San Francisco Bay Area

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San Francisco Bay Area
Six-county region
SF From Marin Highlands3.jpg
San Francisco
OAKLAND, CA, USA - Skyline and Bridge.JPG
Downtown san jose south market st.jpg
San Jose
Nickname(s): "The Bay Area"
Country United States
State California
Major cities
 • Metro 4,984 sq mi (15,088 km2)
Highest elevation
at Mount Hamilton
4,360 ft (1,330 m)
Lowest elevation
at Alviso
-10 ft (−3 m)
Population (July 1, 2014)
 • Six-county region 5.56 million[1]
 • Density 865/sq mi (334/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
A view of the San Francisco skyline from the bay.

The San Francisco Bay Area, commonly referred to as the Bay Area, is a populated region that surrounds the San Francisco and San Pablo estuaries in Northern California. The region encompasses the major cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.[2] The Bay Area's six counties are western Alameda, western Contra Costa, eastern Marin, San Francisco, eastern San Mateo, and northern Santa Clara.[2][3] Home to approximately 5.56 million people,[1] the six-county Bay Area contains many cities, towns, airports, and associated regional, state, and national parks, connected by a network of roads, highways, railroads, bridges, tunnels and commuter rail. The metropolitan statistical area of the region is the second-largest in California (after the Greater Los Angeles area), the fifth-largest in the United States, and the 43rd-largest urban area in the world.

The San Francisco Bay Area has the 2nd most Fortune 500 Companies in the United States, and is known for its natural beauty, liberal politics, entrepreneurship, and diversity.[4][5] The area ranks second in highest density of College graduates,[6][7] and performs above the state median household income in the 2010 census;[8] it includes the five highest California counties by per capita income and two of the top 25 wealthiest counties in the United States. Based on a 2013 population report from the California Department of Finance, the Bay Area is the only region in California where the rate of people migrating in from other areas in the United States is greater than the rate of those leaving the region, led by Alameda and Contra Costa counties.[9]


East Bay[edit]

The eastern side of the bay, consisting of western Alameda and Contra Costa counties, is known locally as the East Bay. It includes 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, Crockett, Pinole, San Lorenzo, Hercules, Rodeo, Piedmont, and El Cerrito. This region contains the Bay Area's largest seaport, the Port of Oakland, the headquarters of Pixar Animation Studios, and hosts the professional sports franchises the Golden State Warriors, Oakland Raiders, and Oakland Athletics.

North Bay[edit]

The region north of the Golden Gate Bridge is known locally as the North Bay. This area encompasses the eastern portion of Marin County.

With few exceptions, this region is quite affluent: Marin County is ranked as the wealthiest in the state.


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

The area south of San Francisco to the South Bay, geographically part of the San Francisco Peninsula, is known locally as The Peninsula. This area consists of cities and suburban communities in eastern San Mateo County, and the northwestern part of Santa Clara County. Peninsula cities include: Atherton, Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Colma, Daly City, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo, South San Francisco and Woodside.

Whereas the term peninsula technically refers to the entire geographical San Franciscan Peninsula, in local terms, The Peninsula does not include the city of San Francisco itself.[10][11][12][13]

San Francisco[edit]

Main article: San Francisco
San Francisco panorama from Twin Peaks.

San Francisco is surrounded by water on three sides; the north, east, and west. The city squeezes approximately 805,000 people in under 46.9 square miles (121 km2), making it the second-most densely populated major city in North America after New York City.[14] On any given day, there can be as many as 1 million people in the city because of the commuting population and tourism. San Francisco also has the largest commuter population of the Bay Area cities. The limitations of land area, however, make continued population growth challenging, and also has resulted in increased real estate prices. Though San Francisco is located at the tip of the peninsula, when the peninsula is discussed, it usually refers to the communities and geographic locations south of the city proper.[13]

South Bay[edit]

A panorama over Downtown San Jose

The communities at the southern region of the San Francisco Bay Area is locally known as the South Bay. These include the city of San Jose, and surrounding municipalities, including the high-tech hubs of Santa Clara, Milpitas, Cupertino, Sunnyvale as well as many other cities like Saratoga, Campbell, and Los Gatos. Some Peninsula and East Bay towns are sometimes recognized as being in the South Bay. Generally, the term South Bay refers to northern Santa Clara County, but the northwest portion of the county (Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills) is considered part of the Peninsula (even though these cities are in Santa Clara County).

San Jose is home to many sports teams both amateur and professional, such as the San Jose Sharks of the NHL, and the San Jose Earthquakes of MLS. The San Francisco 49ers moved to a new stadium in Santa Clara in 2014.

The South Bay has a large transportation infrastructure that includes many freeways, VTA bus service and light rail, Amtrak, and commuter rail such as Caltrain. The San Jose International Airport serves air traffic in the South Bay Area and is conveniently located just north of downtown. The height of buildings in Downtown is limited (due to FAA regulations and city ordinance) because it is situated directly under the flight path. The South Bay is poised to have a more efficient transportation network with the extension of the BART system to San Jose, which would allow elevated/subway travel into San Francisco. San Jose will also be a major stop on the proposed California High-Speed Rail system.[15][16]



In 2011, the San Francisco Bay Area had a GDP of $535 billion, which would rank 19th among countries.[17]

Silicon Valley is located within the southern reaches of the Bay Area. The leading high technology region in the world, Silicon Valley covers San Jose and several cities of South Bay. The Valley is home to many of the industry leaders in technology such as Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, eBay, Cisco, Apple, Oracle, Marvell, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard. Major corporations in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and the surrounding cities help make the region second in the nation in concentration of Fortune 500 companies, after New York.[18] The Bay Area is a leader in sustainable energy and a leading producer of innovation in the culinary arts. California Cuisine was developed primarily in the Bay Area, as was the organic farming movement. The area is renowned for its natural beauty. It is also known as being one of the most expensive regions to live in the country.[4][19]

Oakland, on the east side of the bay, has the fifth-largest container shipping port in the United States. The city is also a major rail terminus.[20]

Changes in house prices for the Bay Area are publicly tracked on a regular basis using the Case–Shiller index; the statistic is published by Standard & Poor's and is also a component of S&P's 10-city composite index of the value of the U.S. residential real estate market.

The Bay Area led the United States in sustainable energy and "clean tech" development in 2012, with San Francisco and San Jose having significantly higher ratings than any other US cities, according to Clean Edge.[21]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 94,074
1870 225,808 140.0%
1880 382,128 69.2%
1890 507,618 32.8%
1900 628,111 23.7%
1910 895,708 42.6%
1920 1,082,911 20.9%
1930 1,478,009 36.5%
1940 1,634,308 10.6%
1950 2,581,322 57.9%
1960 3,538,939 37.1%
1970 4,528,199 28.0%
1980 4,979,784 10.0%
1990 5,123,577 2.9%
2000 5,483,760 7.0%
2010 5,520,739 0.7%
Est. 2014 5,561,755 [1] 0.7%
Note: 6 County Population Totals

According to the 2010 United States Census, the population was 5.52 million in the six-county Bay Area, with 49.6% male and 50.4% female.[22] In 2010 the racial makeup of the six-county Bay Area was 42.5% White including white Hispanic, 7.7% non-Hispanic African American, 0.7% Native American, 33.3% Asian (8.9% Chinese, 6.1% Filipino, 4.3% Indian, 3.5% Vietnamese, 2.0% Korean, 1.0% Pakistani, 0.3% Japanese, 0.2% Cambodian, 0.2% Laotian, 0.1% Thai, 0.1% Burmese), 0.6% Pacific Islander (0.1% Tongan, 0.1% Samoan, 0.1% Fijian, >0.1% Guamanian, >0.1% Native Hawaiian), 10.8% from other races, and 5.4% from two or more races. The population was 33.5% Hispanic or Latino of any race (27.9% Mexican, 2.3% Salvadoran, 1.6% Guatemalan, 1.6% Puerto Rican, 1.5% Nicaraguan, 1.3% Peruvian, 1.2% Cuban).[23]

The Bay Area cities of Daly City, Hayward, Oakland, San Francisco, San Leandro, San Jose, Fremont, Milpitas, Cupertino, and Richmond are among the most ethnically diverse cities in the United States.[24]

The Chinese population of the Bay Area is concentrated in San Francisco, where 40% of the Bay Area's Chinese American population resides, as well as in Oakland and in San Jose.[22] The San Francisco Bay Area is home to over 282,950 Filipino Americans, one of the largest communities of Filipino people outside of the Philippines with the largest proportion of Filipino Americans concentrating themselves within Daly City.[22][25] There are more than one hundred thousand people of Vietnamese ancestry residing within the South Bay.[26] There is a sizable community of Korean Americans in Santa Clara County, and there is a large strip of Korean restaurants and businesses located in Santa Clara. East Bay cities such as Richmond, San Jose, and Oakland, have plentiful populations of Laotian and Cambodians in certain neighborhoods.[22]

Pacific Islanders such as Samoans and Tongans have the largest presence in East Palo Alto, San Mateo, San Bruno, Milpitas, San Jose, Redwood City and the Bayview-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods of San Francisco.[22]

The Latino population is spread throughout the Bay Area, in The Peninsula cities of Redwood City, East Palo Alto, South San Francisco, San Bruno, San Mateo, Daly City, and Menlo Park, South Bay cities such as Milpitas, Cupertino, and San Jose, and East Bay cities of Oakland, Richmond, and Fremont. San Francisco's Mission District is home to a thriving Mexican American community, as well as many residents of Salvadoran and Guatemalan descent.[22]

The African American population of the San Francisco Bay Area is widespread throughout the Bay Area.

San Francisco's North Beach district is considered the Little Italy of the city, and was once home to a significant Italian American community. San Francisco and Marin County both have substantial Jewish communities.[27]

In 2007 the population density was 857 people per square mile. There were 1,499,702 housing units with an average family size of 2.3. Of the 1,499,702 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.[22]

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the poorest regions in the United States. [28]

Forty-seven Bay Area residents made the Forbes magazine's 400 richest Americans list, published in 2007. Thirteen lived in San Francisco proper, placing it seventh among cities in the world. Among the forty-seven were several well-known names such as Steve Jobs, George Lucas, and Charles Schwab. The wealthiest resident was Larry Ellison of Oracle, worth $25 billion.[29]

A study by Capgemini indicates that in 2009, 4.5% of all households within the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metropolitan area held $1 million in investable assets, placing the region No. 1 in the United States (Metro New York City placed second at 4.3%).[30]

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 South Bay section of the Bay Area. According to the May 2010 Fortune Magazine analysis of the US "Fortune 500" companies, the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metropolitan region ranks second (after metro New York City and before Chicago) with 30 companies (May 2011, Fortune Magazine).[31]


The San Francisco Bay Area is widely regarded as one of 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 6-county Bay Area voted for Republican candidates only twice, once in 1972 for Richard Nixon and again in 1980 for Ronald Reagan, both Californians.

Population (2010)[32] 2012 election results[33] Median household income (2011)[34] Per capita income (2011)[34] Voter Registration (2013)[35]
Democratic Independent Republican
Western Alameda 880,271 78.9%–18.2% Obama $67,558 $33,888 461,007 158,958 114,802
Western Contra Costa 649,025 66.2%–31.2% Obama $74,353 $36,274 263,258 113,358 131,608
Eastern Marin 152,409 74.3%–23.0% Obama $77,168 $49,439 83,853 35,251 28,116
San Francisco 805,235 83.5%–13.0% Obama $69,894 $44,905 276,855 154,691 42,922
Eastern San Mateo 638,451 72.1%–25.5% Obama $81,657 $44,331 185,134 92,158 69,925
Northern Santa Clara 1,481,642 70.1%–27.2% Obama $84,895 $39,365 372,979 237,357 177,268
Median 72.9%–24.1% Obama $73,562 $37,851
Total 7,150,739 1,913,341 908,933 692,844
Presidential election results
Year Democrat Republican
2012 72.9% 2,105,625 24.1% 696,656
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 Representative Cook PVI[36] 2012 election results[33] Median household income (2011)[37]
2nd Eastern Marin County Jared Huffman D+20 69.0%–27.0% Obama $56,576
11th Western Contra Costa County Mark DeSaulnier D+17 67.5%–29.9% Obama $69,586
12th Most of San Francisco Nancy Pelosi D+34 84.0%–12.5% Obama $69,046
13th Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro Barbara Lee D+37 87.5%–9.0% Obama $56,906
14th Eastern San Mateo County Jackie Speier D+23 74.2%–23.6% Obama $79,287
15th Hayward, Union City, and Fremont Eric Swalwell D+16 68.0%–29.8% Obama $82,179
17th Fremont and northern South Bay Mike Honda D+20 71.9%–25.5% Obama $92,030
18th Menlo Park and western South Bay Anna Eshoo D+18 68.2%–28.9% Obama $97,001
19th San Jose Zoe Lofgren D+19 71.2%–26.5% Obama $71,479
Median D+13 67.8%–26.9% Obama $63,904

During the Base Realignment and Closures (BRACs) of the 1990s, almost all the military installations in the region were closed.[38][39] The only remaining major active duty military installations are Travis Air Force Base[40] and Coast Guard Island.


Skyline Boulevard stretches through the Santa Cruz Mountains, here atop Portola Valley, California. During winter and spring, the hills surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area are lush and green.
The same location during the summer months. Because rain is rare in the San Francisco Bay Area during this time, the surrounding hills quickly become dry and golden-hued in grassy areas

High and Low Average Temperatures in Various Cities in the San Francisco Bay Area expressed in Fahrenheit and (Celsius) degrees

City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Oakland 58/45
Richmond 58/44
San Francisco 58/46
San Rafael 55/42
San Jose 58/42


San Francisco Bay ca. 1770–1820

Despite its urban and industrial character, San Francisco and San Pablo Bays 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 (Oncorhynchus 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 drainages of San Francisco and San Pablo Bays.[41][42] 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.[43] It was listed as threatened on October 31, 1996 and later changed to endangered status on June 28, 2005.[44] The ESU includes all naturally spawned populations of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) from the 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.[45] This year's coho count dropped to 64 from an average of 600 in previous years.[43]

Western Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) were listed as a Species of Special Concern (a pre-listing category under the Endangered Species Act) by the California Department of Fish and Game in 1979. California's population declined 60% from the 1980s to the early '90s, and continues to decline at roughly 8% per year.[46] In 1994, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nominated the Western Burrowing Owl as a Federal Category 2 candidate for listing as endangered or threatened, but loss of habitat continues due to development of the flat, grassy lands used by the owl. A 1992–93 survey reported no breeding burrowing owls in Marin and San Francisco counties, and only a few in San Mateo. The Santa Clara County population is declining and restricted to a few breeding locations, leaving only Alameda and Contra Costa counties as the remnant breeding range. In addition, in 2008, Mountain View, California evicted a pair of burrowing owls so that it could sell a parcel of land to Google to build a hotel at Shoreline Boulevard and Charleston Road.[47] Eviction of the owls is controversial because the birds regularly reuse burrows for years, and there is no requirement that suitable new habitat be found for the owls.

Much of the SFBNWR consists of salt evaporation ponds acquired from the Leslie Salt Company and its successor, Cargill Corporation through a series of land sales and donations. Many of these salt ponds remain in operation and produce salt used throughout the Western United States in food, agriculture, industry and medicine. The refuge pond support dense populations of brine shrimp, and therefore serving as feeding areas for waterfowl. In 2003, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish & Game entered one of the largest private land purchases in American history, with the state and federal governments paying $100 million for 15,100 acres (65 km²) of salt ponds (which government appraisers valued at $243 million prior to the acquisition) in the south bay. SFBNWR and state biologists hope to restore some of the recently purchased ponds as tidal wetlands.

River Otter sunning on rocks in the Richmond Marina

Aquatic mammals recently re-colonizing the Bay Area include the North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) which was first reported in Redwood Creek at Muir Beach in 1996,[48] and recently in Corte Madera Creek, and in the south Bay on Coyote Creek,[49] as well as in 2010 in San Francisco Bay itself at the Richmond Marina. Sea otter (Enhydra lutris) were hunted to extinction in San Francisco Bay by about 1817. Historical records reveal that the Russian-American Company snuck Aleuts into San Francisco Bay multiple times, despite the Spanish capturing or shooting them while hunting sea otters in the estuaries of San Jose, San Mateo, San Bruno and around Angel Island.[50]

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.

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

Industrial, mining, and other uses of mercury have resulted in a widespread distribution of that poisonous metal in the bay, with uptake in the bay's phytoplankton and contamination of its sportfish.[51] 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.[52]

In March, 2012 a Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest was reported on the northwest arm of Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir and upper San Mateo Creek. This is the first bald eagle breeding pair on the San Francisco Peninsula since 1915, almost one hundred years ago. The birds were once common in the Bay Area. While visiting Santa Clara County in 1855, physician naturalist James G. Cooper described "a nest of this bird large enough to fill a wagon, built in a large sycamore tree, standing alone in the prairie. Habitat destruction and thinning of eggs from (now banned) DDT poisoning reduced the California state population to 35 nesting pairs at their lowest point. In the 1980s re-introductions began with the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group and the San Francisco Zoo began importing birds and eggs from Vancouver Island and northeastern California in the late 1980s.[53]

Geology and landforms[edit]

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

Multiple terranes[edit]

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 many millions of years by the forces of plate tectonics. Nine out of eleven distinct assemblages have been identified in a single county (Alameda).[54][55] Diverse assemblages adjoin in complex arrangements due to offsets along the many faults (both active and stable) in the area. 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 such as basalt flows, rhyolite outcroppings, granite associated with the Salinian Block west of the San Andreas Fault, and ash deposits of extinct yet relatively recently active (10 million years) volcanos. Pleistocene-era fossils of mammals are abundantly present in some locations.

Vertical relief[edit]

The region has considerable vertical relief in its landscapes that are not in the alluvial plains leading to the bay. 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 Bay Area taken in 1999. Gray areas are highly urbanized.
NASA satellite photo

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). 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 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[edit]

Earthquake faults[edit]

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. The fault systems include the Hayward Fault Zone and Calaveras Fault, . 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.

Natural hazards[edit]


Probabilities for major earthquakes on Bay Area faults

The region is particularly exposed to hazards associated with large earthquakes,[56][57] 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.[58]

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. 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[edit]

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), electrical service can be interrupted for up to several days in some more remote localities, but service is usually restored quickly in urban areas. These storms occasionally bring lightning & thunder. More rarely they even spawn tornadoes.

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[edit]

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 a variety of rail transit systems, primarily by Bay Area Rapid Transit and Caltrain.

The Bay Area is served by several transportation systems, including three international airports (SFO, OAK, SJC), five major overlapping bus transit agencies (AC Transit, Muni, SamTrans, VTA, Golden Gate Transit), and additional systems serving smaller areas. 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, notably 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 the San Francisco Transbay Terminal.

The freeway and highway system is very extensive; however, many freeways are congested particularly during rush hour, especially the two immediately adjacent trans-bay bridges (Golden Gate and Bay Bridge). Also, some city streets in San Francisco are the terminus where gaps occur in the system, partly the result of the Freeway Revolt (SF Board of Supervisors decisions made in 1959, 1964 and 1966), which prevented a freeway-only thorough fair through San Francisco between the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge western terminus of (Interstate 80) with the southern terminus of the Golden Gate Bridge, and U.S. 101. Also, damages to the system in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake to several of the freeway structures that sparked the revolt were removed instead of being reinforced or rebuilt.

Higher education[edit]

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 U.S.: Santa Clara University (founded in 1851), and University of San Francisco (1855); these are also two of the three oldest California colleges. San Jose State University is the founding campus of the California State University (CSU) system, and is the oldest public institution of higher education on the West Coast of the United States.[59][60] 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 bachelor's degree or higher. The San Francisco and San Jose Primary Metropolitan Statistical Areas rank third and fourth in college graduates, ahead of Boston and behind only Boulder–Longmont, CO PMSA and Stamford–Norwalk, CT PMSA. The Oakland PMSA ranks eleventh.[61]


University of California, Berkeley.
San Jose State University



Stanford University.
Lone Mountain, University of San Francisco
Santa Clara University


The Bay Area is host to numerous cultural events, including annual festivals and fairs. Many prominent writers make their homes there, and have developed a local literary culture, with a supportive network of booksellers, focused on the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.


Team Sport League Venue
San Jose Earthquakes Soccer Major League Soccer Avaya Stadium
San Francisco 49ers Football National Football LeagueNational Conference Levi's Stadium
Oakland Raiders Football National Football LeagueAmerican Conference Coliseum
San Francisco Giants Baseball Major League BaseballNational League AT&T Park
Oakland Athletics Baseball Major League BaseballAmerican League Coliseum
Golden State Warriors Basketball National Basketball Association Oracle Arena
San Jose Sharks Ice hockey National Hockey League SAP Center at San Jose
San Jose SaberCats Football Arena Football League SAP Center at San Jose
San Francisco Nighthawks Soccer Women's Premier Soccer League Kezar Stadium
San Jose Giants Baseball Minor League BaseballCalifornia League San Jose Municipal Stadium
NCAA Division I College Sports


Classic rock[edit]

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 Fillmore 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. Journey formed in 1973 in San Francisco, by former members of Santana. The Doobie Brothers, from San Jose, had a successful career with several albums earning RIAA gold certification. The early 1970s sounds of the Tower of Power from Oakland, Sly and the Family Stone and Pablo Cruise all came from the Bay Area.

Heavy metal[edit]

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the Bay Area was home to one of the largest and most influential thrash metal scenes in the world, containing acts like Metallica (although Metallica had initially formed in Los Angeles, it was not until their relocation to El Cerrito in 1983 that Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett joined as bassist and lead guitarist), Exodus, Laaz Rockit, Death Angel, Vio-lence, Forbidden, and Testament.

Many death metal bands had also formed in the area, including Autopsy, Possessed (considered one of the first in the genre), and in the '90s, Impaled, Exhumed and Vile.

Also, an avant-garde metal scene has emerged in the Bay Area with bands such as Giant Squid, Grayceon, and Ludicra.[62]

Sludge band Neurosis and groove metal/post-thrash bands Machine Head 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.[63][64]

Heavy metal/hard rock icon Joe Satriani also hails from the Bay Area (Berkeley).

Alternative rock[edit]

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.

Rap and hip hop[edit]

See also: Hyphy movement

The Bay Area is 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, E-40, and Yukmouth, 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 was also home to rap legend Tupac Shakur who lived in Marin City, about 5 miles (8.0 km) north of San Francisco. The rap group Digital Underground originally hailed from Oakland. MC Hammer, and the Hieroglyphics hip hop crew, which is composed of local artists including the Souls of Mischief and Del tha Funkee Homosapien. Cindy Herron of En'Vogue attended Balboa High School in the late 1970s.


The Bay Area is one of the largest media markets in the United States.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the Bay Area ranks (as of the 2005–2006 television season) as the nation's sixth-largest "Designated Market Area (DMA)", with 2,355,740 "TV Homes", representing 2.137% of the United States Total.[citation needed]

The major newspapers are the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune, and the San Jose Mercury News. Local television channels include KTVU 2 (FOX), KRON-TV 4 (myNetworkTV), KPIX 5 (CBS), KGO-TV 7 (ABC), KQED-TV 9 (PBS), KNTV 11 (NBC), KBCW 44/45 (CW), KQEH 54 (PBS), and KKPX 65 (Ion). Radio stations serving the area include: KQED-FM, KMVQ, KOSF, and KGO-AM.

Regional counties, cities, and suburbs[edit]

A late 19th-century German map


Cities and towns[edit]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]


Coordinates: 37°45′N 122°17′W / 37.750°N 122.283°W / 37.750; -122.283