San Francisco, California

San Francisco skyline.
San Francisco skyline.

Template:Infobox City The City and County of San Francisco (estimated population 799,263) is the fourth-largest city in the state of California, United States, in terms of population. It is a consolidated city-county (the only one in California) situated at the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula that forms San Francisco Bay. The city-county also includes several islands in the bay and the Farallon Islands 27 miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean.

The city is a focal point of the San Francisco Bay Area, and part of the greater San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland Combined Statistical Area (CSA), whose population is over 7 million. U.S. census data show that San Francisco has the highest population density of any major U.S. city aside from New York City.

The first Europeans to settle in San Francisco were the Spanish, in 1776. The city grew rapidly due to the California gold rush starting in 1848.

The city was devastated by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but was rebuilt quickly. The phoenix on the city's flag represents San Francisco's "rebirth" from the ashes of the fire that resulted from the quake. Long enjoying a bohemian reputation, the city became a counterculture magnet in the second half of the 20th century. It was a center of the dot-com boom at the end of the century.

Widely recognized landmarks include the San Francisco cable car system, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Transamerica Pyramid.



European visitors to the Bay Area were preceded 10,000 to 20,000 years earlier by Native Americans. When Europeans arrived, they found the area inhabited by the Yelamu tribe, belonging to a linguistic grouping later called the Ohlone (a Miwok Indian word meaning "western people") living in the coastal area between Point Sur and the San Francisco Bay.

European discovery and exploration of the San Francisco Bay Area began in 1542 and culminated with the mapping of the bay in 1775. A Spanish party led by Juan Bautista de Anza arrived on March 28, 1776 and established the sites for the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asis (named for Saint Francis of Assisi and now popularly known as "Mission Dolores"). The area first began to develop as a city under the name of Yerba Buena in 1822, when what is now the downtown area was first settled by William Richardson, an English whaler.

Yerba Buena remained a small town until the Mexican-American War broke out and a naval force under Commodore John D. Sloat took it in 1846 in the name of the United States. It was then renamed "San Francisco" on January 30, 1847.

Situated at the tip of a windswept peninsula without water or firewood, San Francisco lacked most of the basic facilities for a nineteenth century settlement. These natural disadvantages forced the town's residents to bring water, fuel and food to the site. The first of many environmental transformations was the city's reliance on filled marshlands for real estate. Much of the present downtown is built over the former Yerba Buena Cove, granted to the city by military governor Stephen Watts Kearny in 1847.

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San Francisco in 1855.

The California gold rush starting in 1848 led to a large growth in population, including considerable immigration. Between January 1848 and December 1849, the population of San Francisco increased from 1,000 to 25,000. The Chinatown district of the city is still one of the largest in the country; the city as a whole is rougly one-third Chinese, one of the largest concentrations outside of China. Many businesses started at that time to service the growing population are still present today, notably Levi Strauss & Co. clothing, Ghirardelli chocolate, and Wells Fargo bank.

Like many mining towns, the political situation in early San Francisco was chaotic. This was exacerbated by squabbling in the United States Senate, where the Compromise of 1850 was igniting a fierce fight over slavery. Disgusted by increasing corruption and crime, a group of San Franciscans formed a Committee of Vigilance in 1851, and again in 1856. This military government exiled many citizens, executed a few, and forced several elected officials to resign. The Committee of Vigilance relinquished power both times after it decided the city had been 'cleaned up'.

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Market Street, early 20th century

San Francisco County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood. All of the county not in the city limits was split off to form San Mateo County in 1856. San Francisco became the USA's largest city west of the Mississippi River.

In autumn of 1855, a ship bearing refugees from an ongoing cholera epidemic in the far east (authorities disagree as to whether this was the S.S. Sam or the S.S. Carolina) docked in San Francisco. As the city's rapid gold-rush area population growth had significantly outstripped the development of infrastructure, including sanitation, a serious cholera epidemic quickly broke out. The responsibility for caring for the indigent sick had previously rested on the state, but faced with the San Francisco cholera epidemic, the state legislature devolved this responsibility to the counties, setting the precedent for California's system of county hospitals for the poor still in effect today. The Sisters of Mercy were contracted to run San Francisco's first county hospital at the height of the cholera epidemic, and in 1857, the order opened its own charity hospital, Mercy Hospital of San Francisco, which is still in operation today at its original location on Stanyan Street.

One of most colorful figures of late 19th century San Francisco was "Emperor" Joshua A. Norton.

In 1900, a ship from China brought with it rats infected with bubonic plague. Mistakenly believing that interred corpses contributed to the transmission of plague, and possibly also motivated by the opportunity for profitable land speculation, city leaders banned all cemeteries within the city. Burials moved to the undeveloped area just south of the city limit, now the town of Colma, California. A fifteen-block section of Chinatown was quarantined while city leaders squabbled over the proper course to take, but the outbreak was finally eradicated by 1905.

On April 18 1906, a devastating earthquake resulted from the rupture of over 270 miles of the San Andreas Fault, from San Juan Bautista to Eureka, centered immediately offshore of San Francisco. The quake is estimated by modern scientists to have reached 8.25 on the Richter scale. Water mains ruptured throughout San Francisco, and the fires that followed burned out of control for days, destroying the vast majority of buildings in the city. The official reported death toll was 478, but most historians agree the true tally was much higher, probably over 3,000. Many residents were trapped between the water on three sides and the approaching fire, and a mass evacuation similar to that of the later Battle of Dunkirk to safety across the Bay saved thousands. With the centennial of the disaster approaching, a city supervisor sponsored a resolution to amend the death toll, noting "there is evidence to show the number was suppressed for political reasons" (namely that the city's reputation would have suffered). [1] ( See also: 1906 San Francisco earthquake

In 1912, this time with no excuse other than the rising value of real estate, all remaining cemeteries in the city were evicted to south of the city limit, where in the modern-day town of Colma the dead now outnumber the living more than ten-thousand to one. Unwilling to evict the remains of San Francisco's most prominent founding citizens, however, the above-ground Columbarium of San Francisco was allowed to remain, whose 30,000 deceased residents are the only permitted within the city to this day.

In 1915, the city hosted the Panama-Pacific Exposition, officially to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal, but also as a showcase of the vibrant completely rebuilt city less than a decade after the Earthquake. On July 22, 1916 a bomb exploded on Market Street during a Preparedness Day parade, killing 10 and injuring 40.

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was opened in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937. During World War II, San Francisco was the major mainland supply point and port of embarkation for the war in the Pacific.

The United Nations Charter was also drafted in San Francisco in 1945. The Treaty of San Francisco which established peaceful relations with Japan, was drafted and signed there six years later in 1951.

During the early 1950s, Caltrans commenced an aggressive freeway construction program in the Bay Area. However, Caltrans soon encountered strong resistance in San Francisco, for the city's high population density meant that virtually any right-of-way would displace a large number of people. Caltrans tried to minimize displacement (and its land acquisition costs) by building double-decker freeways, but the crude state of civil engineering at that time resulted in construction of some embarrassingly ugly freeways which ultimately turned out to be seismically unsafe. In 1959, the Board of Supervisors voted to halt construction of any more freeways in the city, an event known as the Freeway Revolt. Although some minor modifications have been allowed to the ends of existing freeways, the city's anti-freeway policy has remained in place ever since. In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed the Embarcadero Freeway and portions of the so-called Central Freeway. Over the course of several referenda, San Francisco's residents elected not to rebuild either structure. The neighborhoods once covered by these freeways have been rebuilt, and the restoration of the Embarcadero, San Francisco's historic bay waterfront, as a public space has been especially successful.

In the 1950s San Francisco hired Harvard graduate Justin Herman to head the redevelopment agency for the city and county. Justin Herman began an aggressive campaign to renew blighted areas of the city. Enacting eminent domain whenever necessary, he set upon a plan to tear down huge areas of the city and replace them with modern construction. Critics accused Herman of racism for what was perceived as attempts to create segregation and displacement of African-Americans. Many African-Americans were forced to move from their homes near the Fillmore jazz district to newly constructed projects such as the near the naval base Hunter's Point or even to cities such as Oakland. He began levelling entire areas in San Francisco's Western Addition and Japantown neighborhoods. His planning led to the creation of Embarcadero Center, the Embarcadero Freeway, Japantown, the Geary Street superblocks, and Yerba Buena Gardens.

San Francisco has often been a magnet for America's counterculture. During the 1950s, City Lights Bookstore in the North Beach neighborhood was an important publisher of Beat Generation literature. Some of the story of the evolving arts scene of the 1950s is told in the article San Francisco Renaissance. During the latter half of the following decade, the 1960s, San Francisco was the center of hippie culture. Thousands of young people poured into the Haight-Ashbury district of the city during 1967, which was known as the Summer of Love. At this time, the "San Francisco sound" emerged as an influential force in rock music, with such acts as the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead achieving international prominence, blurring the boundaries between folk, rock and jazz traditions and further developing the lyrical content of rock.

Another peculiar development is that the Church Of Satan was founded and made its headquarters in San Francisco in 1966.

During the 1980s and 1990s San Francisco became a major focal point in the North American--and international-- punk and rave scene. On the rave scene, the city was the first to host the Love Parade outside its birthplace of Berlin, Germany in 2004.

The late 1960s also brought in a new wave of lesbians and gays who were more radical and less mainstream and who had flocked to San Francisco not only for its gay-friendly reputation, but for its reputation as a radical, left-wing epicenter. These lesbians and gays were the prime movers of Gay Liberation and often lived communally, buying (like their straight counterparts) decrepit Victorians in the Haight and fixing them up. When drugs and violence began to become a serious problem in the Haight, many lesbians and gays simply moved "over the hill", to the Castro. In the 1970s, large numbers of gay people moved to San Francisco's Castro district, which previous to their arrival, had been abandoned by Irish-Americans who moved en masse to the more affluent and culturally homogenous suburbs. Because of the rise of this new population, as well as the overall change in ethnic and cultural demographics, tensions arose in the city, and these tensions led to tragedy in 1978 when a conservative member of the Board of Supervisors and a former cop, Dan White, murdered San Francisco's first openly gay elected official, Supervisor Harvey Milk and the city's mayor George Moscone on November 27 (see "Twinkie Defense"). In the 1980s, the AIDS virus wreaked havoc on the gay community there. Today, the gay population of the city is estimated to be at about 15%, and gays remain an important force in the city's politics. San Francisco has more gays and lesbians than any other US city.

Under former Mayor, and now US senator, Diane Feinstein, San Francisco underwent "Manhattanization" when many of the large skyscrapers present in the Financial District and residential condominiums were built across the city in the late 1970s through the 1980s. This was met with widespread opposition with the city's residents who felt that the skyscrapers ruined views and destroyed San Francisco's unique character. Similar to the freeway revolt in the city decades earlier, a "skyscraper revolt" forced the city to enact height restriction limits on tall buildings. This law has become a standard in many of the world's cities today, and pushed skyscraper construction to the South of Market district where it is still ongoing.

During the 1980s, homeless people began appearing in large numbers in the city, the result of factors that were affecting the country at large, combined with San Francisco's attractive environment and generous welfare policies, economic and social changes, and the availability of addictive drugs are often cited as reasons for the growth of the problem. Mayor Art Agnos (1988-92) was the first to attack the problem, and not the last; it is a top issue for San Franciscans even today. Agnos allowed the homeless to camp in the Civic Center park, which led to its title of "Camp Agnos." The failure of this lenient policy led to his being replaced by Frank Jordan in 1992. Jordan launched the "MATRIX" program the next year, which aimed to displace the homeless through aggressive police action. And it did displace them - to the rest of the city. His successor, Willie Brown, was able to largely ignore the problem, riding on the strong economy into a second term. Present mayor Gavin Newsom's policy on the homeless is the controversial "Care Not Cash" program where he plans to end the city's generous welfare policies towards the homeless and instead wants the homeless to be put in affordable housing and attend city funded drug rehabilitation and job training programs.

On October 17, 1989, an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter magnitude scale struck on the San Andreas Fault near Loma Prieta Peak in the Santa Cruz mountains, approximately 70 miles south of San Francisco, during game 3 of the 1989 World Series. The quake severely damaged many of the city's freeway's including the Embarcadero Freeway and the Central Freeway. The damage to these freeways was so extensive, that they were eventually demolished. The quake also caused extensive damage in the Marina District and the South of Market. Known in most of the United States as the "World Series Quake," but in California and by seismologists as the Loma Prieta earthquake, it caused significant destruction and loss of life throughout the greater bay area.

During the dot-com boom of the 1990s, large numbers of entrepreneurs and computer software professionals moved into the city, followed by marketing and sales professionals, and changed the social landscape as once poorer neighborhoods became gentrified. The rising rents forced many people and businesses to leave, and this caused considerable tension in the city's politics. The resulting backlash resulted in a progressive majority winning control of the Board of Supervisors in the 2000 election.

By 2001, the boom was over, and many people left San Francisco. South of Market, where many dot com companies were located, had been bustling and crowded with few vacancies, but by 2002 was a virtual wasteland of empty offices and for-rent signs. Craig Newmark founded the website Craigslist based in his San Francisco home. The success of Craigslist stands as a testament to the over-production of the dot-com era.

In November of 2002, three off-duty police officers (one the son of the assistant chief) allegedly assaulted two civilians over a bag of steak fajitas. The resulting scandal was dubbed "Fajitagate" after it was alleged that high-ranking officers within the Police Department had tried to cover up the incident. Though top officials were formally indicted, they were soon exonerated, but with considerable damage to their reputations, and having brought the city nationwide ridicule.

The 2003 mayoral election of Matt Gonzalez versus Gavin Newsom was notable in that it was between a candidate of the progressive left and a moderate liberal, conservative candidates having had a hard time in the city. The newly elected Mayor Newsom, who won by a close margin, burst onto the national political scene when, in defiance of state law, he led San Francisco to become the first city in the U.S. to issue same-sex marriage licenses in February, 2004. The California Supreme Court later invalidated these licenses. Newsom also helped enact a strong new homeless policy, "Care Not Cash," in which the checks that homeless people previously received were replaced with vouchers for housing.

San Francisco's history of innovative ordinances was seen again with the 2004 decision to ban outdoor smoking in all city-owned parks, plazas and public sports venues, amongst other outdoor areas. California's statewide smoking bans already being some of the toughest in the nation, the new policy in San Francisco represents an even stricter stance on public smoking. Other California cities have enacted similar outdoor smoking bans (though not as far-reaching), but San Francisco's new anti-smoking policy is significant considering the city's size and cultural influence on the rest of the state and the nation. While somewhat controversial, the law will go into effect on July 1, 2005.

In 2005, San Francisco hosted the United Nations annual World Enivronment Day, the first time it has been held in the US. On June 5th, the mayors of 100 cities, including the mayor of San Francisco, signed an accord that made their cities more compliant with the Kyoto Protocol.

Geography and climate

San Francisco and northern , from
San Francisco and northern San Mateo County, from NASA Landsat 7

San Francisco lies near the San Andreas Fault; a major source of earthquake activity in California. The most serious earthquake, in 1906, is mentioned above. Earlier significant quakes rocked the city in 1851, 1858, 1865, and 1868. The Daly City Earthquake of 1957 caused some damage. The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, which also did significant damage to parts of the city, is also famous for having interrupted a World Series baseball game between the Bay Area's two Major League Baseball teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics.

The threat of another major earthquake like the 1906 one plays a major role in the city's infrastructure development. New buildings must be built to very high structural standards, while many dollars must be spent to retrofit the city's older buildings and bridges.

Entire neighborhoods of the city such as the Marina and Hunters Point were created and sit on man made landfill (made up of mud, sand, and rubble from past earthquakes) and other reclaimation projects over the San Francisco Bay when flatland became scarce. Such land is extremely unstable during earthquakes; the resultant liquefaction during earthquakes causes extensive damage to property built upon it, as was evidenced in the Marina district during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

San Francisco is famous for its hills and the streets which run straight up and down them. Three of San Francisco's notable hill neighborhoods are Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and Telegraph Hill, all located near Downtown.

Near the geographic center of the city and away from the downtown area are a series of less populated hills. Dominating this area is Mount Sutro, which is the site of Sutro Tower, a large red and white radio transmission tower, that is a well known landmark to city residents. Nearby are the equally well known Twin Peaks, which are a pair of hills resting at one of the city's highest points. About 1.2km (1 mile) south of Mount Sutro is San Francisco's highest mountain, Mount Davidson, which is over 282 meters (over 925 feet) high. On top of Mount Davidson is a 31.4 meter (103 foot) tall cross built in 1934.

Not to be missed are the beautiful homes and area of the city known as Pacific Heights as well as victorians in the Haight-Ashbury and the "painted ladies" of Alamo Square and the Castro. San Francisco is also famous for its Cable cars (narrow gauge, 1067 mm (3'6")), which were designed to carry residents up those steep hills. It is still possible to take a cable car ride up and down Nob and Russian Hills. Along with New Orleans' streetcars, San Francisco's cable cars are one of only two mobile United States National Monuments. Coit Tower, a notable landmark dedicated to San Francisco's firefighters, is located at the top of Telegraph Hill.

Surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco's climate is strongly influenced by the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean. The weather is remarkably mild all year round, with a so-called Mediterranean climate characterized by cool, foggy summers and relatively warm winters; average daily high temperatures in the summer typically range from 15 -20 degrees Celsius (the upper 60s to low 70s Fahrenheit), while in the winter it virtually never reaches freezing. Rain in the summer is extremely rare, but winters can often be very rainy. Snow is virtually unheard of. The Pacific Ocean off the west coast of the city is particularly cold year round. The combination of cold ocean water and the high heat of the California mainland mean that San Francisco's western half is often shrouded in fog during the months of July and August. Thus, the summer temperatures are significantly lower in San Francisco than in other parts of inland California. The fog is less pronounced during the month of September, which is generally the warmest, most summer-like month of the year.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city and county has a total area of 600.7 km² (231.9 mi²). 120.9 km² (46.7 mi²) of it is land and 479.7 km² (185.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 79.86% water. The city itself is often reputed to be roughly a seven mile by seven mile square, but in fact it is slightly smaller, 46.7 mi?, of which .33 mi² are the Farallon Islands.

The geographical center of the city is on the east side of Grandview Avenue between Alvarado and Twenty-third Streets.


Because of the California gold rush, San Francisco became and remains the banking and financial center of the U.S. West Coast. It is the home of the twelfth district of the U.S. Federal Reserve as well as major production facilities for the U.S. Mint. The Pacific Exchange, a regional stock exchange, is located in the financial district. Many major American and international banks and venture capital firms have all set up their regional headquarters in the city.

Companies headquartered in San Francisco

Some 65 km (~ 40 miles) south of San Francisco is the Silicon Valley, which holds much of the computing business in the world. Apple Computer and Symantec are based in Cupertino. Electronic Arts and Oracle Corporation are based in Redwood City. Sun Microsystems, Intel, Applied Materials, and McAfee are headquartered in Santa Clara. Yahoo! is headquartered in Sunnyvale. Google is headquartered (at the "Googleplex") in Mountain View. Cisco Systems and Adobe Systems are headquartered in San Jose. Hewlett Packard is in Palo Alto near Stanford University.

Outside of Silicon Valley, in the East Bay, Pixar Animation is located in Emeryville. ChevronTexaco (fomerly of San Francisco) and IPIX are based in San Ramon, Safeway is based in Pleasanton, and C & H Sugar Company is based in Crockett. LucasArts is located in Marin County, though the company plans to relocate to the Presidio in the next few years.

Law and government

Jake McGoldrick
Michela Alioto-Pier
Aaron Peskin
Fiona Ma
Ross Mirkarimi
Chris Daly
Sean Elsbernd
Bevan Dufty
Tom Ammiano
Sophie Maxwell
Gerardo Sandoval

San Francisco is both a city and a county, and is the only one of California's 58 counties to possess that distinction. It is governed by a mayor, who runs the executive branch of the city, and a Board of Supervisors, which comprises the legislative branch. The eleven members of the Board are elected to represent eleven districts in the city; current elected members are listed in the table on the right.

While most cities in California are General Law Cities, San Francisco is one of a few Charter Cities, theoretically giving the city's voters additional control over governmental structures and allowing the city to exercise considerable control over some lands not located in the city such as those associated with San Francisco International Airport and the Hetch Hetchy water and power system.

A recent electoral innovation that was to be implemented for the November 2003 elections, but was not prepared in time, is the use of ranked preference voting, also known as instant runoff voting. In the Board of Supervisors race in November 2004, Instant Runoff Voting worked well, with many winners known on election night and all winners within a couple of days. Due to its implementation, there was no December runoff election. (Although the city offices are, by state law, non-partisan, there are still considerable political differences among candidates that may generally be identified as being aligned with various parties.)

One good place to read about San Francisco politics is at The Usual Suspects, at [2] (

The current mayor is Gavin Newsom. The current President of the Board of Supervisors is Aaron Peskin.

The headquarters of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court of California, and the First Appelate District of the California Courts of Appeal are in San Francisco.

See also: List of Mayors of San Francisco, California


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Population of Asians in San Francisco. Note the large Asian population in the Sunset District, Richmond District, and in Chinatown

As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 776,733 people, 329,700 households, and 145,068 families residing in the city. The population density is 6,423.2/km² (16,634.4/mi²), making it the second densest city (and fifth densest county) in the country [3] ( . There are 346,527 housing units at an average density of 2,865.6/km² (7,421.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 49.66% White, 7.79% African American, 0.45% Native American, 30.84% Asian, 0.49% Pacific Islander, 6.48% from other races, and 4.28% from two or more races. 14.10% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. The ethnic makeup is 19.6% Chinese, 8.8% Irish, 7.7% German, and 6.1% English.

There are 329,700 households out of which 16.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.6% are married couples living together, 8.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 56.0% are non-families. 38.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.30 and the average family size is 3.22.

In the city the population is spread out with 14.5% under the age of 18, 9.1% from 18 to 24, 40.5% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 13.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 103.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 103.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $55,221, and the median income for a family is $63,545. Males have a median income of $46,260 versus $40,049 for females. The per capita income for the city is $34,556. 11.3% of the population and 7.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 13.5% of those under the age of 18 and 10.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Related topics: Maps of San Francisco, California

Roads and highways

The  connects San Francisco with  and the East Bay.
The Bay Bridge connects San Francisco with Oakland and the East Bay.
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The Golden Gate Bridge connects San Francisco with Marin County

Because of its unique geography, and the "Freeway Revolt", San Francisco is one of the few major cities in the US next to Boston and New York City that has opted for European style arterial thoroughfares instead of a large network of major highways.

The Bay Bridge is the only link that provides road direct access to the east bay from San Francisco. Similarly, the Golden Gate Bridge is the only direct road access to Marin County from San Francisco.

The major highways in San Francisco are Interstate 80 which begins at the Bay Bridge and goes eastbound; US 101 which begins where 80 ends/begins off and goes southbound towards the Silicon Valley. Going northbound, 101 uses arterial streets, Van Ness Avenue and Lombard Street to the Golden Gate Bridge across to Marin County. Interstate 280 which also begins and ends in the city and goes southbound towards Silicon Valley and Highway 1 which bisects the westside of the city as a arterial thoroughfare.

Public transportation

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A cable car on the Powell & Market turntable.
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San Francisco runs a series of refurbished vintage streetcars down its main throughfare Market Street

San Francisco has the most extensive and best connected public transit system on the west coast and one of the most diverse in the country. Muni is the city-owned public transit system which operates the Muni Metro light rail system, the F Market heritage streetcar line and the famous San Francisco cable car system (see above), together with buses and electric trolleybuses. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is the regional transit system, which connects San Francisco with the East Bay through an underwater tunnel, and the San Mateo County, California communities on the San Francisco Peninsula. In addition, a commuter rail service, Caltrain, operates between San Francisco, San Jose, California and Gilroy, California. A small fleet of commuter ferries operate from the Embarcadero to points in Marin County, Oakland, and north to Vallejo in Solano County.


San Francisco is the home of the San Francisco 49ers National Football League team and the San Francisco Giants Major League Baseball team. The regional National Basketball Association team, the Golden State Warriors play across the bay in Oakland. The regional National Hockey League team, the San Jose Sharks play in San Jose. The basketball and ice hockey teams were once based out of San Francisco and played out of the Cow Palace located at the southern border with Daly City.

College sports include the University of San Francisco Dons.

The city is also the home of the annual Bay to Breakers footrace, which holds the world records for greatest number of participants in a footrace (110K in 1986) as well as longest consecutively running footrace (annually since 1912). Records aside, the race is best known for its colorful costumes and celebratory community spirit (it was initiated after the disastrous 1906 earthquake as a way to boost the city's spirits).


San Francisco also has great nightlife ranging from bars to lounges to clubs. Major areas of nightlife in San Francisco are: in North Beach, the Mission District, and South of Market. San Francisco also boasts of legendary venues such as The Fillmore and The Warfield.


Despite its limited geographical space, San Francisco is home to a multitude of Universities and Colleges.

Public Universities include:

Private schools include:

There are also a number of private art schools that operate across the city.


See main article: Neighborhoods in San Francisco, California
An interesection of Chinatown in San Francisco.
An interesection of Chinatown in San Francisco.
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Victorian houses ("Painted Ladies") at Alamo Square

Like many large cities in the US, San Francisco has a Japantown and Chinatown; both are among the largest and oldest in the US. It also boasts a budding Vietnamese community in the Tenderloin neighborhood, an Italian community in North Beach, a French Quarter and a Russian community in the Richmond district. The predominantly latino Mission District is one of the oldest neighborhoods, as it was the site of one of the twenty one missions in California. Russian Hill is probably most noted for the top end of that portion of Lombard Street that is sometimes referred to as "the crookedest (most winding) street in the world". Haight-Ashbury gained prominence during the 1960s as one of the prominent concentrations of hippies. The Castro neigborhood has the world's highest concentration of Gays.

Arguably, the point of gravity in terms of demographic and land use change is moving east & south. The South of Market neighborhood was one of the epicenters of the dot-com boom of the 1990s thus being a showcase of contemporary urban development. A new neighborhood is being developed at the far eastern end of South of Market that is being called Mission Bay. The cornerstone of this development is the new SBC Park baseball stadium and an extension of the University of California, San Francisco medical school.

Related topics: Maps of San Francisco, California


See main article: Parks in San Francisco, California

The best-known, as well as biggest, park is Golden Gate Park which is 174 acres larger than New York's Central Park. Another notable park is The Presidio, which is just one part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which also includes Alcatraz. Buena Vista Park located in the Haight-Ashbury, is the city's oldest, established in 1867. A large fresh-water lake, Lake Merced, is located in the south west corner of the city near San Francisco State University and Fort Funston.


See main article: Culture of San Francisco, California

Some of the most notable landmarks are the Transamerica Pyramid and Golden Gate Bridge.

Museums & performing arts

Museums include San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor and the Cable Car Museum, along with offbeat museums such as Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum and the Tattoo Art Museum. Between Portola and Glenview streets lies San Francisco's high school SOTA (School of the Arts), dedicated to the performing arts.

In terms of performing arts, San Francisco boasts the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet. San Francisco's Ballet and Opera are the some of the oldest continuning performing arts companies in the United States. The American Indian Film Institute which organizes the annual American Indian Film Festival is based in San Francisco.

Contemporary life

Following World War II, San Francisco became a nerve center of alternative culture and lifestyle in the United States that is still dominant in the city's culture today. It is the unofficial center and capitial of left-wing activity in the United States. It is a loyal stronghold for the Democratic Party as it held a convention here in 1920 and again in 1984. It is also the primary support base for the Green Party. This started with the beat generation or beatniks in the North Beach area and the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1950s to the hippie culture and the Summer of Love in the Haight Ashbury in the 1960s and early 1970s, to rave culture in the 1990s.

Ironically, the Republican Party have also held 2 conventions in the city while San Francisco's liberalism was budding in the late 1950s and the early 1960s.

The Sierra Club is headquarted in the city. The Bohemian Grove an exculsive retreat for the rich and powerful, is located north of the city in Sonoma County while it maintains a club within city limits.

Due to the high number of Gay people in the Castro District and Noe Valley and the city's history with Gay Rights, San Francisco is known as the "Gay Mecca". It is the world's most popular destination for Gay Tourists and hosts the world's largest Gay pride parade and festival in June.

San Francisco has been the setting for numerous television programs, such as Dharma & Greg, Full House, The Streets of San Francisco, Charmed, The Midnight Caller and, more recently, Monk.

Movies set in the city include Basic Instinct, The Conversation Edtv, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Game, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Pacific Heights, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, The Presidio, Dirty Harry, Bullitt, Twisted, and Vertigo.

The city is featured in the popular video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as the fictional city San Fierro. Landmarks from the city in that game include the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, City Hall, the Transamerica Pyramid, cable cars, and Chinatown.

Other fictional works set in San Francisco include The Joy Luck Club, The Maltese Falcon, and Tales of the City.

City flag

The flag depicts an arising Phoenix, symbolic of the City's recovery from the 1906 fire. Underneath the phoenix it has a motto written in Spanish: "Oro en Paz, Fierro en Guerra," which translates into: "Gold in Peace, Iron in War."

City seal

The seal, which was adopted in the 1850's, depicts two working men, on one side a miner and on the other a sailor with a sextant. Above is a rising phoenix and behind is the bay with sailing ships. The Phoenix symbolizes the city's emergence from the ashes of several devastating fires in the early 1850's.



San Francisco International Airport dubbed SFO, is located 12.9 km (8 miles) south of the city in San Mateo County on a landfill extension into the San Francisco Bay. It is the only major international hub airport in California other than LAX in Los Angeles. During the late 1990s economic boom, SFO was the sixth busiest international airport in the world, but has since fallen off of the top ten during the economic depression of 2000-2001. Rail extensions there include BART.

Other large airports in the region include Oakland International Airport, 32.2 km (20 miles) from San Francisco and San Jose International Airport, 70.8 km (44 miles) from San Francisco.


The Port of San Francisco was once the largest and busiest seaport on the west coast. The advent of container shipping made San Francisco's pier based port obsolete, as much of the city's container traffic is now limited to a small port in the south-east corner of the city, or sent across the bay to the Port of Oakland. Many of the piers remained derelict for years until recently, when the port converted many of the piers to office space and sold them. Most of the port's activities are now mostly for commuter ferries that leave from the Ferry Building, cruise ship docking, and tourism. There are now plans in the works to build a major cruise ship terminal/mall similar to Pier 39.

Famous San Franciscans

See also: List of famous San Franciscans

Many notable people have grown up in or have lived as adults in San Francisco. Photographer Ansel Adams, writer Anne Rice, comedian Gracie Allen, actor and director Clint Eastwood, "mother" of Modern Dance Isadora Duncan, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, author Jack London, musician Carlos Santana, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, personality Courtney Love, and actor/comic Robin Williams are examples of notable arts and entertainment figures who have lived in the city.

Baseball player Barry Bonds, American football legend O.J. Simpson, and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio are all sportspeople with San Francisco connections.

US Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, former Governors of California Jerry Brown and Pat Brown, US Senator Dianne Feinstein, former US Secretaries of Defense Robert McNamara and Caspar Weinberger, and gay rights activists Harvey Milk and Jose Sarria were or are San Franciscans who made names for themselves in politics.

Other famous San Franciscans include philanthropist Gordon Getty, publisher William Randolph Hearst, and co-founder of Intel Corporation and the author of Moore's law, Gordon E. Moore.


  • Some Dexter's Laboratory fans have identifed San Francisco as the city where the show takes place.
  • San Francisco is a location in CRPG Fallout 2.
  • In the Star Trek fictional universe, Captain Kirk's U.S.S. Enterprise was San Francisco–class but was later changed by script writers to a more appropriate (following United States Navy warship naming conventions) Constitution–class. Additionally, Star Fleet Headquarters and Academy are located on what is currently the Presidio of San Francisco.
  • The first reinforced concrete bridge in America, Lake Alvord Bridge, was constructed in 1889. But the 116-year-old prototype still arches strongly today over a pedestrian entrance to San Francisco's Golden Gate park, welcoming visitors to the Children's Quarters.

Known as the Lake Alvord Bridge, it was built in 1889 by Ernest L. Ransome, the great 19th century innovator in reinforced concrete design, mixing equipment, and construction systems. The bridge was constructed as a single arch 64-feet wide with a 20-foot span. Ransome is believed to have used his patented cold-twisted square steel bar for reinforcement, placed longitudinally in the arch and curved in the same arc. The face of the bridge was scored and hammered to resemble sandstone.

E.L. Ransome left San Francisco a few year's later, frustrated and bitter at the building community's indifference to concrete construction. Ironically, the city's few reinforced concrete structures, including the Lake Alvord Bridge, survived the 1906 earthquake and fire in remarkable shape, vindicating Ransome's faith in the method.

The Lake Alvord Bridge was designated a civil engineering landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in the 1970's.

See also

External links

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