A couple weeks ago, news stories started to come out around a report that announced that San Francisco, the fair city where I’ve live for the past four years, has the highest rent in the country. No one I know was shocked or even surprised. First of all, San Francisco is (arguably) one of the most livable cities in North America. Our fair burg boasts beautiful architecture/streets/landscapes, dense neighborhoods with great restaurants/bars/things to do, public transport good enough that you don’t need a car and weather that, while it isn’t as great as LA, is never oppressively bad. Secondly, while the rest of the country has been trying to get out from under the not-so-Great-Recession, San Francisco’s economy has been booming. Seriously. Every tech company here has been hiring constantly since ’09, often offering people who do tech things HUGE salaries (not to mention other perks, like free shuttles to work and free lunches). This means there’s a ton of people in the city will to pay exorbitant rent to live in the city.
All in all, this means, I’m terrified to ever give up my (relatively) decently priced apartment in an awesome part of town, because I’m scared I’ll never get anything like it again.
Let’s break that down a little bit. I pay $850 to share a $1700 one-bedroom with my girlfriend, located in-between the Lower Haight and NOPA districts. This is, by all standards, a great place to be. It’s central, it’s surrounded by great amenities and our place, while not huge, is certainly comfortable. To my friends in other cities, I realize that might seem like an insane amount to spend, but for us, it was reasonable. Especially considering that similar units in the same building probably go for around $2200-$2400 now, two years after we signed our lease. So, if we were to give our place up, we’d have no hope of finding a similarly priced place in the same neighborhood. Ever. I’ve basically been forced to put down roots, which, as a rootless twenty-something, is especially frustrating.
Here’s the thing. If I were, to say, take a traveling gig for a year, and then wanted to come back to the city, my wish wouldn’t be for the city rents to have magically been lowered back to their pre-2009 rates. I mean, it would be nice, but it’s not realistic. What I’d like would be for the quality of living I’ve enjoyed in my SF apartments to be spread beyond the little bubble of neighborhoods that me and most everyone I know live in.
Basically, everyone is in one of a few neighborhoods (the greater Mission, the Duboce-to-NOPA-to-lower-Pac-Heights area, the Tenderloin, or SOMA). These neighborhoods all have a good drinking scene, nice restaurants and are commutable to downtown. However, there are a bunch of neighborhoods in San Francisco no one I know lives in, because they’re deemed to be too far out and there’s nothing there. However, if there were all-day express buses from, say, the Excelsior, a beautiful neighborhood south of the Mission, to other parts of the city, myself and other people like me, would totally be down to move there. Hopefully, it’d be in a way that wouldn’t overpower the Latino community that currently lives there, (I admit saying that masks a naïve whitewashing of the negative effects of gentrification, but my thoughts on that subject are best left for another post).
This same idea extends to Oakland. News outlets have often made the comparison that Oakland is to SF as Brookyn is to Manhattan, but that’s always read as bullshit to me. Why, you ask? Because you can’t go out drinking for a night in the city and take a train home to Oakland after closing time. BART, the bay area’s subway system, shuts down at midnight. So despite rents that are around a third as expensive, I probably wouldn’t ever move to Oakland. Also, there are, like, zero cops in Oakland these days. After the last round of 100 cops were laid off by OPD, they announced they were no longer going to investigate car thefts. I don’t know why they would announce such a thing. As such, it’s a free-for-all for car thieves. To contrast, when my car was stolen is SF, SFPD sent a cop down to my office to take the report and then found it!
So, the main point I’m trying to make is, the high rent in the desirable areas isn’t what’s holding me hostage in my apartment. It’s the fact that all the other areas are so undesirable. So, if you guys don’t mind, could everyone in the city please lobby bay area public officials to make the rest of the bay area a better place to live? That way, I could leave and then not have to pay a bunch more to maintain my lifestyle when I came back. Thanks. I appreciate it.
Henry Goldman has so many minor problems it’s almost unbelievable