Everything About San Mateo, CA

Nestled on the San Francisco Peninsula, San Mateo is a vibrant, historic city known for its family-friendly neighborhoods, mild climate, and proximity to both San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

With a population of over 100,000, San Mateo seamlessly blends small-town charm with big-city amenities. This local guide will give you an in-depth look at everything that makes San Mateo special.


The history of San Mateo stretches back centuries. The area was originally home to the Ohlone people, who were the first inhabitants of the San Francisco Peninsula. In 1777, Spanish missionaries arrived and established Mission San Francisco de Asis, now known as Mission Dolores in San Francisco.

In 1835, Jose de Jesus Noe was granted Rancho de las Pulgas, a vast tract of land that included modern-day San Mateo. The city itself was not established until the 1850s and 1860s as settlers came to the area looking for farmland. The city was officially incorporated in 1894.

By the early 1900s, San Mateo had become a prosperous town centered around agriculture. After World War II, the city saw major suburban growth as it became a bedroom community for San Francisco and Silicon Valley workers. Today, San Mateo retains traces of its past while continuing to evolve as a diverse, economically thriving city.


San Mateo is located in the heart of the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately 20 miles south of San Francisco. It spans an area of 15.7 square miles. The San Francisco Bay borders the city to the east and rolling hills to the west.

Within San Mateo, there are a variety of natural features and open spaces. Coyote Point Park, overlooking the bay, offers hiking trails, a beach, and recreational facilities. Sugarloaf Mountain provides 360-degree views of the surrounding area. Laurelwood Park and Beresford Park are also popular green spaces.

The city has a street grid pattern angled approximately 45 degrees from the cardinal directions. This was done to conform to the natural contours of the land. Downtown San Mateo features a variety of local shops and restaurants centered along 3rd and 4th Avenues.


San Mateo’s landscape and geology have been shaped over millions of years by the movements of the San Andreas Fault system. The city itself sits on the San Francisco Peninsula, a northwest-trending structural block bounded by the San Andreas Fault.

Most of San Mateo rests on sedimentary bedrock such as sandstone, siltstone, and shale. These sedimentary rocks originated from turbidites, or underwater landslides, some 145 to 170 million years ago. Erosion of the San Bruno Mountains and Montara Mountain over time contributed to these sediment deposits.

In some areas, younger alluvial deposits from nearby creeks overlay the bedrock. The northwest portion of San Mateo borders the southern end of the Merced Formation, made up of sand dunes that migrated inland over geologic time.

Active seismic faults in the region, including the San Andreas and Hayward Faults, make earthquakes a present-day hazard. However the ancient movements of these tectonic boundaries also shaped the very ground upon which San Mateo is situated today.


San Mateo is comprised of many charming residential enclaves, each with its own distinct personality and community vibe.

Downtown San Mateo is the heart of the city. This area blends commercial, retail, and residential spaces and hosts numerous community events throughout the year. The Heights, west of downtown, is one of San Mateo’s most prestigious neighborhoods, known for its hilly streets and custom-designed homes.

To the south lies the Shoreview neighborhood, characterized by contemporary homes perched on hills with panoramic views of the Bay. Beresford Park, to the northwest, contains architecture from the 1920s and 30s along tree-lined streets.

The aptly named Baywood neighborhood sits east of Highway 101 and features curvilinear streets following the contours of the shoreline. North Central is one of San Mateo’s most diverse areas and is home to excellent schools, parks, and City Hall.

No matter which area you choose, San Mateo offers safe communities with high-quality public amenities. The city has something for every lifestyle.


San Mateo enjoys a Mediterranean climate characterized by cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers.

In winter, average low temperatures dip into the low 40s Fahrenheit. Frost can occur on some winter nights and mornings. Winter storms bring periodic rain to the area, with an average annual rainfall of 22 inches.

Summer days are quite warm, with average highs in the low 70s. Nighttime temperatures cool off into the mid 50s. The warmest months are July through September. Dense, wet fog often blankets the area in summer.

The city sees approximately 260 sunny days per year on average. Snowfall is extremely rare. Microclimates exist within San Mateo due to shifts in elevation and proximity to San Francisco Bay. Annual temperatures average around 57 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

Overall, San Mateo’s temperate climate offers mostly mild, pleasant weather for outdoor living. Residents can enjoy the area’s natural beauty throughout the year.


San Mateo is home to an ethnically, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse population of over 100,000 residents.

According to the 2020 census, 50.8% of the city’s residents are white, followed by 24.6% Asian, 11.2% Hispanic/Latino, 4.2% two or more races, 3.7% Black, and 5.5% other races.

38.7% of residents speak a language other than English at home. The most common non-English languages are Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, and Japanese.

Over 40% of households make over $150,000 per year, reflecting the area’s high cost of living. At the same time, 10.2% of San Mateo residents live below the poverty line.

The population skews slightly older, with a median age of 41 compared to the national average of 38. San Mateo provides amenities and opportunities that appeal to families, young professionals, retirees, and all generations in between.


San Mateo benefits from a strong, diverse economy based on healthcare, technology, financial services, retail, education, and tourism. The city’s median household income is $131,089, well above state and national averages.

Located just 12 miles from San Francisco and 31 miles from San Jose, San Mateo serves as the economic center of the Mid-Peninsula region. Major employers include Franklin Templeton, Fisher Investments, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and San Mateo Medical Center.

Hillsdale Shopping Center, one of the top malls in the country by sales per square foot, is a major retail destination located in San Mateo. The city is also home to the corporate headquarters of major brands like Fisher-Price, SolarCity, Roblox, and Glu Mobile.

San Mateo’s economic success is further bolstered by its location within the broader Silicon Valley economy. The city provides convenient access to the high-tech employment centers in cities like Menlo Park and Redwood City.


From music and theater to museums and festivals, San Mateo has an abundance of cultural offerings for residents and visitors to enjoy.

The San Mateo County History Museum explores the area’s past through interactive exhibits and displays. The San Mateo Performing Arts Center, located downtown, hosts concerts, plays, and other productions throughout the year.

For art lovers, the San Mateo Public Library hosts rotating art exhibits. The Peninsula Art Institute also offers art classes, workshops, and gallery displays by local artists.

Several major annual events enliven San Mateo’s culture calendar. The San Mateo County Fair takes place every June at the county Event Center, showcasing rides, food, agriculture, and live entertainment. Every August, the San Mateo Festival brings three stages of live music plus art, wine, and craft beer.

In a city as diverse as San Mateo, cultural festivals abound all year long. Whether you’re looking to celebrate Japanese culture at the Tanabata Festival or Mexican Independence Day on the downtown streets, there’s always something exciting happening.

Colleges and Universities

Although there are no major universities actually within San Mateo, the city provides easy access to several prominent institutions in surrounding communities.

Located just 5 miles from San Mateo in San Bruno is Skyline College. This public community college enrolls over 10,000 students annually. It offers associate degrees and career training programs.

In nearby Belmont, Notre Dame de Namur University is a private Catholic university of around 1,500 students. It offers a wide array of undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

The College of San Mateo, part of the acclaimed San Mateo Community College District, is situated in the hills of western San Mateo. It provides transfer programs, occupational training, and adult education.

Of course, beyond San Mateo, there are several major universities in the broader Bay Area. Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley are about 30 miles away, while San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco are under 20 miles from the city.

So whether you want to live right on campus or just nearby, San Mateo gives residents access to some of California’s top institutions of higher learning.


Residents of San Mateo stay up to date through several local media outlets. The San Mateo Daily Journal is the city’s newspaper of record, publishing daily and covering the latest regional news. San Mateo also falls within the circulation of the major Bay Area papers like the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News.

San Mateo Community Television (KCSM-TV) is based in the city and airs both local programming and national public television fare. KKUP 91.5 FM broadcasts a variety of music along with community affairs coverage.

Popular network TV stations that serve the area include KPIX, KRON, KGO, and KNTV. Radio stations like KCBS, KQED, and KALW provide news, talk, and music over the airwaves. Comcast Xfinity and AT&T U-verse are the primary cable/internet providers for residents.

Overall, San Mateo residents enjoy access to all the major news and entertainment sources typical of a large metropolitan market, in addition to great local media options.


Key transportation arteries make getting around San Mateo and the broader Bay Area simple. U.S. Route 101 runs directly through the city, offering a quick connection to San Francisco to the north and Silicon Valley to the south. Interstate 280 also skirts the western edge of San Mateo.

Within the city limits, El Camino Real (State Route 82) is the major north-south thoroughfare, lined with shops and restaurants through many neighborhoods. Alameda de las Pulgas serves as an important east-west connector across central San Mateo.

Public transportation is robust, with Caltrain commuter rail stopping in San Mateo on its trips between San Jose and San Francisco. BART trains are accessible via the Millbrae Station, just north of San Mateo. SamTrans buses run throughout the city and county.

The streets in downtown San Mateo form a grid pattern at an approximately 45-degree angle to cardinal directions. Many residential neighborhoods have curving streets that conform to the area’s hills and canyons.

Getting around without a car is definitely doable in San Mateo thanks to the bicycle-friendly streets plus walking paths like the San Francisco Bay Trail. With so many mobility options, navigating San Mateo is refreshingly hassle-free.

Major Landmarks

From historic sites to modern icons, landmarks around San Mateo reflect the city’s heritage and vitality.

Start in Central Park, home to the San Mateo City Hall whose distinctive dome and colonnaded portico have been civic fixtures since the building opened in 1916. Stroll through the manicured Japanese Tea Garden, created in the park back in 1915.

Coyote Point Recreation Area, a 670-acre park along the bay, features shoreline trails, windsurfing and sailing areas, playgrounds, and the popular Coyote Point Museum with interactive science exhibits. Don’t miss the massive “Magic Carpet Ride” sculpture hovering over the park’s entrance.

On the National Register of Historic Places, the San Mateo Train Station downtown elegantly combines Mission Revival and neoclassical architectural styles. Completed in 1894, it remains an iconic local landmark.

For religious history, visit two downtown churches built in the 1860s by early San Mateo settlers: St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and the Church of the Transfiguration. With their graceful sloping rooflines and wooden construction, both exude rustic charm.

From nature to culture, San Mateo’s diverse landmarks tell a story that spans over a century while remaining relevant today. These special sites reveal the spirit of this wonderful place.

In summary, San Mateo is a thriving, progressive Bay Area city anchored in a rich history and blessed with natural beauty. With its family-friendly vibe, mixed urban-suburban landscape, mild sunny climate, and abundance of amenities, attractions, and economic opportunity, it’s easy to see why San Mateo is such a desirable place to live, work, and play.

Whether you’re a visitor looking to explore or a resident lucky enough to call San Mateo home, this guide provides everything you need to know about the city’s incredible past, present, and future.


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  • Starting downtown, head north on South B Street then make a left on East 4th Ave followed by a right on South Delaware Street. Turn left on 9th Avenue and arrive shortly on the right.
  • Coming from Highway 101 North, take the CA-92 West exit then turn left on Delaware Street and right on 9th Avenue, arriving soon after on the right side.
  • From Hayward Park Station, walk northwest on West Hillsdale Boulevard, turn right on Norfolk Street followed by a left on 9th Avenue. 812 will be on the left side.