San Rafael

San Rafael became Marin’s first 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 at 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 (pictured to the right), 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 and Education

Home prices in San Rafael range from low ($700,000) to high (over $2 million). Real estate sales of both homes and condominiums have been slowed over the past year, but remain strong. The town is one of the higher growth areas in the county, with new homes built at a steady pace. San Rafael schoolchildren attend elementary, middle school, and high school in the San Rafael School District. Many young families pay more for housing to get their kids into the Dixie Schools (in Terra Linda and Marinwood. There are also three private schools.


San Rafael’s central location makes it fairly easy to commute, although traffic can get heavy through downtown during rush hour (depending on where in San Rafael, your commute time can range from 20-45 minutes to San Francisco). Most residents drive or take the bus to work. Note that Highway 101 is undergoing an expansion in San Rafael and commute times should improve as the highway project is completed–est. 2008.

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.

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 (note here that to avoid the majority of fog in Marin County/San Francisco in the summer months, you need to be north of Mill Valley).

Important Phone Numbers

Public Works: 485-3355

Police: 485-3000

Fire: 485-3304

Recreation: 485-3333

Library: 485-3319

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