I am a New Yorker. Apparently that means something to many people. There are so-called New York values and there are Woody Allen movies. I like to say that New York values consist of loving public transportation (being green), being highly efficient (we eat while we walk) and enjoying having the world at our feet. Yes, many of us New Yorkers do truly believe that New York is at the center of the universe. Even with that mentality, I have managed to live in fifteen other cities and another country. I am adventurous and want to experience the world, despite my underlying belief that New York is it!
I have tried three times to live in the San Francisco bay area. Three times. Each time I have left San Francisco, I say “never again.” I returned each time thinking maybe things changed and “it will be better now”. Indeed, San Francisco did keep changing and not necessarily for the better.
Yes, New York is expensive and you learn to live in a shoebox. However, the fact that there is everything within walking distance makes up for the shoebox living. Here is the thing. San Francisco is more expensive than New York. Housing is more expensive. Food is more expensive. Public transportation is more expensive. I try walking but the hills kills me. Although, that part is very pretty. Admittedly San Francisco is a beautiful city. The ocean is mesmerizing. However, that doesn’t help with rent and doesn’t help with getting to and from work in a short, cheap way. Bars shut down early and there are barely any 24 hour eateries or pharmacies. If I get a hankering for pizza at 3am, tough on me. Obviously, that alone is not enough to make one leave San Francisco. But it nudges one out.
Many might disagree with me on what I am about to say next. In my eyes, San Francisco has no soul left. There I said it. Here is why.
Long-term residents (namely Hispanics/Latinos) in the Mission District are being kicked out so that some overpaid young individual can pay $2,000 a month in rent for just a bedroom in a shared apartment. There are long lines in new fancy eateries in between the Mission and the Castro for $6 ice cream. People wait 30 minutes for ice cream, that honestly, is just ok despite all the hoopla. They wait while on their cell phones texting away and calling for their Uber. On a side note, I have had way better ice cream in Ann Arbor. Just saying.
But back to the Mission. It used to be a place where one could get a cheap delicious burrito the size of one’s head. Now, you have all sorts of fusion cuisine located in areas that allow people to go to the Mission without really going to it. All these restaurants there and new fancy furniture store make it so that what is ostensibly a Hispanic neighborhood has no visible Hispanics around. Don’t even get me started on where we an find the African-American neighborhoods.
The reason I left San Francisco is because I didn’t fit in. I can afford the rent, to be honest with you. I got used to the limited train system. It’s actually better than Los Angeles. Way better. But, I just would look around and not see me. I’m not a techie. I do non-profit work and they have it hard here. Real estate is expensive and people have to live far away from work. I like to travel and the airport is more appropriate for a mid-size mid-western city. Hardly any direct flights to anywhere. The flights are expensive as a result. Sometimes roundtrip flights to/from Los Angeles and San Francisco can get as high as $450. I like Starbucks and have not bought into the whole Pete’s worship.Supermarket prices are higher out here and there is no real extensive Goya aisle (a few places may have some). Where can I get sofrito or pasteles? Not many places. Which leads me to my next point. There is a lack of diversity here. There is a lack of diversity in ethnicity, race, wealth, and politics to name just a few. For some this is a normal way of living. That is fine. To each his or her own. The thing is, San Franciscans like to tout their diversity. To me that is just fake.
There is a certain lack of authenticity here and maybe that sounds harsh. But that feeling is like the foam on our lattes. Its there and we sip through it. I may one day return but if I do I will probably be a millionaire and be able to just live at the beach in a 3 million dollar shack and not care. How is that for authenticity?