What City Am I In?

How Do I Find my Local Laws and Local Government in the San Francisco Area?

It might sound like a dumb question to some people, but it can be confusing to figure out what official city or “municipality” you are in.

In the San Francisco Bay area, there are hundreds of separate cities, within 9 counties: Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Sonoma, Solano, Marin, Napa. (Some definitions include 5 additional counties: Merced, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Stanislaus) Within each city are many neighborhoods or districts which people often mistake as separate cities. 

Not only that, but you may not even be in any city at all, but instead one of the many “unincorporated communities” of the San Francisco Bay.

Why does it matter what city I’m in?

Each city or municipality is the local government that makes its own laws (called “ordinances” or “municipal laws” or more simply “local laws,” “city laws” or “county laws”) on certain issues, such as parking, noise, etc.

If you are in a proper incorporated city, your local government is the city. If you are in an unincorporated area, your local government is the county. Whichever jurisdiction you are physically located in at any particular moment will determine which laws apply (see Legal Basics). Once you determine your local government, you can get your applicable local laws, usually called the “municipal code.”

So, to determine what your local government is:

  • If you are within a municipality, your local government is the municipality.
  • If you are not within a municipality, your local government is usually the county.

For your specific local government, see below for Find My Local Government.

So how do I find out what municipality I’m in?

NEW FEATURE: We are soup-er excited to debut our new Find My Local Government feature. You can find your local government for any location in the country, and it’s totally FREE! All you need to do is subscribe to our mailing list to get the link for Find My Local Government (you can unsubscribe at any time).

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