OVERVIEW: San Rafael became Marin's first real city in 1874. Its roots can be traced to December 1817, when Spanish Franciscans founded Mission San Rafael Archangel at the foot of San Rafael Hill, the 20th of California's 21 missions. A replica of the mission stands as St. Raphael's Church. More than 52,000 residents make their home in the county seat, the commercial, cultural and governmental center of Marin. Just 17 miles north of San Francisco and surrounded by wooded, grassy hillsides and the bay, about one-third of the city's 17 square miles is open space. East of the Marin County Civic Center, Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural enigma, is China Camp State Park, a former shrimp fishing village that now offers recreational opportunities, as does the nearby McNear's Beach Park. But the heart of the city lies west of Highway 101, where scores of retail shops and restaurants line downtown streets. Building and revitalization plans will add new sparkle to the city over the next few years, including a new film complex at the Rafael Theater on Fourth Street.
HOUSING: Home prices in San Rafael range from low to high. Real estate sales of both home and condominiums have been brisk. The town is one of the higher growth areas in the county, with new homes being built at a steady pace.
EDUCATION: San Rafael schoolchildren attend elementary, middle school, and high school in the San Rafael School District. There are three private schools.
TRANSPORTATION: San Rafael's central location makes it fairly easy to commute, although traffic can get heavy through downtown during rush hour. Most residents drive or take the bus to work.
PUBLIC SAFETY: San Rafael has its own police and fire departments. Crime includes incidents of theft and burglary. Earthquake danger varries according to neighborhood.
DEMOGRAPHICS: San Rafael has the largest and most diverse populations in the county. Education levels are high, and occupations run the gamut from service and sales to managerial professions. San Rafael's housing includes many rental units.
PARKS AND RECREATION: Besides a golf course and two beach parks, San Rafael has many smaller neighborhood parks. There are extensive youth programs available through the parks and recreation department.
AMENITIES: San Rafael has a range of activities and amenities. Besides a large mall and movie theater complex, there are several smaller shopping centers and numerous restaurants. There is a public library, churches of all denominations, numerous nightlife options, and a large medical facility.
WEATHER: The average temperature is 59 degrees, with an average maximum temperature of 70 degrees and an average low of 48. From July to September, highs get into the 80s. San Rafael gets about 37 inches of rain a year. The average low is 48 degrees, with the coldest months being November and December. Mount Tamalpais usually protects the region from perpetual fog.