Brisbane is a small city located in California in the northern part of San Mateo County on the lower slopes of San Bruno Mountain. It is located on the southern border of San Francisco, 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. Many of the stars are kept up all year.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.1 square miles (52 km2), of which 3.1 square miles (8.0 km2) is land and 17.0 square miles (44 km2) (84.58%) is water, the latter the Brisbane Lagoon. A remnant of San Francisco Bay, the Lagoon was formed by the construction of the U. S. Highway 101 causeway, and became diminished as most of its north and central portions were filled with landfill. Brisbane sits at the southeast corner of the Guadalupe Valley.
Guadalupe Valley Creek is a small creek which flows east through Brisbane along the north flank of San Bruno Mountain and enters the Brisbane Lagoon after passing under the Tunnel Avenue bridge.
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 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”, which he felt would confuse people and 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, Queensland, 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, and the meat was loaded onto railway cars for transport.