San Francisco Listeni/sæn frənˈsɪskoʊ/, officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the leading financial and cultural center of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area. The only consolidated city-county in California, San Francisco encompasses a land area of about 46.9 square miles (121 km Sq) on the northern end of the San Francisco Peninsula, giving it a density of about 17,620 people per square mile (6,803 people per km Sq). It is the most densely settled large city (population greater than 200,000) in the state of California and the second-most densely populated major city in the United States after New York City. San Francisco is the fourth most populous city in California, after Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose, and the 14th most populous city in the United States—with a Census-estimated 2012 population of 825,863. The city is also the financial and cultural hub of the larger San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland combined statistical area, with a population of 8.4 million.
The earliest archaeological evidence of human habitation of the territory of the city of San Francisco dates to 3000 BC. The Yelamu group of the Ohlone people resided in a few small villages when an overland Spanish exploration party, led by Don Gaspar de Portolà arrived on November 2, 1769, the first documented European visit to San Francisco Bay. Seven years later, on March 28, 1776, the Spanish established the Presidio of San Francisco, followed by a mission, Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores), established by the Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza.
Upon independence from Spain in 1821, the area became part of Mexico. Under Mexican rule, the mission system gradually ended, and its lands became privatized. In 1835, Englishman William Richardson erected the first independent Homestead, near a boat anchorage around what is today Portsmouth Square. Together with Alcalde Francisco de Haro, he laid out a street plan for the expanded settlement, and the town, named Yerba Buena, began to attract American settlers. Commodore John D. Sloat claimed California for the United States on July 7, 1846, during the Mexican-American War, and Captain John B. Montgomery arrived to claim Yerba Buena two days later. Yerba Buena was renamed San Francisco on January 30 of the next year, and Mexico officially ceded the territory to the United States at the end of the war. Despite its attractive location as a port and naval base, San Francisco was still a small settlement with inhospitable geography.
San Francisco is located on the West Coast of the United States at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula and includes significant stretches of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay within its boundaries. Several picturesque islands—Alcatraz, Treasure Island and the adjacent Yerba Buena Island, and small portions of Alameda Island, Red Rock Island, and Angel Island—are part of the city. Also included are the uninhabited Farallon Islands, 27 miles (43 km) offshore in the Pacific Ocean. The mainland within the city limits roughly forms a "seven-by-seven-mile square," a common local colloquialism referring to the city's shape, though its total area, including water, is nearly 232 square miles (600 km Sq).
The historic center of San Francisco is the northeast quadrant of the city anchored by Market Street and the waterfront. It is here that the Financial District is centered, with Union Square, the principal shopping and hotel district, nearby. Cable cars carry riders up steep inclines to the summit of Nob Hill, once the home of the city's business tycoons, and down to the waterfront tourist attractions of Fisherman's Wharf, and Pier 39, where many restaurants feature Dungeness crab from a still-active fishing industry. Also in this quadrant are Russian Hill, a residential neighborhood with the famously crooked Lombard Street; North Beach, the city's Little Italy and the former center of the Beat Generation; and Telegraph Hill, which features Coit Tower.
Culture and contemporary life
Although the Financial District, Union Square, and Fisherman's Wharf are well-known around the World, San Francisco is also characterized by its numerous culturally rich streetscapes featuring mixed-use neighborhoods anchored around central commercial corridors to which residents and visitors alike can walk. Because of these characteristics, San Francisco was rated "most walkable" city by the website Walkscore.com. Many neighborhoods feature a mix of businesses, restaurants and venues that cater to both the daily needs of local residents while also serving many visitors and tourists. Some neighborhoods are dotted with boutiques, cafes and nightlife such as Union Street in Cow Hollow, 24th Street in Noe Valley, Valencia Street in the Mission, and Irving Street in the Inner Sunset. This approach especially has influenced the continuing South of Market neighborhood redevelopment with businesses and neighborhood services rising alongside high-rise residences.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) houses 20th century and contemporary works of art. It moved to its current building in the South of Market neighborhood in 1995 and now attracts more than 600,000 visitors annually. The Palace of the Legion of Honor holds primarily European antiquities and works of art at its Lincoln Park building modeled after its Parisian namesake. It is administered by Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which also operates the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. The de Young's collection features American decorative pieces and anthropological holdings from Africa, Oceania and the Americas. Prior to construction of its current copper-clad structure, completed in 2005, the de Young also housed the Asian Art Museum, which, with artifacts from over 6,000 years of history across Asia, moved into the former public library next to Civic Center in 2003.
Freeways and roads
Due to its unique geography, and the freeway revolts of the late 1950s, San Francisco is one of the few American cities with arterial thoroughfares instead of having numerous highways within the city.