40

San Francisco seems an odd choice for Starfleet Headquarters to me, especially within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's such a densely populated area, I would figure that it's one of the last places one would want to place a new military facility - especially one which surely must be kept at the forefront of technological innovation.

If anywhere in the U.S., I'd more likely have expected Starfleet's home to be closer to an existing NASA facility that is more intimately involved in spaceflight operations. The obvious choices would have been Kennedy Space Center in Florida, or Johnson Space Center in Texas. The closest facility to San Francisco would be Ames Research Center in Mountain View, which doesn't quite compare to the other centers from the layman's perspective.

The next spot I could think of is Bozeman, Montana - site of Zephram Cochrane's flight of the Phoenix. But that's half-way across the continent.

Has there ever been an explanation in canon, production notes, or interviews, that explains why they chose San Francisco to be the home of Starfleet?

  • 7
    It is hard to say how densely populated San Fransisco would have been after World War Three, although there would have been some 80 years during which to repopulate before Starfleet was formed. – Xantec Jan 7 '13 at 21:26
  • 8
    Not to mention being an earthquake zone on a major fault-line. – BBlake Jan 8 '13 at 12:58
  • 11
    Bunch o'space hippies! – Paul D. Waite Feb 27 '13 at 12:20
  • 5
    Keep in mind wherever you put HQ, that will become a densely populated area. Washington DC used to be a swamp. Now it's a city with a metro population over 5 million whose largest industry in government and it's various support apparatus. – PopularIsn'tRight Dec 22 '14 at 6:39
  • 4
    Why are all of your suggestions in the USA? – Lightness Races with Monica Dec 22 '14 at 23:20
66

From San Francisco on memory Alpha, seems the reason was historical, both in-universe...:

Role in diplomacy

The city had a prestigious history as a place of peace. In 1945, the Charter for the United Nations was signed in San Francisco by some fifty of Earth's nation-states.
After World War III, the nations of the world met in San Francisco to negotiate a peace treaty. (ENT: "Demons")

The spotlight of diplomacy fell on San Francisco again in 2155, when the representatives of Earth, Vulcan, Tellar, Andoria, Denobula, Rigel V, and Coridan met in the city to hold talks on the formation of a Coalition of Planets. (ENT: "Demons", "Terra Prime")

Six years later, in 2161, the charter that lead to the founding of the United Federation of Planets was signed in San Francisco. (ENT: "Zero Hour", "These Are the Voyages...")

... and off-the-set:

Gene Roddenberry established the city's importance to the Star Trek franchise with the production and novelization of the first feature-length film, choosing San Francisco primarily because of its role in the creation of the United Nations. However, he also considered the city an appropriate showcase for the secular Humanism that underlined much of his own philosophy.

  • 5
    Much thanks for the inclusion of both solid in-universe and out-of-universe reasons. Great stuff! – Iszi Jan 7 '13 at 21:26
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    "...he also considered the city an appropriate showcase for the secular Humanism that underlined much of his own philosophy" - like I said! Bunch o'space hippies! – Paul D. Waite Feb 27 '13 at 12:21
  • 1
    Also, isn't San Francisco already a major staging area for the US Navy? There's certainly a lot of sailor outfits in the bars around there. – Omegacron Oct 28 '15 at 18:12
  • @Omegacron The Navy harbors nuclear vessels across the bay, in Alameda. – Crashworks Dec 7 '16 at 8:57
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    @Crashworks: I believe you mean the nuclear WESSELS are in Alameda – Omegacron Dec 7 '16 at 17:45
14

From the Memory Alpha article on Starfleet:

The primary purpose of Starfleet from its infancy was to "...seek out new life and new civilizations," and "...go boldly where no man has gone before." (This quote is attributed to Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive on Earth.) (ENT: "Broken Bow")

Starfleet HQ is not the Pentagon. Starfleet Academy is not West Point. Starfleet is more akin to a cross between NASA/ESA/JAXA, CERN, the Peace Corps, and the 18th century Royal Navy. Its primary mission is space exploration and assisting with diplomacy. Defense has always been a secondary or tertiary mission. That's why the vast majority of Starfleet personnel are scientists, engineers, doctors, etc., and not soldiers. It's also why the Enterprise-D had family members, including children, aboard. And it's why when the Federation fought the Borg they had to develop new ships like the Defiant and why there aren't MACOs attached to every starship.

The locations for Kennedy and Johnson Space Center are based on the requirements for rocket-based space launches. It makes little sense for Starfleet HQ to be located in either of those locations when they perform very few rocket launches, if any. So they don't need to be close to the equator, have access to clear skies and fair weather, have water channels for transporting large rockets, etc.

Currently, the bay area is at the forefront of technology. It's where Ames Research Center is, where SpaceX is located, where a large percentage of technology companies are based in. So I don't understand why it seems like an unlikely place for a science or technology center to be located.

Given what type of organization Starfleet is, you would expect it to be located somewhere like SF, NY, Geneva or London. If they wanted a secret facility for dangerous or sensitive military research that needs to be kept far away from civilians, they would place it on Mars or deep space. But Starfleet HQ isn't Area 51.

-1

Starfleet HQ is not in San Francisco. It's across the bay at Cavallo Point near Sausalito, which is, in fact, the site of a former U.S. military base.

-3

The US Navy also has quite a presence in San Francisco and that may have been a reason since the starfleet motto is inspired by the US Navy motto. Besides, San Francisco is in hollywood's backyard so it was probably easier to shoot scenes there! I doubt the writers back then were thinking about the history of the United nations when they had to pick a location for starfleet HQ and the academy.

  • They didn't shoot in SF, so its convenience as a shooting location is irrelevant, and the other answers before yours clearly demonstrate that they DID think about the history of the UN. – Nerrolken Apr 22 '15 at 0:35
-4

I wish I could find the reference from which I'm going to cite, aside from Roddenberry's vision its been said that San Francisco was used as the site for Starfleet because it has survived much of the attacks on the continental U.S. during World War III.

  • 3
    Find the source and it'll be a good answer :) – Kalissar Aug 29 '13 at 7:32
  • yes i agree, a good answer need a source or quote, other than that its true that it'll be a good answer – Rocket Dec 22 '14 at 7:06
  • Is Memory Beta (Star Trek related games, novels, comics) considered canon? The following Memory Beta article (memory-beta.wikia.com/wiki/World_War_III) does mention major cities across the globe being destroyed (including Washington D.C. and New York City, which would both have been strong candidates for Starfleet HQ). San Francisco saw combat but was not targeted for nuclear strikes. – RobertF Oct 28 '15 at 13:42
-4

I once read that the battles of the third world war had ravage the world and most of the United States leaving many cities in ruin. San Francisco was left partly unscathed and that is why Star Fleet was Headquartered their simply because many other areas were uninhabitable.

  • 2
    This answer seems almost identical to @rivera's. I've downvoted because of the lack of referencing. – Valorum Dec 21 '14 at 23:28
-5

Role in Diplomacy

The Peace Treaty with Japan was signed in San Francisco in 1952.

  • 3
    Any source for this statement? – Kalissar Aug 29 '13 at 9:49
  • +1 to Kalissar. Also, is there any canonical reference or other citation from the writers/producers to support this being a reason for the choice? – Iszi Aug 29 '13 at 13:16

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