San Francisco’s Heart Still Burns Bright

Manny Yekutiel
May 24 · 3 min read

I’m tired of everyone dumping on our City.

I, along with many other San Franciscans, read Karen Heller’s piece (“How San Francisco Broke America’s Heart”, Washington Post,5/21/19) on the demise and corrosion of the San Francisco of old and felt dismayed. Some of her observations were true. San Francisco is not what it used to be — no city is. San Francisco is far far too expensive. Our black and brown communities have been decimated and displaced. Money is on everyone’s mind in a City famous for the Summer of Love and the Beat Poets.

I’m not going to pretend that the San Francisco of today doesn’t have the tinge of dystopia that so many writers love to comment on and so many San Franciscans who’ve been here longer than me bemoan. But what frustrates me is that writers like Karen Heller also don’t see what I see.

She’s not on the corner of Castro and Market with crowds spilling over the sidewalks to remember the White Night riots from 40 years ago.

She’s not at the community meetings in the Mission where activists from the Latino Democratic Club and Causa Justa are speaking up to defend their communities.

She isn’t at Jolene’s on a Friday night or El Rio on a Sunday afternoon as the queer community, all letters of it, comes together or the packed halls of the Commonwealth Club, City Arts and Lectures, The Red Poppy Art House, The Red Victorian, Piano Fight, Counter Pulse, the Castro Theatre or Manny’s as San Franciscans gather to learn, create, activate, and grow.

While there are zero bookstores in West and South Los Angeles, San Francisco’s independent book store scene is thriving. It’s true that Borderlands Books is being kept afloat by a community of individual funders but in what other City in America would there even be a community funded bookstore but ours?

What other City is considering closing its only juvenile hall, has reduced its carbon emissions by 30% of pre 1990 levels while its population increased by 20%, has 11,283 units of affordable housing in the pipeline, a black female mayor who grew up in the projects, spends over $300 million a year on homelessness services, is banning facial recognition software, and yes, is staggeringly beautiful to boot.

It’s easy to point to how things are not as great here as they once were. It’s easy to point to how expensive it is. As a small business owner I am acutely aware of that fact. But I’m not giving up on my City. I’m not giving up on the San Francisco that drew me, an activist fresh off the heels of the Obama campaign, like a moth to a flame.

San Francisco must address our affordability crisis. We must. But just because we are a City in crisis does not mean that we are a City lost.

Look a little bit harder and you will see that the flame still burns bright in San Francisco. People are raising their hands all around me in San Francisco to find ways that they can get involved in the fight. What we need is others to help us fan those flames, to keep it alive, not visitors to come and write diatribes on how little fire they see.

I love my City, in spite of its problems, and I believe in us.