San Rafael, California: Wikis


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City of San Rafael
—  City  —
Saint Raphael Church, one of the city's most recognizable landmarks
Location of San Rafael, California
Coordinates: 37°58′25″N 122°31′52″W / 37.97361°N 122.53111°W / 37.97361; -122.53111Coordinates: 37°58′25″N 122°31′52″W / 37.97361°N 122.53111°W / 37.97361; -122.53111
Country United States
State California
County Marin
County seat of Marin County
 - Type Council-manager with directly elected mayor
 - County Board District 1
Susan Adams
 - City Manager Ken Nordhoff
 - City Clerk Esther Beirne (2007–present)
(Term expires November 2011)
 - Legislature Sen. Mark Leno (D)
Asm. Jared Huffman (D)
 - U. S. Congress Lynn Woolsey (D)
 - Total 22.4 sq mi (58.1 km2)
 - Land 16.6 sq mi (43.0 km2)
 - Water 5.8 sq mi (15.1 km2)  25.9%
Elevation [1] 43 ft (13 m)
 - Total 55,649
 - Density 3,352.3/sq mi (1,294.2/km2)
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 - Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
Area code(s) 415
FIPS code 06-68364
GNIS feature ID 1659589

San Rafael (pronounced /ˌsæn rəˈfɛl/; Spanish pronunciation: [san rafaˈel]) is a city and the county seat of Marin County, California, United States. The city is located in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the city's population was 55,649.



What is now San Rafael was once the site of several Coast Miwok villages; Awani-wi, near downtown San Rafael, Ewu, near Terra Linda, and Shotomko-cha, in Marinwood.[2] [Mission San Rafael Arcángel]] was founded in what is now downtown San Rafael as the 20th Spanish mission in the colonial Mexican province of Alta California by four priests - Father Narciso Durán from Mission San José, Father Abella from Mission San Francisco de Asís, Father Luis Gíl y Taboada from La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles and Father Junípero Serra, Father Presidente of the Missions - on Dec. 14, 1817, four years before Mexico gained independence from Spain. Mission San Rafael Arcángel was located a donkey's day walk to the mission below it. The mission and the city are named after the Archangel Raphael, the Angel of Healing.

The mission was originally planned as a hospital site for Central Valley American Indians who had become ill at the cold San Francisco Mission Dolores. Father Luis Gil, who spoke several native American languages, was put in charge of the facility. In part because of its ideal weather, San Rafael was later upgraded to full mission status in 1822. The mission had 300 converts within its first year, and 1,140 converts by 1828. The Mexican government took over the California missions in 1834, and Mission San Rafael was abandoned in 1844, eventually falling into ruin. The current mission was built in 1949 in the style of the original, but faces at right angles to the alignment of the original.


San Rafael is located at 37°58′25″N 122°31′52″W / 37.97361°N 122.53111°W / 37.97361; -122.53111.[1] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 58.1 km² (22.4 mi²). 43.0 km² (16.6 mi²) of it is land and 15.1 km² (5.8 mi²) of it (26.04%) is water.

Notable landmarks include: the Mission San Rafael Arcángel, around which the city developed; the Marin County Civic Center building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; the Rafael Film Center; China Camp State Park; and the George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch.

Environmental features

The San Rafael shoreline has been historically filled to a considerable extent to accommodate land development, with underlying bay mud (saturated clayed silt) of up to 90 feet (27 m) in thickness. At certain locations such as Murphys Point, the sandstone or shale rock outcrops through the mud.

San Rafael has a wide diversity of natural habitats from forests at the higher elevations to marshland and estuarine settings. Its marshes are home to the endangered species Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse. There are also riparian areas including the San Rafael Creek and Miller Creek corridors.


San Rafael has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csb), with mild winter lows seldom reaching the freezing mark. Average highs are in the mid 50s°F (11-15°C) and lows are in mid 40s F°(5-10 C°). In the summer highs are around the low 80s F°. Summer lows are around the mid 50s F°(13 C°). The National Weather Service reports that August is usually the warmest month with a high of 81.3° and a low of 54.8°. This makes it possible to live in this area without air conditioning. January, the coldest month, has an average high of 56.2° and an average low of 41.3°. The highest temperature on record is 110°, recorded in June 1961. The highest temperature in recent years, 108°, occurred on July 23, 2006.[2] The record lowest temperature was 20° on December 22, 1990. There are an average of 19.5 days annually with a high of 90° or more and 2.1 days with a high of 100° or more. Freezing temperatures (32° or below) occur on an average of 4.2 days.

Total annual precipitation averages 34.29 inches (871 mm). There are normally 68.5 days with measurable rain. The rainy season is from November to early April. Rain is rare outside of this period and it is normal to receive no rain in June, July, August, and September. The most rain in one month was 24.11 inches (612 mm) in January 1995. The heaviest 24-hour rainfall was 8.74 inches (222 mm) on December 11, 1995. A trace of snow was recorded on January 30, 1976.

Weather data for San Rafael
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 56
Average low °F (°C) 41
Precipitation inches (mm) 7.38
Source: Weather Channel [3] 2009-03-30


As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 56,063 people, 22,371 households, and 12,773 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,304.8/km² (3,378.9/mi²). There were 22,948 housing units at an average density of 534.1/km² (1,383.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 55.8% White, 43.3% Hispanic or Latino, 5.59% Asian, 2.24% African American, 0.56% Native American, 0.17% Pacific Islander, 11.16% from other races, and 4.53% from two or more races.

There were 22,371 households out of which 25.8% had children under the age of 18, 44.3% were married couples living together, 9.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.9% were non-families. 32.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.9% have someone living alone who is 65 or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 2.99. The age distribution is as follows: 19.5% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 33.3% from 25 to 44, 24.8% from 45 to 64, and 14.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 98.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.7 males.

The reported median income for a household in the city was $60,994; the median reported income for a family was $74,398 (these figures had risen to $67,789 and $85,459 respectively as of a 2007 estimate[5]). Males reported a median income of $50,650 versus $39,912 for females. The reported per capita income for the city was $35,762. About 5.6% of families and 10.2% of the population reported incomes below the poverty line, including 11.7% of those under age 18 and 5.0% of those age 65 or over.

Politics and Government

San Rafael is a stronghold of the Democratic Party. As of March 20, 2009, there were 28,826 registered voters in San Rafael, of which 15,986 (55.46%) are Democrats, 5,723 (19.85%) are Republicans and 6,037 (20.94%) decline to state a political party.[6]

San Rafael is governed by a City Council comprised of an elected Mayor and four elected city council members. The current Mayor is Albert J. Boro. The current council members are Barbara Heller, Marc Levine, Damon Connolly (Vice Mayor) and Greg Brockbank. Terms for the mayorship are four-years long. Terms for council members are four-years long, staggered, and expire in odd-numbered years. Mayor Boro, Vice Mayor Connolly and Council member Brockbank are up for reelection in 2011. Council members Heller and Levine are up for reelection in 2013.

Entertainment Industry

The Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, seen in American Graffiti.

After the arrival of George Lucas in San Rafael in 1970 to film the movie THX 1138, the city became a center for the entertainment industry, particularly the high-tech elements of the business. Lucasfilm was founded by George Lucas in 1971, and is best known for the global hit movie series Star Wars and also for Indiana Jones. Some of the company's operations were moved to San Francisco in 2005. Portions of the Universal movie production American Graffiti were filmed in downtown San Rafael under George Lucas's direction, and portions of THX 1138 were shot at the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael. Much of the movie Gattaca, starring Ethan Hawke, was also shot in the Marin County Civic Center. Industrial Light & Magic was founded in 1975 by Lucas to do special effects for his films and those of other filmmakers. The new age music program Hearts of Space is headquartered here.

Largely because of the presence of LucasFilm, San Rafael started to attract video game developers, with several major studios located in the city. However, because of poor city leadership and ineffective zoning laws in the Canal neighborhood, most of the companies, including Lucas Arts, have left San Rafael:

  • Totally Games — Founded by former LucasArts programmer Larry Holland in 1994. Best known for a series of Star Wars flight sim games.
  • Factor 5 — Founded in Germany in 1987 by Julian Eggebrecht, moved to San Rafael in 1996 to be close to publisher LucasArts. Best known for Star Wars and Indiana Jones games. In May 2009, the company's San Rafael studio closed [7].

Also related to the entertainment industry, the U.S. headquarters of Autodesk can be found in San Rafael, specifically near Terra Linda / Santa Venetia.


San Rafael contains a number of parks:

  • There are two regional parks that serve statewide users: China Camp State Park and McNears Beach State Park.
  • Community parks are Albert Park, Boyd Park, Pickleweed Park and the Terra Linda Recreational Center.
  • There are a number of neighborhood parks and mini-parks such as Bret Harte Park, Boyd Park, Sun Valley Park, Oleander Park, Victor Jones Park, Peacock Gap Park and Gerstle Park. Gerstle Park is also a historic and walkable neighborhood south of First Street in close proximity to central Downtown.

Educational institutions

San Rafael has one university, Dominican University.

The city also has the Ali Akbar College of Music, founded by Indian musician Ali Akbar Khan to teach Indian classical music.

Most public schools in San Rafael are operated by the San Rafael City Schools district. Dixie School District operates some public elementary and middle schools in San Rafael. All comprehensive public high schools are governed by San Rafael City Schools.

The district operates two comprehensive public high schools: San Rafael High School, Terra Linda High School and one alternative high School (Madrone)

Public schools not operated by the district include:

  • Phoenix Academy is a California Charter school where chemically dependent students can develop a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle, make academic progress, address emotional issues, and make sound career and vocational decisions. The school provides a highly structured and supervised program.

Private schools:

In popular culture

The term "420" when used in reference to Cannabis consumption is believed to have originated in San Rafael, specifically, at San Rafael High School. Since then, use of "420" has spread throughout the rest of the United States, and much of the rest of the world, in reference to cannabis consumption on April 20 or at 4:20 p.m. -- the time the original group gathered after school.[8]

Notable residents


Although not every location in San Rafael is part of a neighborhood that has a widely accepted and widely recognized name, there are some neighborhoods that have names that are accepted and recognized by most locals. The City of San Rafael 2020 General Plan recognizes 30 distinct neighborhoods in San Rafael:

  • Bay Islands
  • Bayside Acres
  • Bret Harte
  • California Park
  • Canal
  • Canal Waterfront
  • Central San Rafael
  • China Camp
  • Civic Center
  • Country Club
  • Dominican/Black Canyon
  • Montecito/Happy Valley
  • North San Rafael Commercial Center
  • Peacock Gap
  • Picnic Valley
  • Rafael Meadows/Los Ranchitos
  • Santa Venetia
  • Smith Ranch
  • Sun Valley
  • Terra Linda
  • West End



  • San Rafael Recreation Element of the General Plan, June, 1984

External links

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