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San Francisco, officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California and the only consolidated city-county in California. San Francisco encompasses a land area of about 46.9 square miles (121 km2) on the northern end of the San Francisco Peninsula. It has a density of about 18,187 people per square mile (7,022 people per km2), making it 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 2014 population of 852,469. The city and its surrounding areas are known as the San Francisco Bay Area, which is a part of the larger OMB designated San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland combined statistical area, the fifth most populous in the nation with an estimated population of 8.6 million.
San Francisco (Spanish for Saint Francis) was founded on June 29, 1776, when colonists from Spain established Presidio of San Francisco at the Golden Gate and Mission San Francisco de Asís named for St. Francis of Assisi a few miles away. The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid growth, making it the largest city on the West Coast at the time. San Francisco became a consolidated city-county in 1856.
After three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later. In World War II, San Francisco was the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, along with the rise of the “hippie” counterculture, the Sexual Revolution, the Peace Movement growing from opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a center of liberal activism in the United States. Politically, the city votes strongly along liberal Democratic Party lines.
San Francisco is a popular tourist destination, known for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, and its Chinatown district. San Francisco is also the headquarters of five major banking institutions and various other companies such as Levi Strauss & Co., the Gap Inc., Salesforce.com, Dropbox, Reddit, Square, Inc., Airbnb, Weebly, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Yelp, Pinterest, Twitter, Uber, Mozilla, Wikimedia Foundation and Craigslist.
San Francisco has several nicknames, including “The City by the Bay”, “Fog City”, “San Fran”, and “Frisco”, as well as antiquated ones like “The City that Knows How,” “Baghdad by the Bay,” and “The Paris of the West.”
San Francisco’s economic activity attracts and supports a range of industries. As the base for some of the country’s largest banks, the Pacific Exchange, and over 30 international financial institutions, San Francisco is a center for world commerce. Most recently San Francisco is considered the birthplace of new media; its South Park neighborhood houses some of the most innovative new technology companies in the world. San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood is a model for collaborative innovation between the biotechnology industry and academic researchers.
World War II started a local boom in defense industries, resulting in subsequent high-technology development that hasn’t ceased. Nearby Silicon Valley, along with Stanford University, are considered to be among the places where the worldwide technology boom began, and they remain on the leading edge today. More than 2,800 Bay Area companies produce computers, semiconductors and related components, scientific instruments, and various other electronic systems and equipment. Aerospace industries such as the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and Lockheed also maintain major research facilities in the area.
Another important high-technology industry in the area is medical science; several hundred companies in the Bay Area are setting the pace in research and development of pharmaceutical products, medical electronics, and genetic engineering. Almost one third of the total worldwide biotechnology workforce is employed in San Francisco and the surrounding region. Other prominent industries are tourism, which generates $6.73 billion in tourist spending each year and is the largest industry in the region; fashion apparel, with the Bay Area home to the world’s largest apparel maker, Levi Strauss & Co.; health care; education; and restaurants.