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San Mateo (Spanish for “Saint Matthew”) is a city in San Mateo County, California, located in the high-tech enclave of Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area. With a population of 97,207 as of the 2010 census, it is one of the larger suburbs on the San Francisco Peninsula, located between Burlingame to the north, Foster City and San Francisco Bay to the east, Belmont to the south, and Highlands-Baywood Park and Hillsborough to the west. The 2015 population was estimated to be 103,536. San Mateo was incorporated in 1894.
San Mateo Real Estate
In general, San Mateo’s downtown core and neighborhoods east of El Camino Real are more populous and have a greater density than the neighborhoods to the west of El Camino Real, where there is a lower population density.
San Mateo has a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, damp winters. The city is generally shielded from the Pacific Ocean by the Montara Mountain block of the Santa Cruz Mountains, but two gaps in the mountains (the San Bruno Gap, between Montara Mountain and San Bruno Mountain; and the Crystal Springs Gap, near where State Route 92 meets State Route 35, west of the College of San Mateo) can channel ocean weather, resulting in gusty afternoon winds that bring fog toward San Mateo in the late afternoon through early morning in the summer months.
Documented by Spanish colonists as part of the Rancho de las Pulgas (literally “Ranch of the Fleas”) and the Rancho San Mateo, the earliest history is held in the archives of Mission Dolores. In 1789 the Spanish missionaries had named a Native American village along Laurel Creek as Los Laureles or the Laurels (Mission Dolores, 1789). At the time of Mexican Independence, there were 30 native Californians at San Mateo, most likely from the Salson tribelet.
Captain Fredrick W. Beechey in 1827 traveling with the hills on their right, known in that part as the Sierra del Sur, began to approach the road, which passing over a small eminence, opened out upon “a wide country of meadow land, with clusters of fine oak free from underwood… It strongly resembled a nobleman’s park: herds of cattle and horses were grazing upon the rich pasture, and numerous fallow‑deer, startled at the approach of strangers, bounded off to seek protection among the hills… This spot is named San Matheo, and belongs to the mission of San Francisco.” An 1835 sketch map of the Rancho refers to the creek as Arroyo de Los Laureles. In the 21st century, most of the laurels are gone, removed for development.
In 1810 Coyote Point was an early recorded feature of San Mateo. Beginning in the 1850s, some wealthy San Franciscans began building summer or permanent homes in the milder mid-peninsula. While most of this early settlement occurred in adjacent Hillsborough and Burlingame, a number of historically important mansions and buildings were constructed in San Mateo.
A.P. Giannini, founder of the Bank of Italy (which later became the Bank of America), lived here most of his life. His mansion, Seven Oaks, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (No.99001181). Located at 20 El Cerrito Drive, it has been deteriorating as it has not been preserved or occupied for years.
In 1858 Sun Water Station, a stage station of the Butterfield Overland Mail route, was established in San Mateo. It was located 9 miles south of Clarks Station in what is now San Bruno and 9 miles north of the next station at Redwood City.
The Howard Estate was built in 1859 on the hill accessed by Crystal Springs Road. The Parrott Estate was erected in 1860 in the same area, giving rise to two conflicting names for the hill, Howard Hill and Parrot Hill. After use of the automobile changed traffic patterns, neither historic name was commonly applied to that hill (Brown, 1975). The Borel Estate was developed near Borel Creek in 1874. It has been redeveloped since the late 20th century for use as modern offices and shops. The property is managed and owned by Borel Place Associates and the Borel Estate Company.
Hayward Park, the 1880 American Queen Anne-style residence of Alvinza Hayward (often said to be “California’s first millionaire” from his silver and banking fortunes), was built on an 800-acre (3.2 km2) estate in San Mateo which included a deer park and racetrack, roughly bounded by present-day El Camino Real (on the west), 9th Avenue (on the north), B Street (on the east) and 16th Avenue (on the south). A smaller portion of the property and the mansion, was converted into The Peninsula Hotel in 1908, following Hayward’s death in 1904. The Hotel burned down in a spectacular fire on 25 June 1920.
In the early 20th century, Japanese immigrants came to San Mateo to work in the salt ponds and flower industry. Although Japanese-Americans only account for 2.2% of the population today, they continue to be a major cultural influence and a draw for the rest of the region. The Eugene J. De Sabla Japanese Teahouse and Garden was established in 1894 at 70 De Sabla Road, designed by Makoto Hagiwara, designer of the Japanese garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. He arranged for Japanese artisans to be brought to the United States primarily for its teahouse construction. The parcel was purchased in 1988 by San Francisco businessman Achille Paladini and wife Joan, who have restored it. The garden features hundreds of varieties of plants and several rare trees. A large koi pond surrounds an island. The property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
In December 1967, Sgt. Joe Artavia, then serving in Vietnam with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division wrote to his sister, Linda Giese, who was a resident of San Carlos working in San Mateo, asking if San Mateo or San Francisco could adopt the Company, saying that it would bring “the morale of the guys up as high as the clouds”. San Mateo passed a resolution on March 4, 1968, officially adopting Alpha Company and letters and gifts began arriving from the citizens of San Mateo. Joe would be killed in action on March 24, 1968, less than three weeks after the resolution. Linda would travel to Vietnam to meet with the men of Alpha Company for Christmas in 1968 and deliver personalized medallions from the City of San Mateo. In 1972, San Mateo requested and received permission to have Alpha Company visit the city when they left Vietnam, later holding a parade in January 1972, believed to be the only parade honoring the military during the Vietnam War. In 1988, Joseph Brazan wrote a screenplay entitled A Dove Among Eagles chronicling the adoption of Alpha Company by San Mateo and the real-life romance between Linda and Artavia’s commander, Lt. Stephen Patterson. The city expanded its support to the entire 1st Battalion in 1991, when they were deployed to Kuwait under Operation Desert Storm.
The best-known natural area is Coyote Point Park, a rock outcropped peninsula that juts out into the San Francisco Bay. The early Spanish navigators named it la punta de San Mateo. Crews of American cargo ships carrying grain in the bay renamed it Big Coyote (BLM, 1853). Sailors had a penchant for naming promontories at the edge of San Francisco Bay after the coyote; across the bay in Fremont are the Coyote Hills, part of Coyote Hills Regional Park. By the 1890s the shore area was developed as a popular beach called San Mateo Beach. In 1842 the Spanish had named it playa de San Mateo. Today Coyote Point is home to CuriOdyssey, formerly known as the Coyote Point Museum, a major natural history museums and wildlife centers in the state. The Peninsula Humane Society is also situated at Coyote Point.
The variety of natural habitats includes mixed oak woodland, riparian zones, and bayland marshes. One endangered species, the California clapper rail, was sighted feeding on mudflats by the Third Avenue bridge in San Mateo. The marsh areas are also likely habitat for the endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, which inhabit the middle and high zones of salt and brackish marshes, as well as for the endangered marsh plant, Point Reyes bird’s beak.
Sugarloaf Mountain, whose name has been documented in 1870, is a prominent landform between the forks of Laurel Creek (Brown, 1975). In the late 20th century, this mixed oak woodland and chaparral habitat was a site of controversy related to proposals to develop a portion of the mountain for residential use. It has been preserved for use as park and open space area, and is home to the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly.
Sawyer Camp Trail, located on the western edge of San Mateo along the Crystal Springs Reservoir is another popular destination for joggers, walkers and bikers. This roughly 6 mile trail begins in San Mateo and stretches north toward Hillsborough and San Bruno, parallel to the 280 freeway.
San Mateo has one of the larger, well developed, more prominent suburban downtowns in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is located roughly between Tilton and 9th Avenues and Delaware Street and El Camino Real The downtown core contains over 800 shops and restaurants, many of them in historic buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A historically influential area for the Japanese-American community, the downtown is home to many Japanese restaurants and shops. A large, modern 12-screen movie theatre complex gives the downtown a major entertainment option. Central Park is considered to be San Mateo’s signature park with tennis courts, picnic areas, playground, a baseball field, a recreation center, a miniature train, and a Japanese Tea Garden. The Caltrain station is situated downtown. The downtown also contains many large and small multi-story office buildings, apartments, government buildings and Mills Medical Center, making the area a busy employment center day and night.
Hillsdale Shopping Center is a mall in San Mateo County, with over 100 stores in the mall itself, surrounded by many big box stores. The city of San Mateo has approved the construction of Cinépolis (luxury movie theater) and a bowling alley off El Camino Real. Sears is no longer in business and has been vacated for new businesses to occupy this space. It has its own Caltrain station across El Camino Real.
Bay Meadows Racetrack was a former horse racing track near Hillsdale Mall, which closed down in 2008. It is being redeveloped into a large mixed used development which will include hundreds of new residential units, office space, retail space and acres of parks including a town square. It started construction in 2013 and was completed in 2017. It is a significant amount of new building given the city’s and peninsula’s limited space available for development.
The economy of San Mateo would best be considered very diverse with jobs in the technology, health care, financial services, government, and retail trade fields being among the most numerous. Companies based in San Mateo include Franklin Templeton Investments, Roblox, Fisher Investments, SolarCity, Solstice, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Marketo, GoPro, and NetSuite.
Since 1990, San Mateo has had a voter-approved ordinance limiting the height of new development to 55 feet. The San Mateo housing market is one of the most expensive in the country. In February 2018, the median San Mateo home was valued at $1,353,200, and the median rent was fifth in the entire nation at $2,242 per month. .
Residents are zoned for schools in the San Mateo Foster City School District and San Mateo Union High School District. Elementary schools comprise Preschool, K-5, Middle and Magnet schools. There are three public high schools: San Mateo, Aragon, and Hillsdale. There are also three private high schools: one all-male Catholic high school, Junípero Serra, one all-female Catholic high school, Notre Dame, and the Nueva Upper School. There is the Carey School.
The city is home to the College of San Mateo, a community college. The campus of over 10,000 students is located on 153 acres in the western foothills of the city which offer a panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay. Other universities in the area include Notre Dame de Namur University, a private Catholic university of 2,000 students in neighboring Belmont and Stanford University located about 12 miles to the south.
The San Mateo Union High School District also hosts an adult school behind the campus of San Mateo High School.
The City of San Mateo operates three libraries within the city. The Main Library, the Hillsdale Library, and the Marina Library are all part of the Peninsula Library System. The Main Library located near Central Park in downtown opened in 2006 after residents passed a $30 million bond measure. Upon opening, the three story 93,000 square foot building earned numerous design awards and was LEED certified NC Gold. Windows from floor to ceiling provide abundant natural light inside. It is modeled after a retail bookstore and is technologically advanced.
San Mateo maintains more than 15 parks throughout of the city.
Central Park is considered to be the main one and hosts many community park functions that serve downtown residents. It has a Japanese tea garden, a rose garden, and a mini train. Beresford Park is another large park that offers bocce ball and a skate plaza. Martin Luther King Jr Park and Joinville Park offer swimming pools while Ryder Park boasts a water play structure. Parkside Aquatic Park located on the San Francisco Bay has beach swimming and volleyball. Many of these parks have picnic areas with grills, children’s play areas, basketball and tennis courts, and baseball diamonds.
Coyote Point Park is near the border with Burlingame and on the San Francisco Bay. It is a 670-acre regional county park known for its ideal location for windsurfing and sailing. It is also home to CuriOdyssey: a hands-on science museum and small native animal zoo.
San Mateo is considered to be near the center of the San Francisco Bay Area about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose, the region’s two largest cities. It is served by three major freeways including U.S. Route 101, Interstate 280, and State Route 92. State Route 92 east of San Mateo traverses the San Francisco Bay as the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge to the city of Hayward on its eastern shore.
SamTrans provides local bus service within the city of San Mateo as well as the entire county of San Mateo. AC Transit provides transbay bus service via the San Mateo Bridge to Alameda County. Caltrain provides commuter rail service on the San Francisco Peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose. Caltrain operates three stations within the city of San Mateo with stations at Hillsdale (serving the mall and surrounding area), Hayward Park (near Highway 92), and San Mateo (in downtown San Mateo). There are 41 northbound and 41 southbound trains with a stop in the city each weekday and 18 trains in both directions on weekends. Extra southbound trains are run to accommodate passengers after San Francisco Giants games. See public transportation in San Mateo County for more details.
San Mateo is located near three major airports including San Francisco International Airport seven miles to the north. Oakland International Airport and San Jose Mineta International Airport are also within a half an hour drive. San Carlos Airport is a general aviation airport located about six miles to the south.
The San Mateo Performing Arts Center, located on San Mateo High School, is one of the largest theatres on the peninsula outside of San Francisco. The College of San Mateo is also located here and is home to radio station KCSM. The city is also home to the Bridgepointe and Hillsdale shopping centers. Bay Meadows horse-racing track was torn down in 2008.
The Japanese Tea Garden and San Mateo Arboretum in Central Park, San Mateo, CA. Central Park are of interest. U.S. Route 101, Interstate 280, and State Route 92 pass through San Mateo. One of its sister cities is Toyonaka, Japan, which the Japanese Tea Garden at Central Park was created to commemorate.
Public art is located all around the city. One of the more memorable works is the 1963, large, brightly colored mosaic mural designed by Louis Macouillard and constructed by Alfonso Pardiñas. The mural is located in front of a mid-century modern bank at 300 S. El Camino Real and tells the story of A. P. Giannini, the founder of Bank of Italy (United States).
Content Courtesy of Wikipedia.org