Tilting at Windmills by the Sea

21 Aug


As I spend one of my last nights in the city I love, San Francisco, I can’t help but think of how this city has been such an integral part of my life for the last five years. In almost every neighborhood I walk through (thanks to Muni I visit all the neighborhoods), I see places with some special significance to me wherever I go. From the HiDive Bar on the Embarcadero, where I saw Hunter Pence whiz by on his scooter as I enjoyed beer on the patio, to Java Beach Cafe by Ocean Beach, where I would sit and sip coffee with my last boyfriend, who lived just blocks away. The city imprints itself on you, and you imprint yourself on it.

I think about how much the city will change while I’m away. Today while walking down Valencia, I passed a new condo development in the works. I have long been a proponent of adding more housing to San Francisco, but I fear that only adding housing for millionaires will only lead to increased inequality in the city. I fear that my friends who are successful professionals and would be able to afford a home in any other part of the country will either have to keep renting or move far from the city they love. My love for San Francisco remains, but I fear that it will only become a playground for the ultra rich, a simulacrum of a once thriving creative city. I hate to admit it, but part of me hopes that the bubble bursts, and soon (but enough on my thoughts on the sustainability of the sharing economy!).



The prevailing stereotype of San Francisco is that it has always provided a home to the searchers, the poets and dreamers who have reached the tip of Manifest Destiny and remake themselves here at the edge of the continent. From the Gold Rush to the Beatniks to the Hippies, this was mostly true. Is the city still a haven for dreamers, or is it becoming out of reach for all but those arriving with a Stanford degree in hand? I think San Francisco is lucky to have the enviable problem of having so much wealth; Detroit we are not. But there are undeniable changes afoot in the city, and my friends and I sense it. You feel lucky to not be unjustifiably evicted from your rent-controlled apartment. You breathe a sigh of relief when the car alarm outside your window turns out not to be yours (that one is the experience of a car-owning friend near USF). You feel increasingly lucky just to still be here, eking out a living.

And yet one should feel lucky, and feel enormously proud to live in a place that is still a city of unrivaled natural beauty, home to people who are by and large a kind and helpful bunch. It is not for nothing that San Francisco united last year to realize the dream of young cancer survivor “Batkid“. I found the response to be typical of San Francisco and its residents, coming together to help one of their own. I have witnessed countless small kindnesses here in the city. It is not Coit Tower, or Sutro Tower, or the Bay Bridge that make the city unique and worth living in. it is the people who come here from all over and make San Francisco their own. It is them that I’ll miss the most.

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