Welcome to Colma
The smallest town in San Mateo County, Colma is best known in the region for being the “City of Souls” by virtue of its 16 cemeteries. However, it’s more than just the answer to a trivia question. Thanks in large part to a unique architectural style that extends throughout the entire town, Colma feels more like an old-world Mediterranean city than standard Bay Area community. As unique as the city may be, the residents are just normal people focused on supporting their community and maintaining a strong civic base.
Lay of the Land
Colma is the smallest city in San Mateo County by population, with a mere 1,400 residents. However, at just under 2 square miles, the city is just under the average for the region when it comes to total surface area. Colma is located between San Francisco to the north and South San Francisco to the south, with Daly City pushing against its eastern border. Despite being located on the peninsula the city lacks any coastal territory. Colma is not necessarily associated with technology and industry like many of its Bay Area neighbors, however it does manage to have slightly above average median household incomes ($90,140) and median home values ($560,137) when compared to the rest of the state.
Most of the traditional transportation in Colma is accomplished via the El Camino Real which runs through the center of town or U.S. Interstate 280 which brushes past the eastern edge of the city. Public transportation is made possible thanks to two nearby Bay Area Rapid Transit stations. In conjunction with SamTrans busses and other localized services provided by the San Mateo County transit system coverage is available to a wide range of the Bay Area and even down into Silicon Valley. Its centralized location also means the city has easy access to the San Francisco International Airport as well as the airports in Oakland and San Jose.
Colma’s most noticeable feature is obviously the city’s 16 cemeteries. The cemeteries are a direct result of an ordinance passes in the early 1900’s in San Francisco that evicted all of the existing cemeteries and prevented the creation of new ones. This lead to the relocation of the existing cemeteries to Colma and the forming of the city. Most of the original inhabitants of the city were workers associated with the cemetery industry.
However, while the citizens of Colma embrace their history and initial purpose of the town, they refuse to allow that to be the sole defining characteristic of their community. The town has done much in recent years to enhance the overall ambiance and appearance of the city itself. This includes general aesthetic improvements such as brick paved residential streets and ornamental streetlamps. However, it also extends to the overall architectural style of the town which has resulted in several buildings sporting traditional Spanish motifs.
The city has also invested resources into developing the city’s commercial base. This has led to the creation of several smaller shopping centers within the city. The largest of these is 280 Metro Center. Metro Center is an open-air shopping center mostly comprised of discount and warehouse retailers. The center houses several nationally recognized retail locations covering a wide range of shopping interests. The city also several large scale car dealers as well as a 60 table card room.
Finally, despite its modest population, Colma has a recreation department dedicated to providing residents of all ages with a range of enrichment and physical activity options. These include generalized sports programs as well as programs aimed at improving the quality of life for specific segments of the city’s population. Programs take place at the Colma Community Center or the Sterling Park Recreation Center.