Falling in Love with San Francisco Again and Again
The current tech bubble, housing and homeless crisis, and overall gentrification are socioeconomic issues undoubtedly changing San Francisco for better or worse, but this story isn’t about how we should tackle those issues. There are plenty of well-written and well-researched pieces out there about that. This is a story about how those issues affect my day-to-day relationship with San Francisco and how I choose to respond.
Starting with a little background on me might give some color to why my point of a view may be a bit more unique. I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. My mom worked for the state at 9th and Market for 30 years. Every Christmas as a kid, she would take me into the city for the last day of work before the holiday. We’d do the rounds and exchange gifts with her coworkers’ kids, and then head out early to shop, eat and ice skate. I looked forward most to the eating since it was the one time of year my mom would splurge on a white tablecloth restaurant. I looked forward to this time of year all year long, not because of Christmas, and sadly not because of quality time with my mom, but because I was able to enjoy more of the city. After high school, my guncles, who have been together for over 25 years, living in downtown San Francisco, convinced me that the city was where I needed to be. I didn’t need much convincing since it’s what I’d always wanted. I lived, worked and attended college in the city. I got my first job out of college and my first apartment on my own amongst many other firsts. My family and I have had the pleasure, honor and privilege to really live San Francisco.
The aforementioned issues make it difficult to love and stay in love with San Francisco, but just like any relationship, it takes repeated work. Everything is shiny and new in the beginning, and then things begin to lose their luster. The challenges start to weigh on you. You learn that the resolution in one quarrel doesn’t apply across. Past experiences often influence the next. You have to be vulnerable no matter how scary it is.
I’ll save you a detailed account of my relationship with the city, but a roundup of friends’ experiences and my own should suffice. Imagine your neighborhood had been taken over by high-rise condos and $15 cocktail bars. You move to another neighborhood only to find the same a few months in. Your car and/or apartment got broken into repeatedly. You worked with neighbors to organize a watch and bug the city to get more streetlamps and surveillance in place, only to be greeted by human feces at your doorstep in the morning. Your local, independent movie theater shut down, your friends are pushed out of their homes, music and art studios, and your favorite 24-hour, $5 breakfast diner is replaced with more condos.
What would you do about it? You may write an open letter or memoir mourning the loss of the “real San Francisco”. You may choose to move away or “home”. Well, this is my home and every single stage is it goes through is the real San Francisco. I’ve endured more than a few stages. How do I cope? I continue to do what I’ve always done, work hard at my relationship with the city. I try to remember each day why I initially fell in love. I look past the faults and look for the unique qualities I identified early on that piqued my interest. I explore the breadth and depth of the city to find new characteristics. I don’t take the city for granted. I accept it, flaws and all. I understand that it changes as it grows.
What’s that, there’s a park that isn’t crowded, that may be a bit sketchy, with no magic truffles to be bought, but has a great view of Sutro Tower? Oh, a beautiful, new mural that’s painted between multi-million dollar condos? Improv in an overpriced cocktail bar, but by hilarious, struggling artists in the TL? The real San Francisco hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s just changed.
I learn to fall in love with San Francisco every day. I recommend trying to do the same. You don’t want to be that person that only realizes what they have when it’s gone, do you? Ugh. Relationships are so complicated.