The layout of the city is a high-tech hybrid of artistic and technological architecture and a fusion of both San Francisco, California and Tokyo, Japan. Built on the coast of the Pacific Ocean (presumably in California), the city is designed to withstand the risk of further earthquakes. The city is also a center for vast cultures besides the dominant Eastern and Western themes. However, behind the bright aesthetic is the underworld of illegal bot-fighting, commonly located in the dark, grungy alleys of the city. A large quantity of the buildings and technology in the city were constructed by Alistair Krei and his company, Krei Tech.
Animators added an extra spin to the Painted Lady houses of San Francisco by adding Japanese touches to them, such as the Japanese like roof tops, koinoibori flags, Japanese lanterns, signature cats etc.
The name and layout of the city is a mix between real-life cities San Francisco and Tokyo.
According to Scott Watanabe, San Fransokyo is set in an alternate future where after the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco was rebuilt by Japanese immigrants using techniques that allowed movement and flexibility in a seismic event. After the city was finished being rebuilt, it was renamed San Fransokyo due to it being a city with Japanese and American architecture combined.
Some promotional posters have featured the city's newspaper San Fransokyo Times with the date 2150 on it, suggesting that the city and the film is set near the year 2150. This is unlikely though, because there is still modern-day tech, such as normal cars, trains, etc.
In Zootopia, Chief Bogo's office has a wall calendar with a picture of San Fransokyo.
San Fransokyo (at least as a more modified version) is confirmed to appear in Kingdom Hearts III as one of the many explorable worlds.
Japantown in San Francisco served as a major inspiration for the artists designing San Fransokyo.