Photo credit to Taga
Every so often, I have to venture into subjects outside of writing and writing tips: things I feel are important to convey. This post falls into that category.
So many people I have shared San Francisco with for years are moving away. They are leaving, not because they want to, but because they have to. What used to be a city known for its humanity for others, its tolerance of all races, ethnicities, sexual preferences, and differences has slowly turned its back on those ideals. Most of us didn’t recognize the changes, although they were sprouting up all around us. It isn’t until you look around and realize there are no more thriving small theaters, no more big bands in small venues, less homegrown talent, and more cost associated with everything the city has to offer that you start to see the new San Francisco, a city now run by millionaires and billionaires.
Don’t let its reputation mislead you. Is this still a tolerant city? Yes, especially when you compare it to the places in which racist, ugly hatred thrives as we see in so many other cities these days but this city has none of the heart or soul it had when I first moved here in 1977.
I loved that San Francisco. It had many warts, which made you appreciate its overall beauty even more. There were bad neighborhoods—ones I wouldn’t venture into at night. That’s not a problem today, as virtually every piece of real estate in San Francisco is worth enough so that it wiped out those “nuisance neighborhoods,” But I liked the grime and grit of the old Mission district. I loved being an actor where you didn’t have to have an equity card to make money because small, paying theaters thrived, artists thrived, the creativity community thrived. The city supported them all.
Of course, creative people still do amazing work and that will happen regardless of what form a city takes–but that’s not the crime. The crime is that San Francisco has become a city that doesn’t support artists or the arts as it used to—the new San Francisco cares more about billionaires than it does the homeless. I can’t and won’t accept that change.
Reading about how the city—a city in which Mayor Agnos once allowed the homeless to convene at the Civic Center Plaza—right outside his office. Agnos refused to kick them out until the city found them shelter. Compare that with current Mayor Ed Lee’s announcement that the homeless had to leave the downtown area so the city could present a spic and span San Francisco to impress the wealthy attendees of the 2016 Super Bowl. When the homeless who had built somewhat of a tent city in the downtown area refused to leave, the city sprayed them with large hoses of freezing water when the temperatures were in the high 30’s.
That solved that problem. Well, not really, but at least San Francisco could still pretend that it was the beautiful city that it had always been. The city would never reveal the beastly truth of San Francisco’s decades-long failure to address homeless situations, even with new billionaires and millionaires moving in every new day.
This coaxed the homeless into other areas of the city but what else would anyone expect? Instead of spending the obscene amount of money in creating an illusion of a San Francisco that once was, why not put that cash into solving the problem once and for all? The answer is simple: because doing that would take the heart the city once had but lost somewhere along the way to where we are now. The heart that I saw firsthand when I moved here so long ago. San Francisco is a wealthy city and for this problem to be ignored by those who moved in, the same people who kicked decades-long residents from their homes, and took over the soul of this city, it is disgustingly heartless.
I no longer view San Francisco with the love I once did—and perhaps that may be a good thing after all. The older I get, the more I realize that things and places are not what is important but that people and time are what we should cherish. I don’t think that people can see just how tragic these changes are unless they have a long view into the history of the city and have lived here for decades rather than a few years. Even those who moved to the city during the late 90’s and early 2000s boom don’t really get it; too much of San Francisco had already been lost by then.
The only people who can save it are the new people who ruined it but they won’t save it. It will continue to grow technically and economically but the days of San Francisco being a beacon of creative light for artists everywhere is gone forever, I fear.
Because they are the same people who voted for an administration that hosed the homeless out of their “downtown homes” in the dead of winter. I shall not be in San Francisco much longer myself. My husband’s work requires that we spend 50% of our time on the W. Coast and 50% of the time on the E. Coast but when we do retire, it will be to a place that embraces the arts, diversity, and a place that would never hose people down like the unfortunate people living in police state regimes.
It’s the tragedy of San Francisco. It’s no longer a city I recognize.