A Partnership
This site is a partnership between the South San Francisco Public Library and the South San Francisco Historical Society for the purpose of preserving and making available to the community information and artifacts from South San Francisco's past.
The Grand Avenue Library houses the South San Francisco History Room devoted to the historical development and current events in South San Francisco.  The Local History Collection was established in 1967 and is located downstairs at Grand Avenue Branch Library, 306 Walnut Avenue.  The collection includes photographs, building and genealogical resources, pamphlets, yearbooks, oral history tapes, maps and many other documents.

The Historical Society is a non-profit organization established in 1980 for all those interested in the history and culture of South San Francisco.

It was originally formed to advocate for the historically significant architecture in the downtown Grand Avenue corridor and for the preservation of landmarks. The Society seeks to achieve this through active support and participation in community planning.Today we now have Sign Hill as a Registered National Landmark, Sidewalk of Names, Magnolia Plaza community room, the Historic Preservation Ordinance, and some 25 historic resources protected against needless destruction. 

A Resident's Reflection on South San Francisco  

2015 Gene Mullin


This month, we feature Gene Mullin, a former Democratic California State Assembly member and former South San Francisco Council member. A lifelong resident of the Bay Area, Gene and his wife, Terri, have lived in South San Francisco since 1967.

In his words...

While not a native son of South San Francisco, I come close because my family settled in this town 100 years ago come 2016. So elements of the Mullin clan have been either residents or worker-bees in this community consistently for that period. I claim the somewhat dubious right to make some observations of the changes I’ve heard about, seen, or otherwise experienced during this time.

My grandparents and their children lived on Grand Avenue in the 1916-1924 period when my grandfather operated a blacksmith shop on Linden Avenue. When they moved to San Francisco, my aunt stayed in South San Francisco as a teacher and eventually became the principal of Hillside school. When she retired in 1967, I began teaching in the community, and my wife Terri and I raised our family here.

My experience beginning in 1971 as a planning commissioner gave me a firsthand look into the economic changes beginning in that period.  Overseas competition made our heavy industries no longer viable, but the City Council and City Manager were nimble enough to transition to the newly emerging high technology industries. With confidence based on optimism, they used this as a hinge point in the City's history. In fact, as signs proclaim, South San Francisco created the commercial application of life-saving bioscience techniques. Our existing biotech cluster of over 200 companies attests to that foresight.

The post World War II period saw the rapid growth of suburbs and our town was in the forefront of that housing boom. The El Camino Real became the spine for housing and retail growth on both sides of that thoroughfare. The City, heavily Italian in ethnicity for its first 50 years, saw diversification of populations, a trend which continues to the present. Dairies on the hills became Westborough, and infill developments replaced farms and nurseries throughout the town.

We continue to see change to meet the evolving needs of our residents.

We've achieved the difficult tactic of being one of the more progressive communities while still retaining the look, feel and sensitivities of a small town. We've arrived at enviable status not by seeking it, but by doing what the residents have always done: worked hard, played by the rules and by being willing to be creative.

While the architecture and demographics may have changed a bit since we were incorporated in 1908, South San Francisco is still recognizable by our Sign Hill and by the attitudes of those who live and work here.

We'll be around for a while and that's a benefit to a pretty wide swath of the state and country.