Brisbane is a small city located in the northern part of San Mateo County, California on the lower slopes of San Bruno Mountain. It is on the northeastern edge of South San Francisco, next to the San Francisco Bay and near the San Francisco International Airport.
The population was 4,282 as of the 2010 census.
Brisbane is called “The City of Stars” because of a holiday tradition established over 65 years ago. At the start of the Christmas/Hanukkah season, many residents and business owners place large, illuminated stars, some as big as 10 feet (3.0 m) or more in diameter, on the “downhill” sides of homes and offices throughout Brisbane. Brisbane is built on the eastern slope of San Bruno Mountain, allowing visitors to see the stars. Many of the stars are kept up all year.
The first recorded inhabitants were the Costanoan Indians. They built dome-shaped dwellings of boughs and tules. By 1776, Spanish explorers had arrived and the Franciscan missionaries soon followed leaving numerous large land grants in their wake. With Mexican rule, the lands controlled by the Mission were released to private enterprise.
Brisbane was originally part of Rancho Cañada de Guadalupe la Visitación y Rodeo Viejo, a large tract of land that included the Cañada de Guadalupe (now Guadalupe Valley), and also the Bayshore district of Daly City, the Visitacion Valley district of San Francisco, and San Bruno Mountain. Visitacion City, as it was initially known, was platted in 1908 adjacent to a new rail line that had been completed in 1907 to the east of the town site. The Southern Pacific Railroad built the new line to create a faster and more direct route into San Francisco. The railroad also planned to build extensive terminal facilities just north of the town site. The Visitacion Valley rail yard and locomotive works were expected to employ over 1,000 workers, but construction was halted soon after it began due to the Panic of 1907. The town site remained largely undeveloped for many years. The railroad resumed construction of the yard and shops during World War I, and the facilities were completed by 1918.
The city is served by the Peninsula Library System.
In the 1920s Arthur Annis, who many describe as the “Daddy” of Brisbane, arrived. He proposed the name change from Visitacion City to Brisbane. Annis regarded the name Visitacion City as a handicap “being so close to a San Francisco city district with a similar name”, a situation he felt would confuse people and would prevent “Brisbane” from establishing its own unique identity. Accounts of how the city acquired its name vary. According to his daughter, the city was named for Brisbane, Australia, perhaps due to the area’s resemblance to that port city at the time. Another story holds that it was named for newspaper columnist Arthur Brisbane.
In the 1930s, the city was home to several slaughterhouses. Animals kept at the nearby Cow Palace were butchered in Brisbane. The meat was loaded onto railway cars in Brisbane for transport.
Brisbane’s economy is dominated by office parks at Sierra Point and an industrial park around the Valley Drive corridor. There are commercial areas at Brisbane Village, Visitacion Avenue, and Bayshore Avenue. The population of Brisbane doubles during the work day as such facilities fill up with commuters. Some of the larger office tenants in Brisbane are Cutera (Medical Lasers), IGN, Dolby, Tercica, Sing Tao, and Intermune. Monster Cable Products and bebe stores (traditionally spelled in lowercase) are headquartered in Brisbane on Valley Drive. The Sierra Point office park area is home to a number of well-known class A office buildings like the Dakin Building.
Universal Paragon’s proposed 659-acre (2.67 km2) Brisbane Baylands project, if approved by Brisbane voters, proposes to more than double the existing employment base of the City by providing new office, research & development, retail, hotel and other land uses that are accessible by a proposed multi-modal transit station (Caltrain, Muni T-Third light rail and proposed Bus Rapid Transit).
The main arterial road serving Brisbane is Bayshore Boulevard. The boulevard continues north to San Francisco and south to South San Francisco and SFO. U.S. Route 101 also goes past the city on the eastern side adjacent to San Francisco Bay.
SamTrans provides bus service through the city along Bayshore Boulevard. Shuttles connecting to nearby BART, Muni T-Third Street line and Caltrain stations are available to residents and employees in the city.