South San Francisco lies north of San Bruno and San Francisco International Airport in a small valley south of Daly City, Brisbane and the San Bruno Mountain, east of Pacifica and the hills of the Coast Range, and west of the waters of San Francisco Bay. Most of the valley faces San Francisco Bay, affording sweeping vistas from higher levels and a definite sense of identification with the Bay.
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.
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.
Sign Hill proclaims the moniker "The Industrial City", which applies mainly to the flat land east of the Bayshore Freeway (US 101). Locals prefer to 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.
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, opened in 2003, provides access to light rail service to SFO and to San Francisco and the East Bay, supplementing the older Caltrain service to San Francisco and San Jose.
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. 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.
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 bland industrial complexes interspersed with futuristic 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 for decades. 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 Middle School respectively. The East Side has lately had problems with rising gang activity and has been a priority for the city council.
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 has huge letters on its mountainside which read: "SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO THE INDUSTRIAL CITY". The letters are made of concrete and sit flush with the hillside (in contrast to the raised steel letters of the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles). A discontinued tradition involved painting the "c"s on the sign blue and the "s"s red in significance of the annual "Big Game" played by Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. However, a new tradition has replaced it. Every year South San Francisco High School plays their rival El Camino High School (South San Francisco) (both schools are located in South San Francisco) in the "Bell Game," the last game of the regular season for both teams. It is said that students from South City paint the "SC" in blue before the start of the Bell Game. On the 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.
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 and an indoor swimming pool. 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 unimproved land on top of the tube. Eventually planned to run from Colma to Millbrae, South San Francisco's portion will be 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 the Plaza of the South San Francisco BART Station from May through October, 10am to 2pm. 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.
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. A new housing tract now sits upon the land formerly occupied by Acres of Orchids greenhouses, off El Camino near Hickey.
Further south on El Camino, we find the headquarters of See's Candies at 210 El Camino Real, South San Francisco, CA 94080.
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.
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 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".
Given the adjacent SFO, it is not surprising that the top employer of SSF residents is United Airlines, followed by Genentech. Air China operates an office in Suite 318 at 400 Oyster Point Boulevard in South San Francisco.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.7 square miles (77.0 km²), of which, 9.0 square miles (23.4 km²) of it is land and 20.7 square miles (53.7 km²) of it (69.67%) is water.
As of the census of 2008, there were 62,502 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/sq mi (962.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 22.5% White, 27.92% Asian, 3.1% African American, 4.4% Pacific Islander, 0.60% Native American, 19.1% from other races, and 8.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 34.80% of the population.
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, bio-tech industry, and the peninsula.
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.
In the state legislature South San Francisco is located in the 8th Senate District, represented by Democrat Leland Yee, and in the 19th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Jerry Hill. Federally, South San Francisco is located in California's 12th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +22 and is currently held by Democrat Jackie Speier.