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[[Image:San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland CSA.svg|thumb|right|240px|Location of the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland CSA and its component metropolitan areas:

]]The San Francisco Bay Area, commonly known as the Bay Area or simply the Bay, is a metropolitan region that surrounds the San Franciscomarker and San Pablomarker estuaries in Northern California. The region encompasses large cities such as San Franciscomarker, Oaklandmarker, and San Josemarker, along with smaller urban and rural areas. Overall, the Bay Area consists of nine counties, 101 cities, and 7,000 square miles. The nine counties are Alamedamarker, Contra Costamarker, Marinmarker, Napamarker, San Franciscomarker, San Mateomarker, Santa Claramarker, Solanomarker, and Sonomamarker.

The Bay Area when defined as a Combined Statistical Area, is the sixth largest in the country, with approximately 7.4 million people. It encompasses the metropolitan areas of San Francisco (12th 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 Citymarker. San Jose is the largest city in terms of population, land area, and industrial development. 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.


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 800,000 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 for the city, as well as having resulted in increased real estate prices due to the limited availability of land. San Francisco also has the largest commuter population of any city in the Bay Area.

North Bay

The region north of the Golden Gate Bridgemarker is known locally as the North Bay. This area encompasses Marin Countymarker, Sonoma Countymarker, Napa Countymarker and extends eastward into Solano Countymarker. The city of Fairfieldmarker, 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 Rosamarker 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 Bridgemarker leading to San Francisco, the Richmond-San Rafael and Carquinezmarker Bridges leading to Richmondmarker, and the Benicia-Martinez Bridgemarker leading to Martinezmarker.


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 Countymarker and the northwestern part of Santa Clara Countymarker, as well as various towns along the Pacificmarker coast, such as Pacificamarker and Half Moon Baymarker. This area is extremely diverse, although it contains significant populations of affluent family households with the exception of East Palo Altomarker and some parts of Redwood Citymarker. 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 Altomarker, Woodside, Portola Valleymarker, and Athertonmarker 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 Altomarker. Peninsula cities include: Atherton, Belmontmarker, Brisbanemarker, Burlingamemarker, Colmamarker, Daly Citymarker, East Palo Alto, Foster Citymarker, Half Moon Bay, Hillsboroughmarker, Menlo Parkmarker, Millbraemarker, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City, Redwood Shores, San Brunomarker, San Carlosmarker, San Mateomarker, South San Franciscomarker and Woodside.

East Bay

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 Oaklandmarker, Haywardmarker, Fremontmarker, Berkeleymarker, and Richmondmarker, as well as many smaller suburbs such as Alamedamarker, Castro Valleymarker, Newarkmarker, Union Citymarker, Emeryvillemarker, Albanymarker, San Leandromarker, San Pablomarker, El Sobrantemarker, Pinole, Herculesmarker, Rodeomarker, Piedmontmarker, and El Cerritomarker. 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 Alamedamarker and Contra Costamarker 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: Lafayettemarker, Moragamarker, and Orindamarker. Walnut Creekmarker is situated east of Lamorinda and north of the San Ramon Valley and, together with Concordmarker, Martinezmarker, and Pleasant Hillmarker comprises Central Contra Costa County. The cities of Pittsburgmarker, Antiochmarker, Brentwoodmarker, Oakleymarker and the unincorporated areas surrounding them comprise East Contra Costa County. The cities of Dublinmarker, Pleasantonmarker, Livermoremarker, comprise the Livermore-Amador Valley (sometimes joined with the San Ramon Valley and called the Tri-Valleymarker), or more popularly referred to as the Livermore Valleymarker because Livermore is the largest city in the valley. The San Ramon Valley consists of Alamomarker, Danvillemarker, Diablomarker and its namesake, San Ramonmarker 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 Tunnelmarker. The outer East Bay is particularly rural in Livermore , 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.

Silicon Valley

The communities along the southern edge of the Bay are known as the South Bay, Santa Clara Valley, and Silicon Valleymarker. Some Peninsula and East Bay towns are sometimes included in the latter. It includes the major city of San Josemarker, and its suburbs, including the high-tech hubs of Santa Claramarker, Milpitasmarker, Cupertinomarker, Sunnyvalemarker, Palo Altomarker and Mountain Viewmarker as well as many other suburbs like Los Altosmarker, Saratogamarker, Campbellmarker and Los Gatosmarker and the exurbs of Morgan Hillmarker and Gilroymarker. 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 Valleymarker, this region is home to a vast number of technology sector giants. Some notable tech companies headquartered in the Bay are AMDmarker, Intelmarker, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Applemarker, 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 both within California and throughout the world.

San Jose, the tenth largest city in the United Statesmarker, 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 demographic comparable to San Franciscomarker. San Jose is also home to NHL hockey team San Jose Sharks. The height of buildings in the Financial District of Downtown is limited because the San Jose International Airportmarker's airplane route flies directly over it. Over the past decade, 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.

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.) 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 Cruzmarker and San Benitomarker Counties. Meanwhile, the California State Parks Department defines the Bay Area as including ten counties, 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 Mountainsmarker (Boulder Creekmarker, Brookdalemarker, Ben Lomondmarker, Feltonmarker, Scotts Valleymarker) 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 Baymarker 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 Barbaramarker.

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 Sacramentomarker, San Joaquin, Stanislausmarker, and Yolo.


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.

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.

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 Californiamarker 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 countymarker and San Benitomarker 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 Median Household Income Per Capita Income
&066th districtmarker Marin Countymarker and southern Sonoma Countymarker D +23 76.0% $59,115 $33,036
&077th district Richmondmarker, Vallejomarker, Vacavillemarker, and Pittsburgmarker 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 districtmarker Oakland, Berkeleymarker and the Oakland hills D +37 88.1% $44,314 $25,201
&1010th district Fairfieldmarker, Livermoremarker, Pleasant Hillmarker, and Concordmarker D +11 64.9% $65,245 $31,093
&1111th district Parts of Contra Costa, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties including Morgan Hillmarker, Pleasantonmarker, and San Ramonmarker 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 districtmarker Much of the East Bay, including Fremontmarker, Union Citymarker and Haywardmarker D +22 74.4% $62,415 $26,076
&1414th district Silicon Valleymarker, including Redwood Citymarker, Mountain Viewmarker, Sunnyvalemarker, Palo Altomarker and Santa Cruzmarker 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 Hillmarker 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.Smarker, due to the economies of San Franciscomarker and Silicon Valleymarker. The Bay Area has approximately 123,621 millionaire households. Among medium-sized cities, Pleasantonmarker has the highest household income in the country, and Livermoremarker 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

This graph compares the income distribution among Bay Area households to the national level.
Six of the top ten California places with the highest per capita income are in the San Francisco Bay Area (Belvederemarker, Athertonmarker, Woodsidemarker, Portola Valleymarker, Diablomarker). Of the 100 highest income counties by per capita income in the United States, six are in the San Francisco Bay Area (Marinmarker, San Mateomarker, San Franciscomarker, Santa Claramarker, Contra Costamarker, Alamedamarker). According to Forbes Magazine, published in 2005, 12 of the top 50 most expensive Zip Codes are in the Bay Area (Athertonmarker, Rossmarker, Diablomarker, Belvederemarker-Tiburonmarker, Nicasiomarker, Portola Valleymarker, Los Altosmarker-Los Altos Hillsmarker, Los Gatosmarker-Monte Serenomarker, the Cow Hollow-Marina Districtmarker of San Franciscomarker, Alamomarker, and Burlingamemarker-Hillsboroughmarker).

Forty-seven San Francisco Bay Area residents made the Forbes magazine's 400 richest Americans list, published in 2007. 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 Citymarker and Dallasmarker. (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.

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, working-class households in the Bay Area earn up to $50,000 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 (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. This enables low cost goods shops, such as variety stores, to maintain a presence in the Bay Area.


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.

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 Oceanmarker 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 (including Mount St. Helena, Mount Hamiltonmarker, Mission Peakmarker, Mount Diablomarker, and Mount Tamalpaismarker) occasionally receive snow. San Jose at the south end of the Bay averages fewer than 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 Gatemarker, the Carquinez Straitmarker, and the Altamont Passmarker, 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 Alaskamarker. 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.

Geology and landforms

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 Tamalpaismarker at 2,571 feet (784 m). Contra Costa County's Mount Diablomarker at 3,849 feet (1,173 m), Alameda County's Mission Peakmarker at 2,517 to 2,604 feet (767 to 776 m), and Santa Clara County's Mount Hamiltonmarker at 4,213 ft (1,284 m), the latter with significant astronomical studies performed at its crowning Lick Observatorymarker. 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 Faultmarker, 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 Mountainsmarker and the northern reaches of the Diablo Rangemarker and Mount Diablomarker.

Natural hazards


Map showing earthquake amplification due to soil type.
The region is particularly exposed to hazards associated with large earthquakes, 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.

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 Bridgemarker.

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 Firestormmarker.

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 Mountainsmarker.


The Bay Area is served by many public transportation systems, including three international airports (SFOmarker, OAKmarker, SJCmarker), 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 Buildingmarker. AC Transit and some other agencies provide an extensive network of express "transbay" commuter buses from the suburbs to San Francisco Transbay Terminalmarker.

The freeway and highway system is very extensive; however, many freeways are heavily congested during rush hour, especially the trans-bay bridges (Golden Gatemarker and Bay Bridgemarker). 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 Bridgemarker 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 earthquakemarker and subsequently removed rather than being reinforced or rebuilt.

Higher education

The region is home to many colleges and seminaries, most notably Stanford Universitymarker, the University of California, Berkeleymarker, and the University of California, San Franciscomarker. In addition, the Bay Area is home to two of the twenty-eight Jesuit universities in the United Statesmarker, Santa Clara Universitymarker (founded in 1851), and University of San Franciscomarker (1855), which also hold the distinction of being the two oldest institutions of higher learning in the state of Californiamarker. 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. 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 PMSAmarker. Santa Cruz PMSA ranks eighth and the Oakland PMSA eleventh.
University of California, Berkeley.


Stanford University.


Team Sport League Venue
San Francisco 49ers Football National Conference (National Football League) Candlestick Parkmarker
Oakland Raiders Football American Conference (National Football League) Oakland-Alameda County Coliseummarker
San Francisco Giants Baseball National League (Major League Baseball) AT&T Parkmarker
Oakland Athletics Baseball American League (Major League Baseball) Oakland-Alameda County Coliseummarker
Golden State Warriors Basketball National Basketball Association Oracle Arenamarker
San Jose Sharks Ice hockey National Hockey League HP Pavilion at San Josemarker
San Jose Earthquakes Soccer Major League Soccer Buck Shaw Stadiummarker
San Francisco Nighthawks Soccer Women's Premier Soccer League Kezar Stadiummarker
San Jose Giants Baseball California League (Minor League Baseball) San Jose Municipal Stadiummarker
FC Gold Pride Soccer Women's Professional Soccer Buck Shaw Stadiummarker

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 Seattlemarker and later a resident of London, Englandmarker - had strong connections to the movement and the metropolitan Bay area, as he lived in Berkeley for 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.

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 Angelesmarker, 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.

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 Berkeleymarker.

Rap and hip hop

The Bay Area was the home of the hyphy movement, which started almost 10 years ago. The genre which was pioneered by rappers Andre "Mac Dre" Hicks, Too Short, Keak Da Sneak, 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 Citymarker, about 5 miles north of San Francisco,and even Hammer and the Hieroglyphics hip hop crew, which is composed of local artists including the Souls of Mischief and Del tha Funkee Homosapien.

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. San Francisco Bay Area Vision Project
  2. The Association of Bay Area Governments
  5. Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Bay Region (2) Boundaries Accessed 2007-02-20
  7. Raleigh-Durham area ranks third in U.S. for college degrees
  8. CSA Median household income
  9. 2008 California Presidential Election Results by Congressional District
  11. [1]
  13. [2] "Assets".
  14. - Maps and information about Bay Area threats including earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis.
  15. USGS site with Google Earth KMZ files related to geology and seismic activity
  16. Describes Bay Area damage from 1960 tsunami.
  17. U.S. Census Bureau, 2003 American Community Survey, accessed November 5, 2007
  18. 2002 American Community Survey, SELECTED POPULATION CHARACTERISTICIS FOR LARGE METROPOLITAN AREAS, accessed November 5, 2007
  19. Essi Berelian (2005), The Rough Guide to Heavy Metal, p. 259, "Faith No More must be counted among the pioneers [of nu metal]"
  20. Joel McIver (2002), NU-METAL- The Next Generation Of Rock & Punk

External links

  • Bay Area Hiker Bay Area Hiker explores the diverse and wonderful spectrum of hiking in the San Francisco bay area
  • Live Music in San Francisco Bay Area
  • Bay Area Community-built site with non-touristy things to do in San Francisco and surrounding areas.


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