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 3,597 at the 2000 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 or more in diameter, on the "downhill" sides of homes and offices throughout Brisbane. As Brisbane is built on the eastern slope of San Bruno Mountain, visitors and residents entering at night are treated to a star-studded mountain vista. Many of the stars (a combination of five-pointed stars and Jewish Stars of David) are kept up all year.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.5 square miles (53.2 km²), of which, 3.3 square miles (8.6 km²) of it is land and 17.2 square miles (44.6 km²) of it (83.83%) is water.
Brisbane was originally part of Rancho Guadalupe la Visitacion y Rodeo Viejo, a large tract of land that also included 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.
In the 1920s Arthur Annis, who many describe at 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 areas resemblance to that port city at the time. Another story holds that it was named for newspaper columnist Arthur Brisbane.
In the city the population was spread out with 17.7% under the age of 18, 5.6% from 18 to 24, 37.5% from 25 to 44, 31.1% from 45 to 64, and 8.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 100.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $63,684, and the median income for a family was $81,484. Males had a median income of $51,270 versus $48,684 for females. The per capita income for the city was $37,162. About 2.4% of families and 5.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.7% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.
Brisbane's economy is dominated by office parks at Sierra Point and an industrial park around the Valley Drive corridor. 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 IGN, Hitachi, Dolby, WalMart.com, Tercica, CoTherix, and Intermune. Monster Cable Products and bebe stores (traditionally spelled in lowercase) are headquartered in Brisbane on Valley Drive.
In 1989, north of Sierra Point Humphrey the whale was beached on a mudflat after an anomalous journey into the San Francisco Bay. His exciting rescue was filmed for national TV and witnessed by hundreds of onlookers from the upper floors of the Dakin Building. The rescue was carried out by staff of The Marine Mammal Center and United States Coast Guard.