FOSTER CITY: Foster City is San Mateo County’s largest and oldest master-planned community. Almost 60 years years have passed since T. Jack Foster purchased Brewer Island, an empty, marshy expanse used for dairy farming and salt evaporation ponds, intending to create a thoroughly modern city. The first residents moved into Foster City on March 7, 1964. Charles Zerbe, a San Francisco firefighter with a wife and two young sons, paid $23,500 for his five-bedroom house on Pilgrim Drive.

Early settlers like the Zerbes had to deal with shifting sand dunes and field mice as the community built up around them. Within 10 years, though, Foster City was an incorporated city with a population of almost 10,000. Today, Foster City’s population tops 30,000.

Even now, the “master planning” has not ended. New mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods are in the works for two major undeveloped areas of Foster City. When completed, the projects at Pilgrim-Triton and Foster Square could add over a thousand new residential units and 300,000 square feet of office space, retail and restaurants to the community.

However the new development turns out, you can bet city leaders and residents will be careful to make sure it doesn’t make a dent in the things that make Foster City unique and attractive. This is a community different from just about every other city on the Peninsula.

It was marketed as “an island of blue lagoons,” because Jack Foster included almost 20 square miles of canals and lakes in his plan. Foster City was designed as an antidote to the congestion of city living, featuring large, detached homes whose backyards would often include a small dock and a patio overlooking the water. Condos were added later, many also with water views.

The largest body of water in Foster City is the Central Lagoon. Here you’ll find Leo Ryan Park and the Foster City Recreation Center, both hubs of activity year-round. Every July 4, fireworks appear over the lagoon; every summer Friday night, bands play open-air in the park.

Foster City makes the most of its setting, with a network of public parks and 11 miles of the Bay Trail. Foster City boasts a skate park and a dog park, a yearly Arts and Wine Festival, a Halloween Festival, A community bike ride and an annual Polynesian Festival, highlighting the city’s diverse population.

And while most of the nearby shopping and dining is found in San Mateo – the Hillsdale Shopping Center is 2.5 miles away – there are some local options, some as unique as Foster City itself. On warm summer nights, the waterfront deck outside Waterfront Pizza and Chevy’s in the Edgewater Place Center is packed. Some diners arrive by boat.

With its spacious homes and bountiful recreation opportunities, Foster City is a natural fit for families. Its three elementary schools, Audubon, Brewer Island and Foster City, are consistently ranked among the best in San Mateo County, as is Bowditch Middle School, and according to Neighborhood Scout, Foster City is the 55th Safest City in the U.S.

In Foster City, the future looks as bright as the past. With a location removed from the buzz of “mainland” San Mateo County but convenient to both San Francisco and Silicon Valley, a collection of attractive, large homes and its trump card – waterfront properties, canal, lagoon and San Francisco Bay views and an active community eager to experience the best its town has to offer, it’s no wonder Foster City has remained popular and continued to grow for over 50 years.