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The first settlers in San Mateo (after the Ohlone Indians) were the Spanish, in 1776. For a great condensed history of San Mateo visit the city's website: http://www.ci.sanmateo.ca.us/visitors...
The City of San Mateo has a fabulous website that covers every aspect of living, working and visiting San Mateo. Check it out!
San Mateo is a truly diverse community, on all levels: ethnicity, income, religion, politics and age. The public schools are (for the most part) above average, and there are many private school options. The range of incomes in the area is startling. It is a very expensive place to live (median house cost $817,000 in 2006), and as a result many lower-paid professionals (teachers, nurses, police, fire-fighters) are forced to live far outside the city, in the East Bay (east of SF Bay) where housing costs are not as high.
San Mateo has a community college (College of San Mateo); there is a four-year private university (Notre Dame de Namur University) in neighboring Belmont, and Stanford University is 20 minutes away. 20 minutes in the other direction is San Francisco International Airport, and another 10 minutes north takes you to San Francisco. San Jose is 30 minutes to the south. Both cities are easily accessible via Caltrain, a commuter rail that goes from San Francisco to Gilroy. The Pacific Ocean is usually a 20-minute drive west toward Half Moon Bay, but traffic can be very slow, due to a road closure at Devil's Slide, along Highway 1, which is likely to last a few years.
Bay Meadows Racetrack is still in operation as of this writing, but is likely to close within the next few years to make way for housing and retail development.
Places to visit in San Mateo include Coyote Point Park and Museum, Central Park, Seal Point Park and the San Mateo County Fairgrounds. Local arts opportunities include Broadway by the Bay and Masterworks Chorale, as well as numerous community choirs and symphonies in nearby cities.
San Mateo's Climate is mild; hottest temperatures are usually in October. Late afternoon windiness is common year-round.