As a native to the San Francisco Bay Area, I was quite oblivious to the unique and beautiful city only an hour away from my life in Concord, California. At one point I was even considering college elsewhere, out in the world I had read about in a variety of books. But as I got older and spent more family outings in the city, I ultimately decided on staying close to home, to see the sights and famous landmarks in San Francisco. I realized the luck in my decision, the excitement of exploring a city in which I had memorable experiences–why would I want to leave when countless people came to visit and see these sights?
It sure is a lovely place to be. I’d gone ice skating as a girl by the waters on the Embarcadero, and climbed the wooden stairs up to Telegraph Hill and only wished that those houses shrouded beneath the lush canopies of that hill to be home. The panoramic view of the city as you drove in from the East Bay itself was practically a postcard. There was so much I was seeing of my adopted Big City, and as a young writer it naturally became my muse. As I incorporated much of the scenes of the city by the Bay into my stories, my resentment started to grow. A city so beautiful as San Francisco couldn’t have gone unnoticed– and yet it was. Films and television always had their go-to settings of either LA, New York, and even, out of nowhere, Orange County. Outside of these locations, there is the world after all. So when was my city’s big break to be the desired backdrop for the next big IT of pop culture?
My wish was granted. San Francisco is now the mecca for the tech industry, the cesspool of startups and headquarters for big names such as Apple, Google and Twitter. It’s a reference point for techies and hipsters, new social breeds born as a result of the social media boom. Future starts with technology, and technology is pouring out of this small big city of only 800,000 and its surrounding areas. San Francisco is high in demand.
Despite this millennial renaissance, the San Francisco I gave my heart to is changing on some levels. I admit this now, writing in my old bedroom in Concord, having moved back home and away from the city– it is too expensive now, being the most expensive city to live in, even more so than New York City. And where the home prices go up, so has the amount of investors who’ve taken over the city. Housing shifts from those who need it to those who can afford the high prices. Within San Francisco, a middle class is disappearing, dividing the city where masses once came together to celebrate the city’s diversity and acceptance.
But this shift isn’t going without a fight. Occupy Wall Street may have burned out, but the legacy still goes a long way, starting with the recent outbursts of protests against Google shuttle buses, and the still raging battle against the city’s infamous Ellis Act which has weakened the foundations for affordable housing. This struggle between old and new signals the still romantic and nonconformist spirit of the city, the old resistant to apathy and marginalization. San Francisco won’t give in so easily to the fame and fortune.
With that said, my city is in there somewhere. And visibly, it will always be. The rich tint of the Golden Gate Bridge’s orange, the soft crystallized ding of a passing cable car or the rustic and gaunt Victorian homes tinted in gold and mint paint. And it is these unforgettable sensations to the soul of the individual that lure in visitors, idealists, and lost youths like myself, probably graduated and still looking for a proper job and a place that feels like a home far from home, or maybe finding a place that needs to remember how home once felt like to curious strangers.
San Francisco is out in the open now, but it is ultimately what you make of this city. There is a change, but that shouldn’t stop you. And it won’t stop San Francisco from being what it truly is, either.