San Francisco, California – September 23rd, 2008
The City and County of San Francisco is the fourth most populous city in California and the 14th most populous city in the United States, with a 2007 estimated population of 764,976. Among the most densely populated cities in the country, San Francisco is part of the San Francisco Bay Area metropolitan area, which is home to more than 7.2 million people. The city is located at the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean to the west, San Francisco Bay to the east, and the Golden Gate to the north.
In 1776, the Spanish settled the tip of the peninsula, establishing a fort at the Golden Gate and a mission named for Francis of Assisi. The California Gold Rush in 1848 propelled the city into a period of rapid growth, transforming it into the largest city on the West Coast at the time. After being devastated by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later. During World War II, San Francisco was the send-off point for many soldiers to the Pacific Theater. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, and other factors gave rise to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a liberal bastion in the United States.
San Francisco is located on the West Coast of the U.S. at the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula and includes significant stretches of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay within its boundaries. Several islands are part of the city, notably Alcatraz, Treasure Island, and the adjacent Yerba Buena Island, together with small portions of Alameda Island, Angel Island, and Red Rock Island. Also included are the uninhabited Farallon Islands, 27 miles (43 km) offshore in the Pacific Ocean. The mainland within the city limits roughly forms a “seven-by-seven-mile square,” a common local colloquialism referring to the city’s shape.
San Francisco is famous for its hills. There are more than 50 hills within city limits. Some neighborhoods are named after the hill on which they are situated, including Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, Potrero Hill, and Telegraph Hill.
Near the geographic center of the city, southwest of the downtown area, are a series of less densely populated hills. Dominating this area is Mount Sutro, the site of Sutro Tower, a large red and white radio and television transmission tower. Nearby is Twin Peaks, a pair of hills resting at one of the city’s highest points and a popular overlook spot for tour groups. San Francisco’s tallest hill, Mount Davidson, is 925 feet (282 m) high and is capped with a 103 foot (31 m) tall cross built in 1934.
The San Andreas and Hayward Faults are responsible for much earthquake activity, even though neither passes through the city itself. It was the San Andreas Fault which slipped and caused the earthquakes in 1906 and 1989. Minor earthquakes occur on a regular basis. The threat of major earthquakes plays a large role in the city’s infrastructure development. The city has repeatedly upgraded its building codes, requiring retrofits for older buildings and higher engineering standards for new construction. However, there are still thousands of smaller buildings that remain vulnerable to quake damage.
San Francisco’s shoreline has grown beyond its natural limits. Entire neighborhoods such as the Marina and Hunters Point, as well as large sections of the Embarcadero, sit on areas of landfill. Treasure Island was constructed from material dredged from the bay as well as material resulting from tunneling through Yerba Buena Island during the construction of the Bay Bridge. Such land tends to be unstable during earthquakes; the resultant liquefaction causes extensive damage to property built upon it, as was evidenced in the Marina district during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.