San Francisco (/ˌsæn frənˈsɪskoʊ, fræn-/, Spanish: [sam fɾanˈsisko]; Spanish for “Saint Francis”), officially City and County of San Francisco and colloquially known as SF, San Fran, or “The City”, is the cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California. San Francisco is the 13th most populous city in the United States, and the fourth most populous in California, with 883,305 residents as of 2018. It covers an area of about 46.89 square miles (121.4 km), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second most densely populated large U.S. city, and the fifth most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is the 12th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States, with 4,729,484 people in 2018. With San Jose, it forms the fifth most populous combined statistical area in the United States, the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area (9.67 million residents in 2018).
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).
There are more than 50 hills within the city limits. Some neighborhoods are named after the hill on which they are situated, including Nob Hill, Potrero Hill, and Russian Hill.
Near the geographic center of the city, southwest of the downtown area, are a series of less densely populated hills. Twin Peaks, a pair of hills forming one of the city’s highest points, forms an overlook spot. San Francisco’s tallest hill, Mount Davidson, is 928 feet (283 m) high and is capped with a 103-foot (31 m) tall cross built in 1934. Dominating this area is Sutro Tower, a large red and white radio and television transmission tower.
The nearby San Andreas and Hayward Faults are responsible for much earthquake activity, although neither physically passes through the city itself. The San Andreas Fault caused the earthquakes in 1906 and 1989. Minor earthquakes occur on a regular basis. The threat of major earthquakes plays a large role in the city’s infrastructure development. The city constructed an auxiliary water supply system and has repeatedly upgraded its building codes, requiring retrofits for older buildings and higher engineering standards for new construction. However, there are still thousands of smaller buildings that remain vulnerable to quake damage. USGS has released the California earthquake forecast which models earthquake occurrence in California.
San Francisco’s shoreline has grown beyond its natural limits. Entire neighborhoods such as the Marina, Mission Bay, and Hunters Point, as well as large sections of the Embarcadero, sit on areas of landfill. Treasure Island was constructed from material dredged from the bay as well as material resulting from the excavation of the Yerba Buena Tunnel through Yerba Buena Island during the construction of the Bay Bridge. Such land tends to be unstable during earthquakes. The resulting soil liquefaction causes extensive damage to property built upon it, as was evidenced in the Marina district during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Most of the city’s natural watercourses, such as Islais Creek and Mission Creek, have been culverted and built over, although the Public Utilities Commission is studying proposals to daylight or restore some creeks.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates San Francisco’s population to be 883,305 as of July 1, 2018, with a population density of 18,838/sq mi. With nearly one-quarter the population density of Manhattan, San Francisco is the second-most densely populated large American city, behind only New York City among cities greater than 200,000 population, and the fifth-most densely populated U.S. county, following only four of the five New York City boroughs.
San Francisco forms part of the five-county San Francisco–Oakland–Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area, a region of 4.7 million people, and has served as its traditional demographic focal point. It is also part of the greater 14-county San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area, whose population is over 9.6 million, making it the fifth-largest in the United States as of 2018.
San Francisco has a minority-majority population, as non-Hispanic whites comprise less than half of the population, 41.9%, down from 92.5% in 1940.
As of the 2010 census, the ethnic makeup and population of San Francisco included: 390,387 whites (48%), 267,915 Asians (33%), 48,870 African Americans (6%), and others. There were 121,744 Hispanics or Latinos of any race (15%).
In 2010, residents of Chinese ethnicity constituted the largest single ethnic minority group in San Francisco at 21% of the population; the other Asian groups are Filipinos (5%) and Vietnamese (2%).
The population of Chinese ancestry is most heavily concentrated in Chinatown, Sunset District, and Richmond District, whereas Filipinos are most concentrated in the Crocker-Amazon (which is contiguous with the Filipino community of Daly City, which has one of the highest concentrations of Filipinos in North America), as well as in SoMa. The Tenderloin District is home to a large portion of the city’s Vietnamese population as well as businesses and restaurants, which is known as the city’s Little Saigon.
The principal Hispanic groups in the city were those of Mexican (7%) and Salvadoran (2%) ancestry. The Hispanic population is most heavily concentrated in the Mission District, Tenderloin District, and Excelsior District. The city’s percentage of Hispanic residents is less than half of that of the state.
The population of African Americans in San Francisco is 6% of the city’s population. The percentage of African Americans in San Francisco is similar to that of California. The majority of the city’s black population reside within the neighborhoods of Bayview-Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, and in the Fillmore District.
According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, the largest religious groupings in San Francisco’s metropolitan area are Christians (48%), followed by those of no religion (35%), Hindus (5%), Jews (3%), Buddhists (2%), Muslims (1%) and a variety of other religions have smaller followings. According to the same study by the Pew Research Center, about 20% of residents in the area are Protestant, and 25% professing Roman Catholic beliefs. Meanwhile, 10% of the residents in metropolitan San Francisco identifies as agnostics, while 5% identifies as atheists.
As of 2010, 55% (411,728) of San Francisco residents spoke only English at home, while 19% (140,302) spoke a variety of Chinese (mostly Taishanese and Cantonese), 12% (88,147) Spanish, 3% (25,767) Tagalog, and 2% (14,017) Russian. In total, 45% (342,693) of San Francisco’s population spoke a language at home other than English.
San Francisco has several prominent Chinese, Mexican, and Filipino ethnic neighborhoods including Chinatown and the Mission District. Research collected on the immigrant clusters in the city show that more than half of the Asian population in San Francisco is either Chinese born (40.3%) or Philippine born (13.1%), and of the Mexican population 21% were Mexican born, meaning these are people who recently immigrated to the United States. Between the years of 1990 and 2000, the number foreign born residents increased from 33% to nearly 40%, During this same time period, the San Francisco Metropolitan area received 850,000 immigrants, ranking third in the United States after Los Angeles and New York.
Of all major cities in the United States, San Francisco has the second-highest percentage of residents with a college degree, behind only Seattle. Over 44% of adults have a bachelor’s or higher degree.
San Francisco had the highest rate at 7,031 per square mile, or over 344,000 total graduates in the city’s 46.7 square miles (121 km).
San Francisco has the highest percentage of gay and lesbian individuals of any of the 50 largest U.S. cities, at 15%.
San Francisco also has the highest percentage of same-sex households of any American county, with the Bay Area having a higher concentration than any other metropolitan area.
San Francisco ranks third of American cities in median household income with a 2007 value of $65,519. Median family income is $81,136.
An emigration of middle-class families has left the city with a lower proportion of children than any other large American city, with the dog population cited as exceeding the child population of 115,000, in 2018.
The city’s poverty rate is 12%, lower than the national average.
Homelessness has been a chronic problem for San Francisco since the early 1970s.
The city is believed to have the highest number of homeless inhabitants per capita of any major U.S. city.
There are 345,811 households in the city, out of which: 133,366 households (39%) were individuals, 109,437 (32%) were opposite-sex married couples, 63,577 (18%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 21,677 (6%) were unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 10,384 (3%) were same-sex married couples or partnerships. The average household size was 2.26; the average family size was 3.11. 452,986 people (56%) lived in rental housing units, and 327,985 people (41%) lived in owner-occupied housing units.
The median age of the city population is 38 years.
San Francisco “declared itself a sanctuary city in 1989, and city officials strengthened the stance in 2013 with its ‘Due Process for All’ ordinance. The law declared local authorities could not hold immigrants for immigration officials if they had no violent felonies on their records and did not currently face charges.” The city issues a Resident ID Card regardless of the applicant’s immigration status.
Homelessness, historically, has been a major problem in the city and remains a growing problem in modern times.
In 2017, 7,500 homeless people were officially counted in the city, two-thirds of whom were dealing with serious health issues like mental illness or HIV.
The city of San Francisco has been dramatically increasing expenditure directed to alleviate the homelessness crisis: spending jumped by $241 million in 2016–17 to total $275 million, compared to a budget of just $34 million the previous year. In 2017–18 the budget for combatting homelessness, much of which is directed towards the building of new shelters and expanding capacity, stood at $305 million.
In January 2018 a United Nations special rapporteur on homelessness, Leilani Farha, stated that she was “completely shocked” by San Francisco’s homelessness crisis during a visit to the city. She compared the “deplorable conditions” of the homeless camps she witnessed on San Francisco’s streets to those she had seen in Mumbai.