of Escondido was first identified and discovered by Juan Bautista de Anza, a Spanish explorer, in 1776. Later, the area became part of the Rancho Rincon del Diablo (the devil's corner) land grant bestowed to Juan Bautista Alvarado in 1843 by Mexican Governor Manuel Micheltoren. In 1886, the Escondido Land and Town Company acquired the land grant, laid out the town site, and divided the valley into small farms suitable for grapes or citrus.
On October 8, 1888, the city was incorporated and its voters elected a council, clerk, treasurer, and marshal.
Today, Escondido is a full-service, general-law city with four council members elected by district, and a mayor elected at large. Escondido operates under the Council-Manager form of government. This is the system of local government that combines the strong political leadership of elected officials in the form of a council with the strong managerial experience of an appointed local government manager. The Mayor presides at the City Council and Community Development Commission Board meetings.