Sausalito is a San Francisco Bay Area city in Marin County, California. Sausalito is 8 miles (13 km) south-southeast of San Rafael, at an elevation of 13 feet (4 m). The population was 7,061 as of the 2010 census. The community is situated near the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, and prior to the building of that bridge served as a terminus for rail, car, and ferry traffic. Developed rapidly as a shipbuilding center in World War II, the city’s industrial character gave way in postwar years to a reputation as a wealthy and artistic enclave, a picturesque residential community (incorporating large numbers of houseboats), and a tourist destination. It is adjacent to, and largely bounded by, the protected spaces of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
The name of Sausalito comes from Spanish sauzalito, meaning “small willow grove”, from sauce “willow” + collective derivative -al meaning “place of abundance” + diminutive suffix -ito; with orthographic corruption from z to s due to seseo; early variants of the name were Saucelito, San Salita, San Saulito, San Salito, Sancolito, Sancilito, Sousolito, Sousalita, Sousilito, Sausilito, and Sauz Saulita.
It is sometimes claimed that Sausalito was named for the district in Valparaíso, Chile where the bandit Joaquín Murrieta was born. Murrieta was the leader of bandits who settled at the northern end of the future Golden Gate bridge after being banned from San Francisco in the bandit wars. However, this theory cannot be true because Murrieta was from Mexico, not Chile, and because he did not arrive in California until the Gold Rush around 1849. The Rancho Saucelito had already been granted to William Richardson in 1838.
Located at 37°51′33″N 122°29′07″W, Sausalito encompasses both steep, wooded hillside and shoreline tidal flats. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.2 square miles (5.7 km2). Notably, only 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2) of it is land. A full 21.54% of the city (0.5 square miles, or 1.3 km²) is under water, and has been so since its founding in 1868. Prominent geographic features associated with Sausalito include Richardson Bay and Pine Point.
When Sausalito was formally platted, it was anticipated that future development might extend the shoreline with landfill, as had been the practice in neighboring San Francisco. As a result, entire streets, demarcated and given names like Pescadero, Eureka and Teutonia, remain beneath the surface of Richardson Bay. The legal, if not actual, presence of these streets has proved a contentious factor in public policy, because some houseboats float directly above them. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “State agencies say privately owned houseboats can’t be located above the underwater streets because the streets are public trust lands intended for public benefit.” The California State Lands Commission is reportedly pursuing a compromise which would move not the houseboats, but the theoretical streets instead.
Sausalito has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csb) with far lower temperatures than expected because of its adjacency to San Francisco Bay and the resultant onshore breezes.