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San Francisco, California

San Francisco (population 776,773) is the fourth-largest city in the state of California, United States, situated at the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula that forms San Francisco Bay. The city of San Francisco is conterminous with San Francisco County.

San Francisco skyline, March 2002

Table of contents

History European visitors to the Bay Area were preceded 10,000 to 20,000 years earlier by native people indigenous to the area. These people, later called the Ohlone[?] (a Miwok[?] Indian word meaning "western people"), lived 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 in 1776 and located the sites for the Presidio of San Francisco, a military base on the northern tip of the peninsula, and Mission Dolores, located in what is now the Mission district. San Francisco (named after Saint Francis of Assisi) did not develop as a city (called Yerba Buena) until much later, 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. The California gold rush of 1849 led to a large growth in population, including considerable immigration. The Chinatown district of the city is still one of the largest in the country. Many businesses started at that time to service the growing population are still present today, notably Levi Strauss[?] clothing, Ghirardelli[?] chocolate, and Wells Fargo bank.

On January 30, 1847 the city was renamed from Yerba Buena to San Francisco.

On April 18, 1906 a devastating major earthquake struck the city. Estimated by modern scientists to have reached 8.25 on the Richter scale. The fires that followed were even more destructive, burning out of control for days and destroying the vast majority of the buildings in the city. Hundreds of residents were killed (some say thousands actually died), but the majority of the population escaped serious physical harm. (The 1936 movie San Francisco is set in the midst of these events.) Rebuilding of the city began almost immediately. See also: San Francisco earthquake of 1906

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.

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 drafted at San Francisco in 1945.

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 beatnik literature. 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 the year 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.

In the 1970s, large numbers of gays moved to San Francisco's Castro district[?]. Tensions arose in the city over the cultural changes wrought by this migration, and these tensions led to tragedy in 1979 when a conservative member of the Board of Supervisors, Dan White[?], murdered a gay Supervisor, Harvey Milk and the city's mayor George Moscone[?]. 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.

During the Internet boom of the 1990s, large numbers of young entrepreneurs and computer software professionals moved into the city, and changed the economic 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.

Geography and Climate

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 also did significant damage to the city, and postponed the World Series between the Bay Area's two Major League Baseball teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics.

San Francisco is famous for its hills and the streets which run straight and up and down them. The more notable hills in San Francisco are Nob Hill[?], Russian Hill[?], and Telegraph Hill[?], all located in or near downtown. 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, and it is still possible to take a cable car ride up and down Nob and Russian Hills. San Francisco's cable cars are the only mobile United States National Monument. Atop Telegraph Hill is located a notable landmark, Coit Tower[?], dedicated to San Francisco's firefighters.

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. Rain in the summer is extremely rare, but winters can often be very rainy. High temperatures in the summer are typically the mid to upper 60s Fahrenheit, while in the winter it virtually never reaches freezing. Occasional offshore flows of air bring hot air into San Francisco during the summer, when temperatures can reach 100 degrees, but this is rare and it usually only lasts a few days, before the region's "natural air conditioning" takes over and cools the city down again.

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.

Law and Government San Francisco is both a city and a county, and is governed by a mayor, who runs the executive branch of the city, and a Board of Supervisors, who are elected to represent 11 districts in the city. The current mayor is Willie Brown[?].


As of the census 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). 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 American, 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.

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 people living in poverty, 13.5% are under the age of 18 and 10.5% are 65 or older.

Contemporary Life San Francisco is one of the most densely populated cities in the United States. The city is serviced by several public transit systems. Muni is the city-owned public transit system which operates buses, electric trolleybuses, streetcars and the famous cable cars (see above). BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is the regional transit system, which connects San Francisco with the East Bay[?] and the San Mateo County, California communities on the San Francisco Peninsula. In addition, a commuter rail service, CalTrain, operates between San Francisco and San Jose.

San Francisco is the home of the San Francisco 49ers National Football League team and the San Francisco Giants Major League Baseball team.

See also: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley


City in Film & TV This great American city has been featured in many movies, from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo to Ang Lee's The Hulk.


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