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Most of the valley faces east toward San Francisco Bay, affording bay views from higher levels.
South San Francisco has mild winters and dry cool summers.
Industry remained the city's main economic focus through the 1950s.
There were 20,870 housing units at an average density of 2,283.1 per square mile (881.6/km²).
The city of South San Francisco was incorporated in 1908 following a dispute with San Mateo County, which had blocked the construction of a smelter on San Bruno Point which was supported by the locals.
Following incorporation additional industries moved into the town, including two steel mills. By the 1920s the city was "the smokestack capital of the Peninsula." South San Francisco proudly called itself "The Industrial City", a motto immortalized in 1923 by a huge sign on a hillside overlooking the city.
Swift proposed the name South San Francisco based on South Chicago and South Omaha, where the Swift company already had plants. Iler of Omaha, Nebraska, an agent of the Beef Trust, purchased Lux's property, and in 1891 ownership was transferred to the South San Francisco Land and Improvement Company.
The area was divided into industrial and residential districts, and the company installed lighting, sewer connections, and water distributions in the residential areas.