Monday, November 20

San Francisco Then and Now

            I lived in SF in the late 70's. It was a time of hippies, art, music and social activism. It was a city government slowly becoming inclusive thanks to people like George Moscone and Harvey Milk. It was culturally and racially diverse; the gay community was fighting to be included and homelessness seemed rare.
            I could ride the bus for a nickel and get on the cable car with a transfer. The Steinhart Aquarium, deYoung Museum and Japanese tea garden was affordable to a poor teenager like me. Like most of the natives, I avoided Fisherman's Wharf and the Embarcadero.
            Times have changed.
            I returned from a trip there and most of it was familiar but, there were stark changes to the city. Some of it better and some of it ominous.
            George and Harvey are gone. The Moscone Center, a behemoth in the lower Mission District, was built in an attempt to clean up the notorious slum area. Harvey Milk has been canonized in the vibrant Castro district. True equality is when no one cares if you're gay and that's the Castro.
            The dominant fashion is not suits and ties but bright yellow vests and hard hats as everywhere is a constructions site. After decades of almost no development there is a building boom going on. Towers of  glass are being squeezed into an already crowded dowtown – and sinking– as the land filled soil can't take the weight. Many of the ugly derelict buildings on upper Market have been torn down and replaced with even uglier overpriced Condos.
            The Embarcadero, which had been mostly abandoned, is revitalized with the Exploritorium and chic shops in the iconic Ferry Building.
            A bus ride cost $ 2.85 and the cable car is five. San Francisco is more expensive due to the advance of high tech in the south bay that has infected living and housing costs.  Apparently none of the teachers at the schools can afford to live in the city. That goes for most of the fire and police department. Homelessness is epidemic. The museums and attractions are beyond my modest budget.
            I live in Eugene Oregon which is very white and preppy. San Francisco is also whiter. The wide racial contrast I once thrilled at is thinner. The majority of blacks and Hispanics I saw were truck and bus drivers and wait staff.
            But it's not all bad. People are friendlier and the city looks cleaner, due in part to it's aggressive recycling program ( although litter along the hiway is still a problem). And bicycle, bicycles everywhere. Only a few years ago I had trouble renting a bike to ride in Golden Gate Park, now there is a proliferation. The buses have racks and there is a designated bike lane on Market Street. It warms the heart of this regular bicyclist.
            I love San Francisco, the Victorian houses, the hilly streets, the great food and ambiance, I just can't afford to live there and that's it in a nutshell.

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