The Origins of 'The San Francisco Bay Area'

The Origins of 'The San Francisco Bay Area'

References to the term “The San Francisco Bay Area” first show up on maps in the early 1900s. But the borders weren’t consistent, and some references included Santa Cruz and San Joaquin counties.

“During World War II the region was growing very quickly, and a lot of the industrial development of the region was happening along the Bay shoreline,” says Egon Terplan, the regional planning director at SPUR, a Bay Area civic organization, and urban planning policy group. “It was planners during WWII who defined the San Francisco Bay Area as nine counties, and that’s the definition that’s stuck.”

Regional agencies still use the nine-county definition. To help you remember each of those nine counties, we asked two local musicians, Alison Faith Levy and Henry Plotnick, to make us a jingle. And oh, is it catchy.

But there are other ways to slice and dice where we live.

“There is no kind of perfect definition of what a region is. It really depends what it is we're trying to define,” Terplan says.

The boundaries might come down to why you’re looking at the Bay Area.

Consider first how the Bay Area is experienced as a commuter.

“As this region has gotten exorbitantly expensive, people continued to move further out both within those nine counties, and then to adjacent counties,” Terplan says.

While these people no longer live in the Bay Area, they still might work, shop, eat, and go to church here.

Looking at a map of Bay Area commuters, you’ll see well-worn commute routes extending to Stockton, Modesto, Santa Cruz, and even Sacramento. Even if they don’t live within the traditional boundaries, these commuters are part of the Bay Area fabric.



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