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San Francisco Bay Area
Map of San Francisco Bay Area or Bay Area (not as defined by the Association of Bay Area Governments)

Common name: San Francisco Bay Area or Bay Area
(not as defined by the Association of Bay Area Governments)
Largest city  - San Jose
Other cities  - San Francisco

 - Oakland
 - Fremont
 - Redwood City
 - Concord
 - San Rafael
 - Vallejo
 - Santa Rosa
 - Napa
 - Santa Cruz
 - Hollister

Population  Ranked 6th in the U.S.
 - Total CSA: 7,354,555[1]

MSA: 4,274,531 [2]

 - Density 840/sq. mi. 
Area 8,757 sq. mi.
22,681 km²
State(s)  California
 - Highest point San Benito Mountain
5,241 feet (1,597 m)
 - Lowest point Sea level
0 feet (0 m)
Location of the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland CSA and its component metropolitan areas:      San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont      San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara      Santa Rosa-Petaluma      Vallejo-Fairfield      Santa Cruz-Watsonville      Napa

The San Francisco Bay Area, also commonly known as the Bay Area, is a metropolitan region that surrounds the San Francisco and San Pablo estuaries in Northern California. The region encompasses large cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, along with smaller urban and rural areas. Overall, the Bay Area consists of nine counties, 101 cities, and 7,000 square miles.[3] The nine counties are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.[3][4]

The Bay Area when defined as a Combined Statistical Area, is the sixth largest in the country, with approximately 7.4 million people.[5] It encompasses the metropolitan areas of San Francisco (13th largest in the country) and San Jose (31st largest in the country), as well as four other smaller surrounding metropolitan areas. The Bay Area hosts many cities, towns, military bases, airports, and associated regional, state, and national parks, connected by a massive network of roads, highways, railroads, bridges, tunnels and commuter rail. The combined urban area of San Francisco and San Jose is the 46th largest urban area in the world.

San Francisco is the cultural and financial center of the Bay Area, and has the second highest population density of any major city in North America after New York City. San Jose is the largest city in terms of population, land area, and industrial development, and is the center of Silicon Valley, a well-known high technology region. Oakland is a major manufacturing and distribution center, rail terminus/hub, and has the fourth largest container shipping port in the United States. The Bay Area is renowned for its natural beauty, liberal politics, affluence, diversity, and new age reputation.[6][7]



East Bay

Looking west from the Berkeley Hills. Visible clockwise around the bay from the distant Golden Gate (upper center) are Marin County (Upper Right). Albany (Lower Right), Berkeley (Center and foreground), Emeryville (Lower Left), Oakland (Far Lower Left), South San Francisco (Far Upper Left) and San Francisco (Upper Left)

The eastern side of the bay, consisting of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, is known locally as the East Bay. The East Bay is split into two regions, the inner East Bay, which sits on the Bay shoreline, and the outer East Bay, consisting of inland valleys separated from the inner East Bay by hills and mountains.

  • The inner East Bay includes the western portions of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, including the cities of Oakland, Hayward, Fremont, Berkeley, and Richmond, as well as many smaller suburbs such as Alameda, Castro Valley, Newark, Union City, Emeryville, Albany, San Leandro, San Pablo, El Sobrante, Pinole, Hercules, Rodeo, Piedmont, and El Cerrito. The inner East Bay is more urban, more densely populated, has a much older building stock (built before World War II) and a more ethnically diverse population. Oakland hosts the region's largest seaport and professional sports franchises in basketball, football, and baseball. As with many inner urban areas, the Inner East Bay also features a high incidence of crime as well as other socio-economic problems. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, more than 50% of all homicides in the Bay Area in 2002 occurred within the city limits of Oakland and Richmond. The homicide rates have steadily increased, as 2005 had the highest homicide rates for both Richmond and Oakland in many years.
  • The outer East Bay consists of the eastern portions of Alameda and Contra Costa counties and is divided into 5 distinct areas: Lamorinda, Central Contra Costa County, East Contra Costa County, the San Ramon Valley, and the Livermore-Amador Valley. The word Lamorinda was coined by combining the names of the cities it includes: Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda. Walnut Creek is situated east of Lamorinda and north of the San Ramon Valley and, together with Concord, Martinez, and Pleasant Hill comprises Central Contra Costa County. The cities of Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley and the unincorporated areas surrounding them comprise East Contra Costa County. The cities of Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore, comprise the Livermore-Amador Valley (sometimes joined with the San Ramon Valley and called the Tri-Valley), or more popularly referred to as the Livermore Valley because Livermore is the largest city in the valley. The San Ramon Valley consists of Alamo, Danville, Diablo and its namesake, San Ramon to the south. The outer East Bay is connected to the inner East Bay by BART, Interstates 80, 580, and 680, and State Route 24 via the Caldecott Tunnel. The outer East Bay is particularly rural in Livermore[citation needed], while being part suburban in Pleasanton-Dublin, and its infrastructure was mostly built up after World War II. This area remains largely white demographically, although the Hispanic and Filipino populations have grown significantly over the past 2-3 decades, particularly in the Concord area.

North Bay

Napa Valley is most famous for its wine.

The region north of the Golden Gate Bridge is known locally as the North Bay. This area encompasses Marin County, Sonoma County, Napa County and extends eastward into Solano County. The city of Fairfield, being part of Solano County, is often considered the eastern most city of the North Bay, though due to a stronger cultural and socioeconomic similarity to many East Bay cities, it is also often considered the northern most city of the East Bay.

With few exceptions, this region is quite affluent: Marin County is ranked as the wealthiest in the nation. The North Bay is comparatively rural to the remainder of the Bay Area, with many areas of undeveloped open space, farmland and vineyards. Santa Rosa in Sonoma County is the North Bay's largest city, with a population of 157,985 and a Metropolitan Statistical Area population of 466,891, making it the fifth largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The North Bay is the only section of the Bay Area that is not currently served by a commuter rail service. The lack of transportation services is mainly because of the lack of population mass in the North Bay, and the fact that it is separated completely from the rest of the Bay Area by water, the only access points being the Golden Gate Bridge leading to San Francisco, the Richmond-San Rafael and Carquinez Bridges leading to Richmond, and the Benicia-Martinez Bridge leading to Martinez.


View of Colma, California, looking down from San Bruno Mountain

The area between San Francisco and the South Bay, geographically part of the San Francisco Peninsula, is known locally as the Peninsula. This area consists of a series of small cities and suburban communities in San Mateo County and the northwestern part of Santa Clara County, as well as various towns along the Pacific coast, such as Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. This area is extremely diverse, although it contains significant populations of affluent family households with the exception of East Palo Alto and some parts of Redwood City. Many of the cities and towns had originally been centers of rural life until the post-World War II era when large numbers of middle and upper class Bay area residents moved in and developed the small villages. Since the 1980s the area has seen a large growth rate of middle and upper class families who have settled in cities like Palo Alto, Woodside, Portola Valley, and Atherton as part of the technology boom of Silicon Valley. Many of these families are of foreign background and have significantly contributed to the diversity of the area. The Peninsula is also home to what used to be one of the deadliest cities in the United States, East Palo Alto. Peninsula cities include: Atherton, Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Colma, Daly City, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City, Redwood Shores, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo, South San Francisco and Woodside.

San Francisco

San Francisco panorama from Alcatraz.

San Francisco is generally placed in a category by itself in terms of culture and geography, and is known locally as "The City." San Francisco is surrounded by water on three sides; the north, east, and west. It is the cultural and urban center of the region. The city is the population center of the region, as it squeezes approximately 840,000 people in only 47 square miles, making it the second most densely populated major city in the United States after New York City. The limitations of land area makes continued population growth challenging, and has resulted in increased real estate prices. San Francisco has the largest commuter population of any city in the Bay Area.

Santa Cruz and San Benito

The regional governments in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Association of Bay Area Governments, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board include only the nine counties above in their boundaries or membership. (The BAAQMD includes all of the nine counties except the northern portions of Sonoma and Solano; the RWQCB includes all of San Francisco and the portions of the other eight counties that drain to San Francisco Bay or to the Pacific Ocean.)[8] However, the United States Census Bureau defines the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland Consolidated Statistical Area as an eleven-county region, including the nine counties above plus Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties. Meanwhile, the California State Parks Department defines the Bay Area as including ten counties,[9] including Santa Cruz but excluding San Benito. On the other hand, Santa Cruz and San Benito along with Monterey County are part of a different regional government organization called the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments.

Some residents of the Santa Cruz Mountains (Boulder Creek, Brookdale, Ben Lomond, Felton, Scotts Valley) do not usually consider themselves to be residents of the Bay Area, rather just of the Santa Cruz Mountains themselves. The Santa Cruz Mountains run along the spine of the San Francisco Peninsula, beginning in San Francisco and continuing down to their terminus near the City of Gilroy, effectively creating the Santa Clara Valley.

The city of Santa Cruz is geographically isolated from the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, and is usually considered a part of the Monterey Bay area since the city lies on the north end of the Monterey Bay. The city is also sometimes regarded as the northernmost point of the California Central Coast, which extends along the state's coastline to Santa Barbara.

This partial inclusion of these two counties in the Bay Area is one manifestation of a "spillover" where, because of high housing prices in the Bay Area proper, people with Bay Area jobs purchase homes in outlying areas and endure long commutes. This blurs the outer borders of the Bay Area, which now can be said to spillover not only to the south (Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey counties) but to the Central Valley counties of Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Yolo.

Silicon Valley

Looking west over northern San Jose (downtown is at far left) and other parts of Silicon Valley

The communities along the southern edge of the Bay are known as the South Bay, Santa Clara Valley, and Silicon Valley. Some Peninsula and East Bay towns are sometimes included in the latter. It includes the major city of San Jose, and its suburbs, including the high-tech hubs of Santa Clara, Milpitas, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Mountain View as well as many other suburbs like Los Altos, Saratoga, Campbell and Los Gatos and the exurbs of Morgan Hill and Gilroy. Generally, the South Bay is Santa Clara County, but the northwest portion of the county (Palo Alto and Mountain View) is often considered part of the Peninsula instead. Home of Silicon Valley, the South Bay was also an early development of working and middle class families who left the coastal cities of the Eastern Bay south of Oakland and Alameda. Large numbers of families during the post-World War era also moved there for the aerospace industry. This area has long been developed and expanded and is often featured as a stereotype of the typical California suburban city. Today, the growth continues, primarily fueled by technology and cheap immigrant workers. The result has been a huge increase in the value of property forcing many middle class families out of the area or into nascent ghettos in older sections of the region.

Befitting of the title Silicon Valley, this region is home to a vast number of technology sector giants. Some notable tech companies headquartered in the South Bay are AMD, Intel, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Google, eBay, and Yahoo!. As a consequence of the rapid growth of these and other companies, the South Bay has gained increasing political and economic influence within California, the U.S., and throughout the world.

San Jose, the tenth largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the Bay Area, is the financial and cultural center of the Santa Clara Valley. It contains many neighborhoods and a large and diverse demographic comparable to San Francisco. San Jose prides itself on being an environmentally conscious city. It is also home to the NHL hockey team the San Jose Sharks. The height of buildings in the Financial District of Downtown is limited because it is situated directly under the flight path to San Jose International Airport. The benefit is, that the airport is quickly and easily accessible from anywhere in Silicon Valley. Over the past several decades, San Jose has experienced rapid growth. To limit the effects of urban sprawl, planned communities were laid out to control growth. San Jose continues to be one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1900 658,111
1910 925,708 40.7%
1920 1,182,911 27.8%
1930 1,578,009 33.4%
1940 1,734,308 9.9%
1950 2,681,322 54.6%
1960 3,638,939 35.7%
1970 4,628,199 27.2%
1980 5,179,784 11.9%
1990 6,023,577 16.3%
2000 6,783,760 12.6%
Est. 2008 7,354,555 8.4%

According to the 2007 American Community Survey, the Bay Area's population was 6.958 million, up from 6.784 million in 2000. In 2000 the racial makeup of the 9 County Bay Area was 58.10% white, 19.01% Asian, 0.54% Pacific Islander, 7.53% black, 0.64% Native American, 9.24% from other races, and 4.93% from two or more races. 19.39% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race. 27.36% of the population was foreign born; of this, 51.31% from Asia, 32.46% came from Latin America, 11.39% from Europe, 4.84% from other parts of the world.

In 2007 the population density was 1,057 people per square mile. There were 2,499,702 housing units with an average family size of 3.3. Of the 2,499,702 households, approximately one-third were renter occupied housing units, while two-thirds were owner occupied housing units. 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 11.6% of households had someone 65 years of age or older, and 27.4% of households were non-families.[10]

Among the 114 Combined Statistical Areas in the United States, San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland has the second highest educational-attainment in both bachelor’s and master's degree attainment, and the second highest median household income after Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia.[11][12]

Political views

The Bay Area is renowned as being among the most liberal areas in the country. According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index (CPVI), congressional districts the Bay Area tends to favor Democratic candidates by roughly 40 to 50 percentage points, considerably above the mean for California and the nation overall. All congressional districts in the region voted for Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain in the 2008 Presidential Election. Over the last four and a half decades the 9-county Bay Area voted for Republican candidates only twice, once in 1972 for Richard Nixon and again in 1980 for Ronald Reagan, both Californians. The last counties to vote for a Republican Presidential candidate was Napa county and San Benito in 1988 for George H. W. Bush.

Presidential election results
Year Democrat Republican
2008 73.8% 2,172,411 24.4% 717,989
2004 69.2% 1,926,726 29.3% 815,225
2000 64.1% 1,607,695 30.0% 751,832
1996 60.5% 1,417,511 28.3% 662,263
1992 56.2% 1,476,971 25.0% 658,202
1988 57.8% 1,338,533 40.8% 945,802
1984 50.8% 1,157,855 47.9% 1,090,115
1980 40.7% 827,309 44.4% 904,100
1976 49.9% 950,055 45.8% 872,920
1972 48.2% 990,560 49.1 1,007,615
1968 50.8% 890,650 41.3% 725,304
1964 65.7% 1,116,215 34.1% 579,528
1960 52.0% 820,860 47.6% 751,719
District Location Cook PVI % for Obama, 2008[13] Median Household Income[14] Per Capita Income[14]
&066th district Marin County and southern Sonoma County D +23 76.0% $59,115 $33,036
&077th district Richmond, Vallejo, Vacaville, and Pittsburg D +19 71.7% $52,778 $22,016
&088th district City and County of San Francisco D +35 85.4% $52,322 $34,552
&099th district Oakland, Berkeley and the Oakland hills D +37 88.1% $44,314 $25,201
&1010th district Fairfield, Livermore, Pleasant Hill, and Concord D +11 64.9% $65,245 $31,093
&1111th district Parts of Contra Costa, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties including Morgan Hill, Pleasanton, and San Ramon R +01 53.8% $61,996 $28,420
&1212th district San Francisco Peninsula including most of San Mateo County D +23 74.3% $70,307 $34,448
&1313th district Much of the East Bay, including Fremont, Union City and Hayward D +22 74.4% $62,415 $26,076
&1414th district Silicon Valley, including Redwood City, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Santa Cruz D +21 73.0% $77,985 $43,063
&1515th district City of San Jose (western areas) D +15 68.4% $74,947 $32,617
&1616th district San Jose, Morgan Hill D +16 69.6% $67,689 $25,064
Median Districts: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th D +21.5 73% $65,052 $32,826


The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the wealthiest regions in the U.S, due to the economies of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. The Bay Area has approximately 123,621 millionaire households.[15] Among medium-sized cities, Pleasanton has the highest household income in the country, and Livermore the third highest. However, disposable income is very comparable with the rest of the country, primarily because the higher cost of living offsets the increased income.[16]

While only 26% of households nationwide boast incomes of over $75,000 a year, 48% of households in the San Francisco Bay Area enjoy such incomes.[17] The percentage of households with incomes exceeding the $100,000 mark in the Bay Area was double the nationwide percentage. Roughly one third (31%) of households in the San Francisco Bay Area had a six figure income, versus less than 16% at the nationwide level.[18] In June 2003, a study by Stanford University reviewing US Census Bureau statistics determined the median household income in the San Francisco Bay Area to be roughly 60% above national average.[17] Overall the largest income bracket in the Bay Area were households making between $100,000 and $150,000 annually, who constituted roughly 18% of households.[17] On a national level the largest income bracket were households with incomes between $30,000 and $40,000 who constituted 13% of all households nationwide.[18]

This graph compares the income distribution among Bay Area households to the national level.[17][18]

Six of the top ten California places with the highest per capita income are in the San Francisco Bay Area (Belvedere, Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley, Diablo). Of the 100 highest income counties by per capita income in the United States, six are in the San Francisco Bay Area (Marin, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Alameda). According to Forbes Magazine, published in 2005, 12 of the top 50 most expensive Zip Codes are in the Bay Area (Atherton, Ross, Diablo, Belvedere-Tiburon, Nicasio, Portola Valley, Los Altos-Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos-Monte Sereno, the Cow Hollow-Marina District of San Francisco, Alamo, and Burlingame-Hillsborough).[19]

Forty-seven San Francisco Bay Area residents made the Forbes magazine's 400 richest Americans list, published in 2007.[20] Thirteen live within San Francisco proper, placing it seventh among cities in the world. Among the forty-two were several well-known names such as Steve Jobs, George Lucas, and Charles Schwab. The highest-ranking resident is Larry Ellison of Oracle at No. 4. He is worth $19.5 billion. Additionally, a Forbes Magazine survey of the super wealthy concluded that the San Francisco Bay Area had the highest concentration of the super wealthy relative to other locations such as New York City and Dallas. "America's Greediest Cities".  (Forbes Magazine, 12/03/07)

A study by Claritas indicates that in 2004, 5% of all households within the San Francisco and San Jose metropolitan areas held $1 million in investable assets.[21]

As of 2007, there were approximately 80 public companies with annual revenues of over $1 billion a year, and 5-10 more private companies. Nearly 2/3 of these are in the Silicon Valley section of the Bay Area. According to the May 2009 Fortune Magazine analysis of the US "Fortune 500" companies, the combined San Francisco-San Jose metropolitan region ranks second nationally (along with metro Chicago and Houston) with 29 companies. (May 4, Fortune Magazine) Additionally, when the combined total revenue of the Fortune 500 list companies is considered, the San Francisco-San Jose region again ranks second nationally after New York with $884 billion. (May 4, Fortune Magazine)

Living expenses

Although most working-class households in the United States earn between $20,000–$30,000 a year,[citation needed] working-class households in the Bay Area earn up to $50,000[citation needed] a year performing the same jobs (such as in the service industry), an income which would be considered middle-class in other parts of the country. Nevertheless, because of extremely expensive housing costs, disposable income of working-class Bay Area households is only equivalent to no more than the amount of disposable income in other parts of the country because the rest of the income increase goes to pay for an increased cost of living. Therefore, although the great majority of the population is much more affluent[citation needed] (without taking into account the increased costs of living) compared to the rest of the country, the disposable income is nearly identical, while the some of the value obtained for that portion is significantly smaller due to higher prices for theaters, dining, etc.[citation needed] This enables low cost goods shops, such as variety stores, to maintain a presence in the Bay Area.[citation needed]


Rain is rare in the Bay Area during the summer months. As a result, the surrounding hills quickly become dry and golden-hued in grassy areas.
Mission Peak (L), Mount Allison (C) and Monument Peak (R) after a deep snowfall in March of 2006.
Skyline Boulevard stretches through the Santa Cruz Mountains, here near Palo Alto, California. During winter and spring, the hills surrounding the Bay Area are lush and green.
Mt. Hamilton had a foot of snow on the ground on April 1, 1967 (Robert E. Nylund)

Because the hills, mountains, and large bodies of water produce such vast geographic diversity within this region, the Bay Area offers a significant variety of microclimates. The areas near the Pacific Ocean are generally characterized by relatively small temperature variations during the year, with cool foggy summers and mild rainy winters. Inland areas, especially those separated from the ocean by hills or mountains, have hotter summers and colder overnight temperatures during the winter. Few residential areas ever experience snow, but peaks over 2,000 feet (610 m) (including Mount St. Helena, Mount Hamilton, Mission Peak, Mount Diablo, and Mount Tamalpais) occasionally receive snow. San Jose at the south end of the Bay averages fewer than 15 inches (380 mm) of rain annually, while Napa at the north end of the Bay averages over 30 and parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains just a few miles west of San Jose get over 55. In the summer, inland regions can be over 40 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) warmer than the coast. This large temperature contrast induces a strong pressure gradient, which results in brisk coastal winds which help keep the coastal climate cool and typically, foggy during the summer. Additionally, strong winds are produced through gaps in the coastal ranges such as the Golden Gate, the Carquinez Strait, and the Altamont Pass, the latter the site of extensive wind farms. During the fall and winter seasons, when not stormy, a high pressure area is usually present inland, leading to an offshore flow. While negatively impacting air quality, this also clears fog away from the Pacific shore, and so the best weather in San Francisco can usually be found from mid September through mid October. Winter storms are typically wet and mild in temperature during this time of year, being caused by cold fronts sweeping the eastern Pacific and originating from low pressure systems in the Gulf of Alaska. During November into mid March, winter storms are usually several days in length, wet and cool, with severely damaging storms rare. Occasionally during the Summer, spells of warm humid weather will drift over the Bay Area from the Southwest Monsoon or from the residue of Western Pacific hurricanes near Mexico, usually bringing high variable clouds as well, and more rarely, high-based thunderstorms.

"The California Fur Rush"

Yearling Beaver in Alhambra Creek, downtown Martinez

Before 1825, Spanish, French, English, Russians and Americans were drawn to the Bay Area to harvest prodigious quantities of beaver (Castor canadensis), river otter, marten, fisher, mink, fox, weasel, harbor and fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) and sea otter ((Enhydra lutris)). It was California's early fur trade, more than any other single factor, that opened up the West, and the San Francisco Bay Area in particular, to world trade.[22] The Russian-American Company's Ivan Kuskov sailed into Bodega Bay in 1809 on the Kodiak and returned to Novo Arkhangelsk, Alaska, with beaver skins and 1,160 sea otter pelts. [23] By 1817 sea otter in the area were practically eliminated.[24] The Russians maintained a sealing station in the Farallon Islands from 1812 to 1840, taking 1,200 to 1,500 fur seals annually, though American ships had already exploited the islands.[25] By 1818 the seals diminished rapidly until only about 500 could be taken annually and within the next few years, the fur seal was extirpated from the islands until they began to recolonize the islands in 1996.[26]

As the oceanic fur industry began to decline, the focus shifted to California's inland fur resources.[22] The founding of permanent British and American Settlements on the Pacific Coast, took place as part of this inland, rather than coastal fur trade.[27] After merging with the North West Company in 1821, the British-owned Hudson's Bay Company sent parties out annually from Fort Astoria and Fort Vancouver into the Sacramento and the San Joaquin valleys as far south as French Camp on the San Joaquin River, with the goal of denuding the lands of modern day Oregon and California of all fur bearers, so that the Americans would "have no inducement to proceed thither".[28]

California Golden Beaver family on upper Los Gatos Creek

Although twentieth century naturalists were skeptical that beaver were historically extant in coastal streams or the Bay itself,[29] earlier records show that the California Golden beaver (Castor canadensis ssp. subauratus) was one of the most valued of the animals taken, and apparently was found in great abundance.[22] Thomas McKay reported that in one year the Hudson's Bay Company took 4,000 beaver skins on the shores of San Francisco Bay. At the time, these pelts sold for $2.50 a pound or about $4 each. Historical evidence of Bay Area beaver includes reference by Captain John Sutter who around 1840 recorded that 1,500 beaver pelts were sold "at a trifling value" by the Indians to Mission San José, the latter only 25 miles from the town of Los Gatos.[30] In addition, in 1828 fur trapper Michel La Framboise travelled from the Bonaventura River to San Francisco and then the missions of San José, San Francisco Solano and San Rafael Arcángel. La Framboise stated that "the Bay of San Francisco abounds in beaver", and that he "made his best hunt in the vicinity of the missions".[31] Beaver in the Bay Area were likely wiped out by the mid-nineteenth century.

Beaver have recolonized Kirker Creek in the Dow Wetlands of Pittsburgh, Fairfield Creek in Cordelia, Alhambra Creek in Martinez, Southampton Creek in Benicia State Recreation Area, the Napa Sonoma Marsh in north San Pablo Bay, the Napa River, and Sonoma Creek. These beaver likely emigrated from the Delta which possibly once sustained the densest beaver populations in North America. In 1840, explorer Captain Thomas Farnham wrote that beaver were very numerous near the mouths of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and on the hundreds of small "rushcovered" islands. Farnham, who had travelled extensively in North America, said: "There is probably no spot of equal extent in the whole continent of America which contains so many of these muchsought animals."[32] In addition, beaver were re-introduced in the 1930's in Pescadero Creek and sometime before 1993 in Los Gatos Creek where they continue to thrive.


San Francisco Bay ca. 1770-1820

Despite its urban and industrial character, San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta remain perhaps California's most important ecological habitats. California's Dungeness crab, Pacific halibut, and Pacific salmon fisheries rely on the bay as a nursery. The few remaining salt marshes now represent most of California's remaining salt marsh, supporting a number of endangered species and providing key ecosystem services such as filtering pollutants and sediments from the rivers. Most famously, the bay is a key link in the Pacific Flyway. Millions of waterfowl annually use the bay shallows as a refuge. Two endangered species of birds are found here: the California least tern and the California clapper rail. Exposed bay muds provide important feeding areas for shorebirds, but underlying layers of bay mud pose geological hazards for structures near many parts of the bay perimeter. San Francisco Bay provided the nation's first wildlife refuge, Oakland's artificial Lake Merritt (constructed in the 1860s) and America's first urban National Wildlife Refuge, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (SFBNWR) (1972). The Bay is also invaded by non-native species.

Steelhead trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss) populations in California have dramatically declined due to human and natural causes. The Central California Coast distinct population segment (DPS) was listed as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act on August 18, 1997; threatened status was reaffirmed on January 5, 2006. This DPS includes all naturally spawned anadromous steelhead populations below natural and manmade impassable barriers in California streams from the Russian River to Aptos Creek, and the drainages of San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun Bays.[33][34] The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has a detailed description of threats.

The Central California Coast Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) Evolutionary Significant Unit (ESU) population is the most endangered of the many troubled salmon populations on the West Coast.[35] It was listed as threatened on October 31, 1996 and later downgraded to endangered status on June 28, 2005.[36] The ESU includes all naturally spawned populations of coho salmon from Punta Gorda in northern California south to and including the San Lorenzo River in central California, as well as populations in tributaries to San Francisco Bay. The National Park Service has made major recent investments in restoring the tidal wetlands at the mouths of Lagunitas Creek and Redwood Creek including levee removal and placement of large woody debris in the creeks, which provide shelter to salmonids during heavy stream flows and flooding. Lagunitas Creek's coho population is especially important, as 80% of the ESU depends on this stream draining the north slope of Mount Tamalpais.[37] This year's coho count dropped to 64 from an average of 600 in previous years.[35]

Tellingly, much of the SFBNWR consists of salt evaporation ponds purchased or leased from Leslie Salt Company and its successor, Cargill Corporation. These salt ponds produce salt for a variety of industrial purposes, including chlorine bleach and plastics manufacture, as well as supporting dense populations of brine shrimp, and therefore serving as feeding areas for waterfowl. In 2003, California and Cargill entered one of the largest private land purchases in American history, with the state and federal governments paying about $200 million for 16,000 acres (65 km²) of salt ponds in the south bay. SFBNWR and state biologists hope to restore some of the recently purchased ponds as tidal wetlands.

The seasonal range of water temperature in the Bay is from about 8 °C (46 °F) to about 23 °C (73 °F).

Humphrey the Whale, a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), entered San Francisco Bay twice on errant migrations, and was successfully rescued and redirected each time in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This occurred again with Dawn and Delta a mother and calf in 2007.

Industrial, mining, and other uses of mercury have resulted in a widespread distribution in the bay, with uptake in the bay's phytoplankton and contamination of its sportfish.[38] In November 2007, a ship named Cosco Busan collided with the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge and spilled over 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel, creating the largest oil spill in the region since 1996.[39]

Geology and landforms

A portion of the Franciscan Assemblage (former seabed), one of the terrane types

Multiple terrains

The area is well known worldwide for the complexity of its landforms, the region being composed of at least six terranes (continental, seabed, or island arc fragments with distinct characteristics) pushed together over millions of years by the forces of plate tectonics. As a consequence, many types of rock and soil are found in the region. Formations include the sedimentary rocks of sandstone, limestone, and shale in uplifted seabeds, metamorphic serpentine rock, coal deposits, and igneous forms as the basalt flows and ash deposits of extinct volcanos. Pleistocene-era fossils of mammals are abundantly present in some locations.

Vertical relief

The region has considerable vertical relief in its landscapes that are not in the alluvial plains leading to the bay or in inland valleys. In combination with the extensive water regions this has forced the fragmented development of urban and suburban regions and has led to extensive building on poor soils in the limited flatland areas and considerable expense in connecting the various subregions with roads, tunnels, and bridges.

USGS satellite photo of the San Francisco Bay Area taken in 1999.

Several mountains are associated with some of the many ridge and hill structures created by compressive forces between the Pacific Plate and the North American plate. These provide spectacular views (in appropriate weather) of large portions of the Bay Area and include Marin County's Mount Tamalpais at 2,571 feet (784 m). Contra Costa County's Mount Diablo at 3,849 feet (1,173 m), Alameda County's Mission Peak at 2,517 to 2,604 feet (767 to 776 m), and Santa Clara County's Mount Hamilton at 4,213 ft (1,284 m), the latter with significant astronomical studies performed at its crowning Lick Observatory. Though Tamalpais and Mission Peak are quite lower than the others, Tamalpais has no other peaks and few hills nearby. Mission Peak is coast facing and is an interior mountain (part of the Diablo Range, all of which are interior) and therefore has excellent views of both sides.

The three major ridge structures (part of the Pacific Coast Range) which are all roughly parallel to the major faultlines:

Major waterways

Earthquake faults

Map showing some of the major faults in the Bay Area. Numerous minor faults are also capable of generating locally destructive earthquakes.

The region is also traversed by six major slip-strike fault systems with hundreds of related faults, many of which are "sister faults" of the infamous San Andreas Fault, all of which are stressed by the relative motion between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate or by compressive stresses between these plates. Significant blind thrust faults (faults with near vertical motion and no surface ruptures) are associated with portions of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the northern reaches of the Diablo Range and Mount Diablo.

Natural hazards


Map showing earthquake amplification due to soil type.

The region is particularly exposed to hazards associated with large earthquakes,[40][41] owing to a combination of factors:

  • Numerous major active faults in the region.
  • A combined thirty year probability of a major earthquake in excess of seventy percent.
  • Poorly responding native soil conditions in many places near the bay and in inland valleys, soils which amplify shaking as shown in the map to the right.
  • Large areas of filled marshlands and bay mud that are significantly urbanized, with most subject to liquefaction, becoming unable to support structures.
  • A large inventory of older buildings, many of which are expected to perform poorly in a major earthquake.
  • Extensive building in areas subject to landslide, mudslide, and in some locations directly over active fault surface rubble zones.
  • Most lowrise construction is not fireproof and water systems are likely to be extensively damaged and so large areas are subject to destruction by fire after a large earthquake.
  • The coastal location makes the region vulnerable to Pacific Ocean tsunamis.[42]

Some of these hazards are being addressed by seismic retrofitting, education in household seismic safety, and even complete replacement of major structures such as the eastern span of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge.

For an article concerning a typical fault in the region and its associated hazards see Hayward Fault Zone. For projected ground movement after selecting a locality and a generating fault see this ABAG web page


Some flooding occurs on local drainages under sustained wet conditions when the ground becomes saturated, more frequently in the North Bay area, which tends to receive substantially more rainfall than the South Bay. In one case, the Napa River drainage, floodplain developments are being purchased and removed and natural wetlands restored in the innovative Napa River Flood Project as the previous channelization of insufficient capacity around such developments was causing flooding problems upstream. Many of the local creeks have been channelized, although modern practice and some restoration work includes returning the creeks to a natural state with dry stormwater bypasses constructed to handle flooding. While quite expensive, the restoration of a natural environment is of high priority in the intensively urbanized areas of the region.

Windstorms and wildfires

Typically between late November and early March, a very strong Pacific storm can bring both substantial rainfall (saturating and weakening soil) and strong wind gusts that can cause trees to fall on power lines. Owing to the wide area involved (sometimes hundreds of miles of coast), service can be interrupted for up to several days in some more remote localities, but service is usually restored quickly in urban areas.

In the spring and fall, strong offshore winds periodically develop. These winds are an especially dangerous fire hazard in the fall when vegetation is at its driest, as exemplified historically by the 1923 Berkeley Fire and the 1991 Oakland Firestorm.

Mudslides and landslides

Some geologically unstable areas have been extensively urbanized, and can become mobile due to changes in drainage patterns and grading created for development. These are usually confined to small areas, but there have been larger problems in the Santa Cruz Mountains.


The Bay Area is served by many public transportation systems, including three international airports (SFO, OAK, SJC), six major overlapping bus transit agencies (AC Transit, Muni, SamTrans, VTA, Golden Gate Transit, County Connection), in addition to dozens of smaller ones. There are four rapid transit and regional rail systems including BART and CalTrain and two light rail systems (San Francisco Muni Metro and VTA Light-rail). There are also several regional rail lines provided by Amtrak, notable the Capitol Corridor. In addition to rail lines, there are multiple public and private ferry services (notably Golden Gate Ferry and Blue and Gold Fleet), which are being expanded by the San Francisco Bay Water Transit Authority. The regional ferry hub is San Francisco Ferry Building. AC Transit and some other agencies provide an extensive network of express "transbay" commuter buses from the suburbs to San Francisco Transbay Terminal.

The freeway and highway system is very extensive; however, many freeways are heavily congested during rush hour, especially the trans-bay bridges (Golden Gate and Bay Bridge). Furthermore there are some large gaps in the highways which run onto city streets in San Francisco, partially due to the Freeway Revolt (SF Board of Supervisors decisions made in 1959, 1964 and 1966), which prevented completion of freeways connecting the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge western terminus (Interstate 80) with the southern terminus of the Golden Gate Bridge, and U.S. 101 through San Francisco, and additionally due to the destruction of several of those very freeway structures that sparked the revolt, which were damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and subsequently removed rather than being reinforced or rebuilt.

Higher education

The region is home to many colleges and seminaries, most notably the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford University. In addition, the Bay Area is home to two of the twenty-eight Jesuit universities in the United States, Santa Clara University (founded in 1851), and University of San Francisco (1855), which also hold the distinction of being the two oldest institutions of higher learning in the state of California. Saint Mary's College of California, built in 1863 is also a private college and is administered by the Christian Brothers. In 2003, there were approximately 545,000 students enrolled in college or graduate school.[43] The San Francisco Bay Area population is near the top in the Nation for overall education level with approximately 41 percent of residents aged 25 years and over having a bachelors degree or higher. The San Francisco and San Jose PMSAs rank third and fourth in college graduates, ahead of Boston and behind only Boulder–Longmont, Co PMSA and Stamford–Norwalk, CT PMSA. Santa Cruz PMSA ranks eighth and the Oakland PMSA eleventh.[44]


University of California, Berkeley.



Stanford University.


Team Sport League Venue
San Francisco 49ers Football National Football League - National Conference Candlestick Park
Oakland Raiders Football National Football League - American Conference Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
San Francisco Giants Baseball Major League Baseball - National League AT&T Park
Oakland Athletics Baseball Major League Baseball - American League Oakland Coliseum
Golden State Warriors Basketball National Basketball Association Oracle Arena
San Jose Sharks Ice hockey National Hockey League HP Pavilion at San Jose
San Jose Wolves Football American Indoor Football League - Western Division Cow Palace & Oracle Arena
San Jose Earthquakes Soccer Major League Soccer Buck Shaw Stadium
San Francisco Nighthawks Soccer Women's Premier Soccer League Kezar Stadium
FC Gold Pride Soccer Women's Professional Soccer Pioneer Stadium
San Jose Giants Baseball Minor League Baseball - California League San Jose Municipal Stadium
NCAA Division I College Sports


Classic rock

San Francisco proper was headquarters for the hippie counterculture of the 1960s and the music scene that became associated with it. One of the area's most notable acts was The Grateful Dead, formed in 1965, who played regularly at the legendary venue The Filmore Auditorium. Other local artists in that movement included Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin; all three would be closely associated with the 1967 Summer of Love. Jimi Hendrix - although born in Seattle and later a resident of London, England - had strong connections to the movement and the metropolitan Bay area, as he lived in Berkeley for a brief time as a child and played many local venues in that decade. Creedence Clearwater Revival (of El Cerrito) would gain traction as an associated band of the anti-Vietnam war movement. Carlos Santana from San Francisco became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his Santana band which pioneered a blend of rock, salsa and jazz fusion.

Heavy metal

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the San Francisco Bay Area was home to one of the largest and most influential thrash metal scenes in the world, containing acts like Exodus, Death Angel, Vio-lence, Megadeth, Forbidden, Testament and Metallica (although Metallica had initially formed in Los Angeles, it wasn't until their relocation to El Cerrito in 1983 that Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett joined as bassist and lead guitarist, sealing the band's first, formative line-up). Many death metal bands had also formed in the area, including Possessed (considered one of the first in the genre), and in the 90's, bands Impaled, Exhumed and Vile.

Sludge and groove metal bands Machine Head, Neurosis and Skinlab formed in Oakland. In the alternative metal and nu-metal scenes worldwide, Faith No More (from San Francisco) and Primus (from El Sobrante, and featuring former Possessed guitarist Larry LaLonde) have been considered progenitors to both subgenres.[45][46]

Alternative rock

Many bands of the 1990s post-grunge era started and still reside in the Bay Area, including Third Eye Blind (of San Francisco), Counting Crows (of Berkeley) and Smash Mouth (of San Jose), all of whom have received extensive radio play across the world and released multi-platinum records during their career.


The Bay Area saw a large punk movement from the 70s to the present. Bands such as the Dead Kennedys, The Avengers, Flipper, D.R.I., M.D.C. and Operation Ivy were popular in the '70s and '80s, with later bands such as Rancid, Green Day and AFI all coming out of Berkeley. The Dwarves are residents of San Francisco, and are considered to be pioneers of the punk and hardcore movement. Singer Blag Dahlia is also a solo artist and has dabbled in other genres

Rap and hip hop

The Bay Area was the home of the hyphy movement, which started in the early to mid-'90s. The genre which was pioneered by rappers Andre "Mac Dre" Hicks, Too Short, Keak Da Sneak, Mistah Fab and E-40, is now becoming more popular throughout the world. Hyphy themes such as ghost riding, thizzin' and going dumb are now common in other parts of the country. The Bay Area is also home to rap legend Tupac Shakur who lived in Marin City, about 5 miles north of San Francisco,and even MC Hammer and the Hieroglyphics hip hop crew, which is composed of local artists including the Souls of Mischief and Del tha Funkee Homosapien. The Bay Area gave birth to the "Independent Rap Game" which means unsigned rap artist.

Regional counties, cities and suburbs

An early 20th century German map


Note: San Benito County and Santa Cruz County are sometimes considered not part of the Bay Area.

Cities and municipalities

See also


  1. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Population of Combined Statistical Areas: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  2. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau 2005 estimates for metropolitan statistical areas". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  3. ^ a b San Francisco Bay Area Vision Project
  4. ^ The Association of Bay Area Governments
  5. ^
  6. ^ "US Census Bureau, household and per capita income during the 2000 Census in metro areas". Retrieved 2007-06-01. 
  7. ^ "SF Chronicle, most democratic voting bloc in the state, 2003". Retrieved 2007-06-12. 
  8. ^ Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Bay Region (2) Boundaries Accessed 2007-02-20
  9. ^ "Find a park - San Francisco Bay Area Region". California State Parks. Retrieved 2006-06-20. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Raleigh-Durham area ranks third in U.S. for college degrees
  12. ^ CSA Median household income
  13. ^ 2008 California Presidential Election Results by Congressional District
  14. ^ a b "US Census Bureau, 2000 Census income data by congressional district".$50000US0601&-geo_id=500$50000US0606&-geo_id=500$50000US0607&-geo_id=500$50000US0608&-geo_id=500$50000US0609&-geo_id=500$50000US0610&-geo_id=500$50000US0612&-geo_id=500$50000US0613&-geo_id=500$50000US0614&-geo_id=500$50000US0615&-geo_id=500$50000US0616&-geo_id=500$50000US0617&-geo_id=500$50000US0623&-geo_id=500$50000US0624&-geo_id=500$50000US0630&-geo_id=500$50000US0633&-geo_id=500$50000US0634&-geo_id=500$50000US0635&-geo_id=500$50000US0636&-geo_id=500$50000US0637&-geo_id=500$50000US0638&-geo_id=500$50000US0639&-geo_id=500$50000US0640&-geo_id=500$50000US0644&-geo_id=500$50000US0646&-geo_id=500$50000US0647&-geo_id=500$50000US0648&-geo_id=500$50000US0649&-geo_id=500$50000US0650&-geo_id=500$50000US0653&-format=&-_lang=en. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Pleasanton tops county in median household income". Inside Bay Area. Retrieved 2006-10-15. 
  17. ^ a b c d "Stanford University, study of US Department of Commerce statistics concerning income in California". Retrieved 2006-11-06. 
  18. ^ a b c "US Census 2005 Economic Survey, income data". Retrieved 2006-06-29. 
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^
  21. ^ [2] "Assets".
  22. ^ a b c Skinner, John E. (1962). An Historical Review of the Fish and Wildlife Resources of the San Francisco Bay Area (The Mammalian Resources). California Department of Fish and Game, Water Projects Branch Report no. 1. Sacramento, California: California Department of Fish and Game. 
  23. ^ Thompson, R. A. (1896). The Russian Settlement in California Known as Fort Ross, Founded 1812...Abandoned 1841: Why They Came and Why They Left. Santa Rosa, California: Sonoma Democrat Publishing Company. p. 3. ISBN 0559893426. Retrieved Jan. 9, 2010. 
  24. ^ Suzanne Stewart and Adrian Praetzellis (November, 2003) Archeological Research Issues for the Point Reyes National Seashore - Golden Gate National Recreation Area . Anthropological Studies Center, Sonoma State University, 335. (Report). Retrieved on Jan. 10, 2010.
  25. ^ Thompson, R. A. (1896). The Russian Settlement in California Known as Fort Ross, Founded 1812...Abandoned 1841: Why They Came and Why They Left. Santa Rosa, California: Sonoma Democrat Publishing Company. p. 7. ISBN 0559893426. 
  26. ^ White, Peter (1995). The Farallon Islands: Sentinels of the Golden Gate. San Francisco, California: Scottwall Associates. ISBN 0-942087-10-0. 
  27. ^ Martin Hall & Stephan Silliman (2006). Historical Archaeology. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 275. ISBN 1405107510. 
  28. ^ John Scaglione and Peter Skene Ogden (June, 1949). "Ogden's Report of His 1829-1830 Expedition". California Historical Society Quarterly (California Historical Society): 118. Retrieved Jan. 22, 2010. 
  29. ^ Tappe, Donald T. (1942). "The Status of Beavers in California". Game Bulletin No. 3 (California Department of Fish & Game). 
  30. ^ Kat Anderson (2006). Tending the wild: Native American knowledge and the management of California. University of California Press. p. 79. ISBN 0520248511. 
  31. ^ Alice Bay Maloney and John Work (June, 1944). "Fur Brigade to the Bonaventura: John Work's California Expedition of 1832-33 for the Hudson's Bay Company (Concluded)". California Historical Society Quarterly: 343. Retrieved Jan. 21, 2010. 
  32. ^ Thomas Jefferson Farnham (1857). Life, adventures, and travels in California. Blakeman & Co.. p. 383. 
  33. ^ Central California Coast Steelhead DPS . NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Regional Office. (Report). Retrieved on Feb. 15, 2010.
  34. ^ "Map showing endangered species status of west coast steelhead". Alameda Creek Alliance. Retrieved Feb. 14, 2010. 
  35. ^ a b Greg Miller (January 2010). "In Central California, Coho Salmon Are on the Brink". Science. Retrieved Feb. 15, 2010. 
  36. ^ [ttp:// Central California Coast Coho ESU] . NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Regional Office. (Report). Retrieved on Feb. 15, 2010.
  37. ^ Donna Whitmarsh (Jan. 2010). "California Coho Salmon In Dire Straits". Bay Nature. 
  38. ^ Conaway CH, Black FJ, Grieb TM, Roy S, Flegal AR (2008). "Mercury in the San Francisco Estuary". Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 194: 29–54. PMID 18069645. 
  39. ^ Eric Bailey. "Oil oozes in S.F. Bay after ship hits bridge". Los Angeles Times.,1,1303799.story?coll=la-headlines-california. Retrieved Feb. 15, 2010. 
  40. ^ - Maps and information about Bay Area threats including earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis.
  41. ^ USGS site with Google Earth KMZ files related to geology and seismic activity
  42. ^ Describes Bay Area damage from 1960 tsunami.
  43. ^ U.S. Census Bureau, 2003 American Community Survey, accessed November 5, 2007
  44. ^ 2002 American Community Survey, SELECTED POPULATION CHARACTERISTICIS FOR LARGE METROPOLITAN AREAS, accessed November 5, 2007
  45. ^ Essi Berelian (2005), The Rough Guide to Heavy Metal, p. 259, "Faith No More must be counted among the pioneers [of nu metal]"
  46. ^ Joel McIver (2002), NU-METAL- The Next Generation Of Rock & Punk

External links


Coordinates: 37°45′N 122°17′W / 37.75°N 122.283°W / 37.75; -122.283

Redirecting to San Francisco Bay Area

Redirecting to San Francisco Bay Area

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Bay Area (California) article)

From Wikitravel

The Bay Area (more fully, the San Francisco Bay Area), ringing the San Francisco Bay in northern California, is a geographically diverse and extensive metropolitan region that is home to nearly 8 million inhabitants in cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose. Once a focus of Spanish missions and Gold Rush prospectors, the Bay Area is best known now for its lifestyle, liberal politics and high-tech industry (Silicon Valley).

Although it doesn't have any firm boundaries, the Bay Area is composed of eight counties that include Marin, Solano, San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz. The southern parts of Sonoma and Napa counties are considered part of the Bay Area for this guide, since their culture and economies face towards the Bay.



Temperate in summer and mild in the winter, the Bay Area is an excellent place to visit year-round. The weather in the Bay Area is affected by microclimates, so certain parts of East Bay can be up to 15 degrees warmer than downtown San Francisco, and as much as 20 degrees warmer than the area around the Golden Gate bridge. Generally the closer to the ocean one goes the cooler it is, it is suggested that one keep that in mind when traveling around the area.


A small region of its own, the Bay Area still has distinct areas with their own attractions and cultures. The sub-regions of the Bay Area are described several ways, which may give the first time visitor the impression that the Bay Area is bigger than it really is. In fact, the unique geography of the Bay Area makes it relatively easy to get a sense of where you are.

Here's a handy rule of thumb: the telephone area codes 415 and 707 means San Francisco or the North Bay; 510 and 925 mean the East Bay; 650 is for the Peninsula, and 408 and 831 are for South Bay numbers.


There are scores of cities that surround the Bay; these are some of the most famous.

Get in

By plane

There are three major airports in the San Francisco Bay Area: San Francisco (SFO, located about 10 miles south of the city), Oakland (OAK, in the East Bay), and San Jose (SJC, in Silicon Valley, about 1 hour south of San Francisco). All are served by discount airlines such as Southwest. All three airports may be reached by inexpensive public transit.

By car

From the east, the entrance to the Bay Area is superhighway Interstate 80, which wends its way all the way from New York several thousand miles to pass through Lake Tahoe and Sacramento and end up in San Francisco.

From the south, the lovely Highway 101 runs from Southern California through the Central Coast to Silicon Valley and up the Peninsula to San Francisco. Some people prefer Highway 5, which travels more directly through the San Joaquin Valley to highway 580 and then into the Bay Area through the East Bay.

From the North Coast or the Pacific Northwest, the story is similar. Coastal highway 101 is more scenic, while highway 5 is efficient but somewhat boring. Interstate 5 intersects interstate 80 in Sacramento, however, when coming from the north, Interstate 505 can be used to bypass Sacramento and get to the Bay Area quicker.

Parking rates in San Francisco can go up to around $30. You can park at BART parking lots: For example: Park in Colma parking garage $2 all day, free weekends and round trip BART from Colma to Moscone Center would cost $6.50 for one person, so two people could park and train for $15 as opposed to $25 for all day parking at the center.

Get around

By car

The Bay Area is well served by a network of freeways. Highways 280 and 101 run up the Peninsula from the Silicon Valley to San Francisco, and 101 continues into Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge. Highways 880 and 580 run the length of the East Bay, and Highway 24 runs out to Contra Costa County. All major freeways, particularly those going through San Francisco and Oakland, suffer from severe congestion at commute times. Interstate 280 and the South Bay freeways and expressways tend to be less congested than the Peninsula and East Bay freeways.

Note that many Bay Area freeways tend to have dense traffic at any time of day or the evening, any day of the week (even Sundays), and you will be lucky if traffic is actually moving at the speed limit (rather than far below it). This is particularly true of the Eastshore Freeway in Berkeley and the James Lick Skyway in San Francisco. Other freeways, such as Interstate 280 on the Peninsula, are congested only during rush hours on weekdays and are relatively easy to drive at all other times.

There is a proportion of "hurried" drivers that will zig-zag between cars at high speeds. In the North Bay, there are fast succession of freeway interchanges; a misunderstanding may land you on the wrong freeway, even on a bridge you do not intend to take. Interchanges are signposted with road numbers and compass directions, but these may be even confusing: the same stretch of road may carry several numbers and opposite compass directions between these numbers. Read a map carefully before driving or have a passenger watch for directions.

Note that since tolls are charged only one-way on the toll bridges, you should plan road trips to minimize the number of times you traverse bridges in the toll direction.

Map of the BART system
Map of the BART system

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART [1]) is a nice regional train system that connects San Francisco to the East Bay and Contra Costa County, as well as parts of the Peninsula, the eastern half of Silicon Valley, and the San Francisco and Oakland airports. BART is also useful for getting around within SF and Oakland. Ticket prices vary by distance travelled, but usually run about $2-5 one way. Trains run about every 10-20 minutes starting around 6AM and closing just after midnight.

Map of Caltrain system
Map of Caltrain system

Caltrain [2] is a commuter train system running from San Francisco, down the Peninsula, all the way to Gilroy. Ticket prices vary by the distance between stations, but usually run around $3-$6 one way. Trains run about once every half hour, on average, once an hour late evenings and weekends, with several more trains running during commute hours. This train service is not particularly fast; however, in a move to improve speed, many trains during commute hours run express or semi-express service, so they do not stop at all stations.

A full list of Bay Area public transportation agencies, as well as a refreshingly useful trip planner, can be found at the Metropolitan Transportation Commissions's web site [3].

  • The Golden Gate Bridge linking San Francisco and Marin County to the north is often called one of the modern wonders of the world. Cross the bridge by car and after taking the first Marin County exit make your way up to the Marin Headlands which overlook the bridge, the entrance to San Francisco Bay and the City itself.
  • Muir Woods in Mill Valley is a beautiful forest with some of the few remaining old-growth redwood trees in California.
  • Alcatraz, the former Army post, then federal prison on an island in the San Francisco Bay, today a National Park Service museum. Be sure to get Alcatraz ferry tickets at least a couple days in advance. There is also a night tour that is sort of spooky.
  • Mt. Diablo State Park in the East Bay rises 3,849 feet above the area and provides some very dramatic views of the Bay Area and the Central Valley. A road travels to the observation tower and small museum at the top. Access to this road can be made from either Walnut Creek or Danville.
  • Twin Peaks. Possibly the best view in the city, Twin Peaks is a centrally located high point that is a gorgeous photo op, but not much else. IE, bring a sandwich.  edit
  • Ride the glass-faced elevators on the outside of the Westin St. Francis at Union Square for a spectacular view of the city.


The San Francisco Bay Area has a broad array of cuisines from various countries of Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe. While San Francisco probably has the widest variety of any of the Bay Area cities, locals will often tell you to go outside of San Francisco for the best of some cuisines, such as Fremont for Afghan or Indian or Pakistani, or Burlingame for Jewish. The area has also developed its own array of localized Chinese cuisines; this started in San Francisco and has expanded throughout the Bay Area in recent years.

  • Peet's Coffee and Tea, at the corner of Walnut and Vine in Berkeley, [4]. Founded in 1966 as a pioneering effort to bring fresh-roasted "gourmet" coffee to the American palate, Peet's coffee shop started a revolution in American coffee tastes. When Starbuck's was founded in Seattle, they initially bought their coffee from Peet's. Peet's is now a medium-sized chain with locations in several areas of the United States. As part of the coffee revolution, you will also find many fine independent coffee shops throughout the Bay Area, as well as the ubiquitous Starbuck's which has more locations than McDonald's.

Stay safe

Certain parts of the Bay Area, most noticeably the Bayview-Hunter's Point, Sunnydale, Visitation Valley, SOMA(South of Market AVE), the Tenderloin, and the Western Addition in San Francisco are plagued by high crime rates. The Mission District of San Francisco has the highest amount of gang violence of any neighborhood in San Francisco. Men should be careful to avoid wearing red or blue shirts, as the Mission District has many Norteno and Sureno hispanic gang members. On a brighter note, this area does have some of the best Mexican food in the nation.

The vast majority of neighborhoods in Oakland and Richmond also suffer from persistently high crime as well. Sadly, there are NO truly "safe" areas in the cities of East Palo Alto or Emeryville. There are also many rough neighborhoods in the cities of San Pablo, Pitsburg, Antioch, El Sobrante, Vallejo, Fairfield, and Santa Rosa. Although not techincally a part of the Bay Area, many locals consider the city of Stockton to be a part of the greater Bay Area do to its close location to other Bay Area towns. Although not as crime ridden as Oakland, Richmond, East Palo Alto, or San Pablo, Stockton does have one of the highest crime rates of any California city. The city of Salinas, also located right outside the Bay Area, has the worst problem with gang violence in California. Last year, all 25 homicides in Salinas were gang related. This is a high murder rate given Salinas' population of only 120,000 residents.

Santa Clara county, San Jose and Sunnyvale have been on the top of the safest counties and cities lists. Families walk and bike at night in Los Altos, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, West Palo Alto during the summer months.

Be careful to check for ticks [5] after hiking in fields in the Bay Area. There is a high rate of lyme disease transmission in the Bay Area. If a bulls' eye rash develops at the tick bite site, immediately seek medical help and treatment with antibiotics.

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