"San Francisco is a mad city, inhabited for the most part by perfectly insane people whose women are of remarkable beauty."óRudyard Kipling
Though the primary setting for the game will be San Francisco, you may certainly venture out into the surrounding Bay Area, and the politics of the region affect every vampire, even those who never set foot outside the City.
Below is some information both mundane and game-related about the Bay Area. I will add to this as needed.
Note for non-Californians: Although San Francisco (and the capital of California, Sacramento) are actually near the geographic center of the state, anything from the Bay Area up is generally considered "Northern California." (Actually, Southern Californians tend to refer to anything north of Santa Barbara as "Northern California"....)
The city of San Francisco has a population of just over 776,000. It is approximately 50% white, 8% black, 30% Asian (20% Chinese, 5% Filipino, and Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, and other Asian ethnic groups each making up between 1% and 2%), and 14% Hispanic. (The above adds up to more than 100% because "Hispanic" is often combined with other ethnicities.)
San Francisco is, of course, just part of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. 9 counties make up the Bay Area:
The city of San Jose is actually larger than San Francisco, with a population of almost 900,000. The third largest city in the Bay Area is Oakland, with a population of about 400,000. Oakland has the largest African-American population in the Bay Area.
The total population of the Bay Area (including all of the above counties) is approximately 6.8 million.
The Bay Area is firmly under control of the Camarilla. Until almost 50 years ago, the entire Bay Area was the domain of the Prince of San Francisco. Only in 1959, with both mortal and Kindred populations rapidly growing throughout the region, did the Prince finally acknowledge the need to partition the area (with, it is said, considerable pressure from both the Primogen and Camarilla elders). Accordingly, a Prince of San Jose was appointed.
Formally, Santa Clara, Alameda, and the southern half of San Mateo County are the domain of the Prince of San Jose, while the Prince of San Francisco has jurisdiction over the rest of the Bay Area.
The reality is somewhat different.
The Prince of San Francisco has firm control of San Francisco, northern San Mateo, and Contra Costa counties. The Prince of San Jose maintains a tight grip and absolute control over "Silicon Valley."
The East Bay -- Alameda and Solano Counties -- nominally divided between the two domains -- are less controlled, and unofficially, are regarded as places where less disciplined vampires may live without excessive supervision. The East Bay is the "pressure valve" both Princes use for vampires who chafe under the strict traditionality maintained in San Francisco and the austere, almost police-state environment of Silicon Valley.
This does not mean that the East Bay is a no-man's land where anything goes and Anarchs hunt at will. Both Princes keep a close eye on this region and will swiftly dispatch enforcers to deal with egregious violations of the Traditions... especially anything that threatens the Masquerade. But a vampire who doesn't like dealing with the Camarilla, and can more or less behave himself, will find cities like Oakland, Fremont, Hayward, and Union City to be far more relaxed than San Jose or San Francisco and surrounding communities.
As for the northern counties -- Napa, Sonoma, and Marin -- most Kindred avoid them, because the woods of Northern California are aggressively defended by garou packs, and sometimes werewolves even venture as far south as the foothills above Oakland and Berkeley, just to remind the Kindred that they are not welcome outside their urban enclaves. A few of the larger towns in the north, such as Napa, San Rafael, and Santa Rosa, have one or two vampires each living there and acting as the Prince's eyes. Most Gangrel in the Bay Area have also settled in the northern counties. Otherwise, this region -- considered the most beautiful and pleasant to visit by the mortal residents of the Bay Area -- is regarded by the Kindred as the garou-haunted sticks.
Under the conventional predator-prey ratio that the Camarilla tries to maintain, the city of San Francisco can sustain 10-15 vampires without increased risk of exposing the Masquerade, while the entire Bay Area could theoretically maintain a kindred population of almost 100.
There are, in fact, over twenty vampires who permanently reside in San Francisco. This is accomplished by keeping the Kindred well organized (and disciplined) within the city, rigorous adherence to the Traditions, and by granting limited hunting rights in surrounding counties. Even so, the City can't sustain any more Kindred population growth. The Prince is under pressure from the Primogen to "open up" the hunting grounds of San Mateo and Contra Costa Counties, while many vampires are emigrating to San Jose, with its looser restrictions.
Meanwhile, San Jose is underpopulated, with only 25 vampires "officially" residing in Silicon Valley. This is deliberate -- Silicon Valley is financially vital to certain factions within the Ventrue, and they will allow no risk of exposure here. Furthermore, Sabbat packs occasionally drive up from Southern California to test the Camarilla's defenses, and the Prince of San Jose permits only the toughest, bravest, and most ruthless vampires to settle in his domain. Any Kindred living in San Jose must be ready and willing to fight to defend their territory against Sabbat predators.
It is estimated that the Kindred population in the rest of the Bay Area, outside Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco, is about 60.
This means that population pressure in the Bay Area is becoming serious, with some areas dangerously overpopulated, and others (Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties in particular) ready to accomodate quite a few more vampires... if only the Princes would loosen their grips....
The Ventrue "control" the Bay Area on behalf of the Camarilla. The Princes of San Francisco and San Jose are both Ventrue. Down in Southern California, the Camarilla enclaves resisting encroachment by the Sabbat are also led primarily by Ventrue. The Ventrue are quite proud of their leadership role in California. Nonetheless, in many respects they have become more out of touch than they would like to admit, and this is especially true in San Francisco, where the Prince, one of the eldest vampires in Northern California, is hidebound and more interested in preserving his status and looking good to his elders back east than he is in keeping up with the times.
Naturally, the Ventrue control a lot of the "old money" in San Francisco. They are also aggressively expanding into the IT industry and drawing increasingly from Silicon Valley for funding, but here they are finding they require more help from mortal retainers, and vampires of other clans, than they would like.
The Ventrue are the most numerous clan in San Francisco. Most other Ventrue in the Bay Area live in the nicer parts of Santa Clara County, though one of the Prince's closest friends resides in Santa Rosa, keeping an eye on the northern part of his domain.
San Francisco naturally attracts Toreador in droves (relatively speaking). The number of Toreador who have officially been given permission to live in the City is just under the Ventrue population, but at any given time there may be up to a dozen "visitors," either from the surrounding Bay Area or from further away. San Francisco Toreadors tend to be more of the "poseur" variety, with few true artists, but they have a lot of money (not quite as much as the Ventrue, but enough to be major movers in the City), and the envy of many of their clan members. The Toreador Primogen in San Francisco regards himself as a "friendly rival" of the Prince, and thus the Toreador in the City are always jockeying for position against the Ventrue. Most of the Toreadors regard this as little more than a game; the Prince does not.
There are a few Toreador in San Jose, though most of the clan regards Silicon Valley as "boring, sterile, and artless." At least one Toreador lives in Berkeley, and a couple are in Oakland. The Prince of San Francisco's representative in Napa is a Toreador who is rumored to be unusually friendly with some of the Gangrel.
The Tremere have a Chantry in San Francisco, and every Tremere in the Bay Area comes here for their rituals. Most Bay Area Tremere are also blood-bound to the San Francisco elders. This causes some friction between Princedoms, as the Tremere in the South Bay clearly place their loyalty to their clan above their loyalty to the Prince of San Jose.
Only a few Tremere actually live in the City, but there are at least a dozen more who live in the surrounding area.
As usual, the Tremere are assumed to be scheming to acquire more power for themselves, though on the surface, they appear unusually cooperative with the Ventrue Prince. Their primary concern in San Francisco is the Kuei-Jin, or "Cathayans," in Chinatown. An old treaty designates Chinatown as an autonomous Kindred-free zone, while likewise the Kuei-Jin are not supposed to venture outside that city-within-a-city. The Tremere are the only vampires in San Francisco who know anything at all about the Kuei-Jin (though many say they know even less than they claim), and supposedly they are constantly maintaining wards and surveillance to ensure the Asian Kindred do not step outside their bounds.
The Malkavian Primogen in San Francisco is the wealthiest individual Kindred in the city, save for the Prince. She exerts some small degree of influence over the other Malkavians in the city, though very little on those elsewhere in the region. Several Malkavians have permission to live in the City, but there are a lot of other Malkavians in the Bay Area, in every county, and they often don't show much respect for domains, and are the ones most frequently being chastised or chased for being where they didn't have permission to be. Many of the Kindred say that the Malkavians in the Bay Area are almost as well-informed as the Nosferatu, and their "chaotic" roaming in the region is more purposeful that it appears. Some even claim they are part of an extensive spy network... whether this network is being directed by the Prince of San Francisco, the Malkavian Primogens of San Francisco and San Jose, someone higher up in the Clan, or even some Methuselah, depends on who is repeating the rumor...
The Brujah are in definite disfavor in San Francisco. The Prince is openly contemptuouos of them, citing incidents going back centuries (the Brujah have always butted heads against the Prince and the Ventrue in the Bay Area), and in response, the Brujah Primogen refuses to set foot in San Francisco. He lives down in Redwood City, on a relatively nice estate, and sends younger Brujah to the Prince's court when absolutely required. A couple of Brujah are "tolerated" within the city of San Francisco (the Prince has never even formally given them permission to live there... he simply hasn't ordered them out). Brujah are far more common in the East and South Bay, and are often accused of encouraging Anarch activity. Many of the other Kindred say (quietly) that the Prince's centuries-long spat with the Brujah is extraordinarily petty, even for a Ventrue.
Several Nosferatu have permission to live in San Francisco, though with all those abandoned BART tunnels, an extensive sewer works, coastal caves, and parts of the city buried in the Great Quake, who knows how many are actually there? In typical Ventrue fashion, the Prince avoids too much direct contact with the Nosferatu and does not encourage them to leave their underground lairs... however, he is pretty generous about giving them money and hunting rights (outside the City), because they provide him with a great deal of valuable information. The Nosferatu Primogen is careful to make sure the Prince keeps receiving just enough critical data that he continues to rely on them... but of course the Nosferatu never tell anyone else everything they know....
The oldest and most influential Nosferatu in the Bay Area live underground in San Francisco, but there are many more spread throughout the region. Not all feel close ties with their clan. Many are loners. The Nosferatu Primogen of San Jose reportedly does not get along well with the (older) San Francisco Primogen, and the Prince of San Jose is rumored to be recruiting Kindred "hackers" -- including Nosferatu.
There are no Gangrel in San Francisco itself, though at least two have permission to visit and even hunt there. The Prince doesn't trust the Gangrel, but he needs them, as they are the only ones happy to live in the northern counties and keep an eye on the garou. Throughout the Bay Area, there are a lot of woods, hills, and beaches outside city boundaries, and Gangrel can be found here. The most influential Gangrel is jokingly called "the Prince of Gilroy"... he directs what the Prince of San Jose regards as his early warning system and first line of defense against Sabbat vampires coming up from the south.
The Prince of San Francisco tolerates no Caitiff in the city (with one exception), but doesn't drive them out of the North or East Bay, as long as they keep their heads down and do not attract his attention.