South San Francisco, California

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South San Francisco
City of South San Francisco
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South San Francisco as viewed from a nearby ridge
Nickname(s): South City; The Industrial City
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Location in San Mateo County and the state of California
Coordinates: 37°39′22″N 122°25′32″W / 37.65611°N 122.42556°W / 37.65611; -122.42556Coordinates: 37°39′22″N 122°25′32″W / 37.65611°N 122.42556°W / 37.65611; -122.42556
Country Click to View Image United States
State Click to View Image California
County San Mateo
Incorporated September 3, 1908
 • Mayor Karyl Matsumoto
 • Vice Mayor Richard Garbarino
 • Interim City Manager Steven T. Mattas[1]
 • Councilmembers Mark N. Addiego
Pradeep Gupta
Liza Normandy
 • Total 30.158 sq mi (78.109 km2)
 • Land 9.141 sq mi (23.674 km2)
 • Water 21.017 sq mi (54.435 km2)  69.69%
Elevation 13 ft (4 m)
Population (2011)
 • Total 64,409
 • Density 6,961.1/sq mi (2,687.7/km2)
  United States Census Bureau
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 94080, 94083, 94099
Area code(s) 650
FIPS code 06-73262
GNIS feature ID 0277618

South San Francisco is a city in San Mateo County, California, United States, located on the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area. The population was 63,632 at the 2010 census.

South San Francisco lies north of San Bruno and San Francisco International Airport in a small valley south of Daly City, Colma, Brisbane, and San Bruno Mountain, east of Pacifica and the hills of the Coast Range, and west of the waters of San Francisco Bay. Locals often refer to the town as "South City," in much the same way that San Francisco is called "The City." People unfamiliar with the area often mistake "South San Francisco" as the southern part of the city of San Francisco. In fact, the city of South San Francisco is not even contiguous with the city of San Francisco, due to the city of Brisbane being between them.

Most of the valley faces San Francisco Bay, affording bay views from higher levels. South San Francisco has mild winters and dry cool summers. The hills to the west shield the city from much of the fog that prevails in neighboring areas.

The population has tripled since World War II with the opening of such subdivisions as Buri Buri, Winston Manor and Westborough on the slopes west of El Camino. It has grown from 4,411 in 1920 to 61,824 in 2006. As of the last Census and the published results in 2011, the population of South San Francisco stands at 64,409.[3]

The city is noted for the South San Francisco Hillside Sign on Sign Hill, which rises to the north of the city, with large white letters that proclaim "South San Francisco, The Industrial City". The sign, a tribute to the city's industrial past, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]


The area which is now South San Francisco was originally part of Rancho Buri Buri, a large Mexican land grant dating to 1827. In 1853 Charles Lux and a business partner, Alfred Edmondson, purchased 1,700 acres (7 km2) of Rancho Buri Buri. Lux bought out Edmonson’s interest in 1856 and founded the town of Baden, now a neighborhood of South San Francisco. In 1855 Lux bought another 1,464 acres (6 km2) of Rancho Buri Buri land and became a partner of fellow San Francisco butcher and entrepreneur Henry Miller, forming the firm of Miller & Lux.[5]

The city of South San Francisco was originally conceived as an industrial suburb and was promoted by representatives of the Beef Trust, a group including some of the country's largest meat packing firms. A city plan was put forward in 1888 by Gustavus Franklin Swift, founder of the Swift & Company meat packing firm. The plan called for multiple individual meat-packing companies with a shared stockyard, as well as a residential area for employees. Swift proposed the name South San Francisco based on South Chicago and South Omaha, where the Swift company already had plants.

In 1890 Peter E. Iler of Omaha, Nebraska, an agent of the Beef Trust, purchased Lux's property, and in 1891 ownership was transferred to the South San Francisco Land and Improvement Company. The area was divided into industrial and residential districts and the company installed lighting, sewer connections, and water distributions in the residential areas. A second corporation, eventually known as the Western Meat Company, set up stock yards and meat packing facilities on 80 acres (32 ha) of bayfront property; the facility opened in 1892. Other industries soon moved in, including a pottery works, two brick companies, the paint manufacturer W.P. Fuller & Company, the South San Francisco Lumber Company, and the Pacific Jupiter Steel Company.[4]

The city of South San Francisco was incorporated in 1908 following a dispute with San Mateo County, which had blocked the construction of a smelter on San Bruno Point which was supported by the locals.[4] Following incorporation additional industries moved into the town, including two steel mills. A new City Hall was opened on November 11, 1920.

By the 1920s the city was "the smokestack capital of the Peninsula."[6] South San Francisco proudly called itself "The Industrial City", a motto immortalized in 1923 by a huge sign on a hillside overlooking the city. Industry remained the city's main economic focus through the 1950s. During the depression the city maintained 35 industrial operations, including four meat-packing businesses, six iron or steel plants, a smelter for precious metals, seven equipment manufacturers of various kinds, two large paint factories, three other chemical works, and three food packing establishments. During World War II shipbuilding also became a significant operation.[4]

At the end of the war the city's focus shifted away from "smokestack industries" toward light industry, warehousing, and residential development. The major manufacturers closed, and new development was focused on office parks, housing, high-rise hotels, and yacht harbors. The biotechnology giant Genentech opened in 1976, leading to South San Francisco's new identity as "the birthplace of biotechnology".[7] The population grew to 63,632 as of the 2010 census.


South San Francisco is adjacent to the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). A BART station, located directly adjacent to El Camino High School and Solaire Transit Village, provides rapid transit service to SFO, the city of San Francisco, and the East Bay. BART supplements the older Caltrain service to San Francisco and San Jose. Caltrain's station is adjacent to downtown on Grand Avenue.

On June 4, 2012, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority began a ferry service between Oyster Point Marina and the east bay cities of Oakland at Jack London Square and Alameda at the Main Street ferry terminal. The ferry service operates during weekday commute hours only.[8][9]

The city is served by two major north-south freeways, U.S. Route 101 (the Bayshore Freeway), along the San Francisco Bay, and Interstate 280, along the hills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.


South San Francisco is part of the South San Francisco Unified School District, which also serves portions of the neighboring cities of Daly City and San Bruno. The city is home to two public high schools: El Camino High School and South San Francisco High School, which share a cross-town rivalry.[citation needed] The city also has three public middle schools: Parkway Heights, Westborough, and Alta Loma. These public high and middle schools, as well as a number of public elementary schools, and an adult school, South San Francisco Adult Education, are part of the South San Francisco Unified School District.

Several parochial schools are also established in the city: All Souls School, Mater Dolorosa School (recently closed), and St. Veronica's School.

The city is served by the Peninsula Library System.

Fire stations

South San Francisco currently has five fire stations. Station 61 is home to Engine 61, Rescue 61, Battalion 17,and a basic life support ambulance. Station 62 is home to Quint 62 and was home to a reserve quint but was, because of old age, it was donated to Atotonilco, Mexico, a sister city. Station 63 is home to Engine and Rescue 63. It's nickname is "The Bunker". Station 64 is home to Engine 64 as well as a reserve ambulance. Station 65 is home to E65 and USAR 165. Quint 65 used to be based here. Rescue Boat 62 is located at Oyster Point Marina and can be staffed by Q62 personnel if needed.[10]


The city's small downtown and several aging residential subdivisions, such as Mayfair Village, Sunshine Gardens, Avalon Park, Winston Manor, and Rancho Buri Buri, are located west of Highway 101, while the area east of Highway 101 is dominated by industrial complexes interspersed with modern office parks, particularly near the Oyster Point Marina on San Francisco Bay. The extreme western portions of the city near Interstate 280 sit along a hillside and offer views of San Francisco Bay. This area is known to local residents as Westborough. The southern part of the city, closest to the airport, is home to a large number of car repair shops, airport parking lots, and airport hotels.

Grand Avenue, from Chestnut to Airport, is considered downtown South San Francisco, with various small shops and restaurants. Grand Avenue is host to a plethora of stores, one of which is Bronstein Music, a well-known local music store that has been around since 1946. City Hall is located on Grand Avenue, which, to the residents of South City, is known simply as "Grand." Grand also runs perpendicular with one of the city's other well-known streets, Linden, which connects San Bruno to Highway 101. Chestnut Avenue connects Hillside, the northern bordering street at the foot of San Bruno Mountain, to Westborough Blvd, and subsequently to one of the neighborhoods known as Westborough.

South San Francisco Consists of the following Neighborhoods:

Paradise Valley is so named because it resides in between Sign Hill and San Bruno Mountain. Students mostly from Westborough and Buri Buri attend El Camino High School. The majority of Brentwood and Paradise Valley inhabitants attend South San Francisco High School, as well as the East Side inhabitants. The same inhabitants are also so-divided among Westborough Middle School, Alta Loma Middle School and Parkway Heights Middle School respectively.

Points of interest and recreation

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The "South San Francisco The Industrial City" sign

South San Francisco is not known as a tourist destination, but a key landmark of the city is visible to anyone who travels along the San Francisco Peninsula or travels through the nearby San Francisco International Airport. Sign Hill, near San Bruno Mountain State Park, displays huge letters on its mountainside [11] which read "SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO THE INDUSTRIAL CITY." The letters are made of white-painted concrete and sit flush with the hillside (in contrast to the raised steel letters of the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles). The sign was put up in the 1920s to attract industry to the city; it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 as a prime example of "civic boosterism" as well as a tribute to the former importance of heavy industry to the city's economy. Sign Hill is now a city park which provides hikers with access to the letters; the park includes 30 acres (12 ha) of open space and almost 2 miles (3.2 km) of hiking trails.[12]

On top of Sign Hill, a tall pole with electric lights serves as an electric Christmas tree, which is typically lit from the day after Thanksgiving until January 6. The "tree" is visible for many miles at night. In 2008, that same electric pole was modified to hold a vertical number 100 to celebrate South San Francisco's 100th year as an incorporated city. For Memorial Day, Independence Day & Veterans Day, the pole flies an American flag.

South San Francisco has a number of parks, the largest of which is Orange Memorial Park. This park has softball fields, soccer fields, picnic grounds, play areas, tennis courts, basketball courts, bocce ball, an indoor swimming pool, and a newly created skate park. It also hosts a farmers market during the summer months and the annual South San Francisco "Day in the Park" in September. The South San Francisco Public Library has served the city since 1917. The city also has a marina along the shore of San Francisco Bay, named Oyster Point.

A unique opportunity was created when BART expanded down the Peninsula to create a "linear park" on the swath of undeveloped land on top of the tube. Running from Colma to Millbrae, South San Francisco's portion is three miles long, running through the center of town from the South San Francisco BART Station to the San Bruno BART Station. The Class I bicycle and pedestrian trail is a 10" wide asphalt pathway with 2' decomposed granite shoulders, irrigated for low maintenance landscaping, with safety lighting, signalized intersections where the trail crosses Spruce and Chestnut Avenues, and in-ground flashing lights at Orange Avenue. Also, a dog park is located adjacent from Orange Park along the pathway. The new park is called Centennial Way to commemorate the City's 100 year birthday in 2008.

The South San Francisco Farmers Market is at Orange Memorial Park from May through October, 9am to 1pm. The market offers only California-grown products sold directly to consumers by the farmers that grew, nurtured and harvested the crops

Every Holiday season, the Parkway Estates, a group of high-income houses built decades ago, decorate their houses with Christmas lights and Yard decorations. This display is always open to the public and sees hundreds of visitors every holiday season. It is one of the well-known holiday attractions during the season. A smaller, littler-known area that does this too is Lilac Lane, which does not draw as much attention.

Bertolucci's is the name of a local Italian Restaurant that has also been around almost since the birth of the city. It is a widely, internationally known restaurant that thrived during the 60s/70s. It is located in close proximity to downtown South San Francisco and is easily seen from highway 101.

South San Francisco has one bowling alley known as Brentwood Bowl due to its proximity to the Brentwood Neighborhood on El Camino Real. The city is also home to the private California Golf & Country Club, next to its public library and bounded by Ponderosa Road.

South San Francisco has many walkways and bike trails that run adjacent to the San Francisco Bay, from where runners are able to view San Francisco International Airport operations. South San Francisco is home to many hotels as well, since it is the closest city to San Francisco that is actually directly next to SFO.


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Headquarters of See's Candies on El Camino Real, South San Francisco

Much of what is now South San Francisco was initially agricultural land, and was originally known as Baden. Small pockets of farmland still exist near San Bruno Mountain, but these lands are disappearing quickly because of the demand for housing and retail development. Acres of Orchids, founded by the Rod McLellan Company in the late 1920s, was one such victim of housing development. Once one of the largest facilities in the United States producing orchids and gardenias, the nursery closed in 1998.[13] A new housing tract now sits upon the land formerly occupied by Acres of Orchids greenhouses, off El Camino near Hickey.

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A Genentech-sponsored sign declaring South San Francisco to be the "Birthplace of Biotechnology."

The flat land east of Bayshore Freeway (US 101) is the R&D Campus of South San Francisco and carries on the tradition of the moniker on Sign Hill, "The Industrial City." South San Francisco's office parks and industrial zoning are favorable to meet needs of industry, and the property taxes levied from the extensive industrial park provide revenues for the city.[citation needed] South San Francisco is home to one Fortune 500 company, food wholesaler Core-Mark.

South San Francisco is home to Genentech, one of the world's largest biotech companies, as well as a satellite office of Amgen, the world's largest biotech firm. Many other biotech companies, such as Exelixis, have also started or moved to South San Francisco to be in proximity to the UCSF, Stanford University, and UC Berkeley; all are within a one hour's drive. A Genentech-sponsored sign declares South San Francisco as the "Birthplace of Biotechnology."[14]

The headquarters and factory of See's Candies is located in South San Francisco.[15] Air China operates an office in South San Francisco.[16]

Galoob had its headquarters in South San Francisco before Hasbro bought the company in 1998.[17] Hudson Soft USA, a subsidiary of Hudson Soft, and Sanrio, Inc., had its headquarters in South San Francisco.[18]

Top employers

According to the City's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[19] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Genentech 8,556
2 Costco 488
3 Amgen 481
4 Royal Laundry 305
5 Bimbo Bakeries USA 304
6 Janssen 206
7 Onyx Pharmaceuticals 200
8 Guckenheimer 200
9 Columbus Salame 191
10 Matagrano 185


South San Francisco is located at 37°39′22″N 122°25′32″W / 37.65611°N 122.42556°W / 37.65611; -122.42556 (37.655983, -122.425525)[20].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 30.2 square miles (78 km2), of which, 9.1 square miles (24 km2) of it is land and 21.0 square miles (54 km2) of it (69.69%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 1,989
1920 4,411 121.8%
1930 6,193 40.4%
1940 6,629 7.0%
1950 19,351 191.9%
1960 39,418 103.7%
1970 46,646 18.3%
1980 49,393 5.9%
1990 54,312 10.0%
2000 60,552 11.5%
2010 63,632 5.1%
Est. 2011 64,409 1.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[21]
2011 Estimate[22]


As of the census of 2000, there were 60,552 people, 20,118 households, and 15,431 families residing in the city. The population density was 7,712.8 people per square mile (3,591.9/km²). There were 20,870 housing units at an average density of 3,232.5 per square mile (962.0/km²).

There were 20,118 households out of which 39.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.8% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.5% were non-families. 21.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.05 and the average family size was 4.51.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.2% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 33.0% from 25 to 44, 22.0% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 99.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $60,764, and the median income for a family was $65,598. Males had a median income of $41,742 versus $35,453 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,562. About 5.5% of families and 6.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.1% of those under age 18 and 5.7% of those age 65 or over.

South San Francisco is a middle class and working class city. However, that image is quickly changing as many luxury homes have been built, particularly at the foot of the mountain that divides Brisbane and South San Francisco, in the area in recent years to take advantage of the city's close proximity to downtown San Francisco, the bio-tech industry, and the peninsula. There are also developments of luxury condominiums in the Westborough district and on El Camino Real near the South San Francisco BART station.

The most commonly spoken language at home was English 43.13%, followed by Spanish 28.36%, Tagalog 11.48%, Chinese 3.4%, Hindi 1.5%, Arabic 1.59%, Cantonese 1.53%, Italian 1.47%, Vietnamese 0.67%, Russian 0.56%, Korean and Japanese 0.6% respectively, other languages were spoken by less than half of one percent of the population.[23]


The 2010 United States Census[24] reported that South San Francisco had a population of 63,632. The population density was 2,109.9 people per square mile (814.7/km²). The racial makeup of South San Francisco was 23,760 (37.3%) White, 1,625 (2.6%) African American, 395 (0.6%) Native American, 23,293 (36.6%) Asian, 1,111 (1.7%) Pacific Islander, 9,598 (15.1%) from other races, and 3,850 (6.1%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 21,645 persons (34.0%). Among the Hispanic population, 13,194 (20.7%) are Mexican, 571 (0.9%) are Puerto Rican, 92 (0.1%) are Cuban, and 7,788 (12.2%) are other Hispanic or Latino.

The Census reported that 63,053 people (99.1% of the population) lived in households, 528 (0.8%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 51 (0.1%) were institutionalized.

There were 20,938 households, out of which 7,588 (36.2%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 11,165 (53.3%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 2,897 (13.8%) had a female householder with no husband present, 1,268 (6.1%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 1,083 (5.2%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 187 (0.9%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 4,299 households (20.5%) were made up of individuals and 1,857 (8.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.01. There were 15,330 families (73.2% of all households); the average family size was 3.45.

The population was spread out with 13,787 people (21.7%) under the age of 18, 5,668 people (8.9%) aged 18 to 24, 18,645 people (29.3%) aged 25 to 44, 17,203 people (27.0%) aged 45 to 64, and 8,329 people (13.1%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.1 years. For every 100 females there were 97.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.7 males.

There were 21,814 housing units at an average density of 723.3 per square mile (279.3/km²), of which 12,614 (60.2%) were owner-occupied, and 8,324 (39.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.3%; the rental vacancy rate was 4.0%. 37,802 people (59.4% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 25,251 people (39.7%) lived in rental housing units.

Demographic profile[25] 2010
Total Population 63,632 - 100.0%
One Race 59,782 - 93.9%
Not Hispanic or Latino 41,987 - 66.0%
White alone 14,016 - 22.0%
Black or African American alone 1,480 - 2.3%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone 138 - 0.2%
Asian alone 22,923 - 36.0%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone 1,054 - 1.7%
Some other race alone 287 - 0.5%
Two or more races alone 2,089 - 3.3%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 21,645 - 34.0%


In the state legislature, South San Francisco is in the 13th Senate District, represented by Democrat Jerry Hill, and in the 22nd Assembly District, represented by Democrat Kevin Mullin.

Federally, South San Francisco is in California's 14th congressional district, represented by Democrat Jackie Speier.[26]

Sister Cities[27]


External links