While Pacifica remains one of the youngest communities in San Mateo County, our Spanish origins make us one of the most historic. Our history is enriched by Spanish explorers, Mexican ranchers, Irish and Italian farmers and a surfing community that made us one of the first surfing destinations in the 1930’s. The current population of nature-and culture-loving Pacificans has worked together to preserve our heritage, while creating new amenities to enrich this beautiful destination. Today, Pacifica offers an abundance of natural beauty, activities, lodging, dining and shopping that draws visitors worldwide.
Pacifica was discovered during the same 1769 expedition that founded the entire San Francisco Bay. Led by Gaspar de Portola of Os de Balaguerm Spain, the expedition discovered the Mediterranean climate and fertile farmland that later beckoned immigrants from Ireland and Italy. A thriving vegetable farming area soon produced the largest artichoke crop in the country in the 1890s. Today, Catalonia remains Pacifica’s Sister City.
While the name Pacifica means “peace” in Spanish, the City of Pacifica was named not by its Spanish immigrants, but through a contest in 1957 that was held to find a name for the newly incorporated coastal city. The winning name, Pacifica, was based on the 80-foot statue by sculptor Ralph Stackpole, which was created as the theme lady for the Golden Gate International Exposition. Two of the sculptor’s working models have been saved. One is over the front stairs at City Hall and the other sits in the City Council Chambers.
Between 1905 and 1920, the Ocean Shore Railway attracted small settlements around each station. Ray Higgins brought development to the area, building many homes and the San Pedro School. When the student population outgrew the school, Higgins donated the building to the City of Pacifica and it became City Hall. The coast north of Devil’s Slide remained sparsely populated until the post-World War II building boom. Developers Andy Oddstad and Henry Doelger later influenced the area with residential planning and thousands of small houses covered the valleys and crept up the hillsides, each its own distinct community.
In 1957, Pacifica was incorporated, consolidating the nine small communities of Fairmont, Westview, Pacific Manor, Sharp Park, Fairway Park, Vallemar, Rockaway Beach, Linda Mar and Pedro Point. Park Pacifica was later added to the community. Although early plans sought to expand Pacifica to about 100,000 inhabitants, preservationists in the early 1970’s saved much of its hillside open space as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and an effective limit of about 40,000 inhabitants was put into place.