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Just Don't Call It San Fran

Just Don't Call It San Fran

I figure it’s about time I touch a bit more on the city of fog, hills, and sand that I’ve found myself in. Enough of you have bugged, harangued, and pestered me for more pics, stories, and updates over the past six months, so I’ll try my best to touch on the evolving character of this very unique city.

As mentioned in the title, just don’t call it San Fran. I’m providing this advice for your own sake, for I learned this after only a day in The Bay.

(I also learned to always keep your eyes up when walking around, as you never know what you’ll step in, be it natural or manmade. Don’t keep your eyes up too high, though, because you can get your phone swiped. But then don’t keep them at their natural level, either, since your eye contact with the bedraggled Gandalf character on the corner will provide an opening for him to pontificate, rather eloquently, actually, about the aliens that have set up shop in his cranium. It’s best to just look everywhere and nowhere at once. Welcome to San Francisco!)

Parenthetical asides aside, it’s worth noting that if you have a rare hobby, unique interest, or questionable enthusiasm for an activity, you’ll find it here. In fact, you’ll most likely find a group of like-minded people willing to take your interest to the next illogical level. Do you like running, by yourself or with the occasional partner? Great to hear, because there’s a race every weekend! Do you enjoy drinking beer? Because you may need to know the precise ABV for every sour that’s currently on rotation at Toronado’s. Do you enjoy animals, perhaps even drawing them as people sometimes? Don’t worry, the Furry Convention is coming into town next month. Are you mildly interested in how applications work? Let each and every techie at the party pitch you his/her app that’s “Uber for _____.”

Granted, I am exaggerating. What makes this city great, what makes it remarkable, is that there is pretty much something for everyone here. You can find your niche, your group, without really trying too hard. And if you don’t find one then you probably haven’t looked that hard. From hiking and biking, to running and gaming, to the bars and the clubs and the speakeasies, the art groups and the theaters, and everything in-between and outside, there will always be something to do in San Francisco. In fact, I found this out the hard way when I burnt myself out after 2 months of non-stop activity.

However, it’s worth noting that most of these activities, while all well and good, are focused on the newcomers to San Francisco, of which I am one. It’s impossible to talk about this city and its evolution without mentioning The Big G, Gentrification, the reason that many neighborhoods are seeing their diversity thinned, their sense of community slowly disappear as the hordes of Millennials/techies/whathaveyous seep into the city.

But before I get any deeper into this, I want to note that I am incredibly new to this city and thus don’t have much of a soapbox to stand on. I haven’t seen this city’s evolution, only its current stage. I wish I could speak more to the changes, be more authoritative on what I’ve seen since moving here, but alas, I can’t. I can only speak to what I’ve seen so far, what I’ve heard and read, the people I’ve spoken to, from the cab drivers to the bartenders, on what they’ve seen change in this city. Because this change is far from over, even if the housing trend may be losing steam.

I consider myself lucky to have landed myself in the Presidio; I’m part, but not part of, the greater city. I live in a national park, smell the eucalyptus and pine trees when I step off the bus to walk home through the trails and paths that crisscross this beautiful chunk of forest. I fall asleep to the hoots of owls and wake to the howls of coyotes. What’s most important to me, though, is that I know my neighbors. I see their kids playing basketball, talk with their parents after I get back from my runs, borrow their grills for cookouts, and invite them, and get invited over, for drinks.

Not a bad walk home

Not a bad walk home

It’s this sense of community that’s supposedly lacking in various neighborhoods across SF. Again, I can’t speak for certain as to the current conditions, but am reiterating what I’ve heard from talking to longtime residents. Because when you take a step back and look at it, housing prices here are absurd: the Median Sales Price for a home is $1.5 million, while the Median Rent Per Month is $4,500. It’s absolutely insane. Many longtime residents are finding themselves slowly pushed out of the city, out of neighborhoods that they’ve been growing up in their whole life. I got talking with a bartender in SOMA about his family, how he grew up in Inner Sunset but is finding himself and his family slowly being priced out. The core of the city is just too expensive for him to raise his family in.

Then there’s the Ellis Act to consider, a piece of legislation that allows landlords to evict their tenants if they want to sell their property to the highest bidder. Much has been written about this crisis, and I’d prefer not to walk on ground that’s already been tread by writers better than myself. But I can say that it’s not all doom and gloom, that there are people and organizations who want to help shepherd this city into the next stage of evolution with commonsense solutions while ensuring that everyone, both natives and transplants, are included.

As I said, I wish I could speak more to this. The housing conversation, the debates about gentrification, are broached on a very regular basis. It’s tough to avoid them. But that’s why I want to learn more about this city, what it’s been through and how it can prepare for what’s to come. I’ve only lived here six months, and who knows how much longer I’ll be here, but to me, a sense of community is key to keeping a city’s soul intact. There’s no way to avoid new people moving to your city, but there is a way to ensure that they don’t push others out while not appreciating the culture that they’ve transplanted themselves into.

There’s a balance to strike between the old and the new, the native and the transplant, the tech and the local, without losing its soul. I hope that SF really can find that, and soon.

When you do get out of the city, it's totally worth it. Pictured: Labor Day weekend camping in Sierra National Park at Jackass Meadow. 

When you do get out of the city, it's totally worth it. Pictured: Labor Day weekend camping in Sierra National Park at Jackass Meadow. 

Wishing Asante! to Tanzania and Kenya

Wishing Asante! to Tanzania and Kenya

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