I’m sure that many of you saw that article in Vice last week about how San Francisco sucks and all of the cool people in the city are moving to Oakland. Perhaps you also saw the story in SF Weekly about how SF’s historic music scene is emigrating across the Bay (and to Portland, Austin, etc.). And of course, there was this great piece on the Bold Italic last year about why all of our friends are moving to Oakland.
Many of my friends and close family members have left their tiny SF studio apartments for the greener pastures (and baseball uniforms) of the East Bay, and more than a few of them are telling me that the writing is on the wall in San Francisco and it’s time for me to take the plunge too. Don’t get me wrong—I dig Oakland, it’s a fun town and it does have a funky, up-and-coming vibe to it. However, Oakland is simply not the right place for me right now. I moved out of San Francisco when I was 6 months old and spent the next 29 years fighting to get back. Now I am finally settled here (or as “settled” as I’ve ever been), and although there’s an off-chance that I might buy a house in the East Bay at some point in the future, I’m trying to preserve my time within the confines of the 7 x 7 for as long as I can.
Why am I so stubborn about this? There are plenty of reasons. In fact, here are the top 10 reasons why I am not leaving San Francisco to move to Oakland:
10. My commute to work is virtually non-existent.
On Mondays I walk to work, and hand out homemade muffins to homeless people on the way. That takes about an hour. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I ride my bike to the office. That takes about 15 minutes. On Fridays I walk to work, stopping for a donut on 6th Street. That takes about 43 minutes. On all of these days I arrive at work feeling refreshed and energized, with my heart rate slightly elevated. My commute is a straight shot down Market Street, where the green bike lanes are so safe that even our mayor will dare to ride in them:
I’m a lawyer, which means that if I want to stay in the Bay Area, I’m probably going to work in downtown SF. I have friends and coworkers who live in the East Bay and commute. They say that it’s really close—the BART stop is just a quick 15-20 minute walk from home, and the ride itself is a mere 24 minutes. That seems far to me—in the time it took you to walk to BART, I already made it to the office and now I’m eating my Special K with dried strawberries. I used to eat Honey Nut Cheerios, but I’m trying to be a bit healthier these days.
9. I don’t need to drive or use public transportation.
My lack of a need for driving, training or bussing, although related to my short commute, is significant enough to merit its own item on this list.
A lot of people complain about driving in San Francisco, but having lived and driven in Japan and LA, I can tell you that it ain’t so bad. Parking’s a bit of a pain in the ass, but as long as you stay away from certain neighborhoods at certain times of day, it is much less of a problem. People also complain about our public transportation. Yes, it’s not as good as public transportation in New York. You win. Good job. It still gets a lot of folks from point A to point B, often with a hilarious story about a drunk homeless man touching himself.
The wonderful thing about San Francisco is that you don’t need to drive or take public transportation. San Francisco is a compact city and no matter where you are, you are likely walking distance (and you are definitely biking distance) from wherever else you want to go (except maybe if you live in Bayview). Walking and biking are both great for your cardio, and those hills do wonders for your glutes! I own a car, but my main use for it is driving across the street once a week to avoid getting a ticket from the street-sweeper. If I lived in Oakland, I’d probably have to drive or take the bus everywhere…at least that’s what all of my friends who live there do. What’s the point of having that great weather if you’re stuck inside your vehicle?
8. I’m 32 years old and I don’t give a rat’s patootie about being “cool.”
Every morning, after I shower, I spend a moment staring in the mirror at my badass phoenix tattoo on my back. Then I go to my record player and pick out some soul on vinyl to listen to while I get dressed. Before I go to work, I pick out a button from my extensive collection, a sampling of which I will show here:
Then I go to my corporate lawyer job. The “cool” me disappears the moment I leave my apartment, and I don’t spend all that much time in my apartment. And that’s okay.
A lot of people say that San Francisco is no longer “cool” and “edgy” and that all of the truly interesting San Franciscans are going to Oakland, which is totally the Brooklyn of the West Coast. Oakland is like Brooklyn, in that it once had a predominantly African-American population that is being rapidly displaced by white hipsters who think they are being “cool” and “edgy” by moving there. Frankly, I don’t need to move to Brooklyn—last I checked, Cherry Tavern, my favorite bar in the world, was still in Manhattan. I’m 32 freaking years old, and I really stopped caring what “cool” people thought of me years ago, if I ever cared in the first place. Seriously, fucking Oakland hipsters. You’re into the Pixies? I’ve been listening to the Pixies since before you were born. Literally.
7. I need ocean access, preferably from Ocean Beach.
I’m not a beach bum by any means. In fact, for the most part, I don’t particularly like the beach–I particularly hate how whenever I go there, even for ten minutes, sand somehow permeates every crevasse of my being regardless of what I’m wearing. Nonetheless, there is something undoubtedly therapeutic about being able to dip your toes into the Pacific Ocean and stare out into the endless abyss of bluish-green. It’s humbling yet infinitely peaceful. Ocean Beach is the perfect beach for me—it’s chilly and you can’t go there wearing your G-string (although that doesn’t stop me), but it’s quiet, calm, and contemplative, with drift wood that tells tales of pirates aboard gold-plated ships and sunsets that form the city’s aura.
See the big, beautiful body of water in that photo? That ain’t the Bay. And that sure as hell ain’t Lake Merritt.
6. Oakland is kinda not safe.
Part of what makes Oakland “cool” and “edgy” is the fact that there’s still a substantial likelihood that if you spend a year or two there, you will get robbed at gunpoint and/or burglarized. This has a particular appeal to white kids from Marin who want to get some street cred, especially if they don’t have any assets worth stealing. It’s a badge of honor to say something like, “yeah, last month somebody threw a big rock through my door and stole my laptop and bike. It’s all good—this is just the tax you pay for living in Oakland.”
Setting aside the fact that making statements like that is extremely insulting to people in Oakland who have to live with crime every day and who do not think it is “all good,” I don’t want to get mugged or have my place broken into, and I already pay a shit ton in taxes (damn you, tax-and-spend California liberals!). San Francisco may be full of homeless people shitting on the street, crackheads yelling at passersby, and folks shooting heroin with impunity in front of City Hall, but I can still pull out my iPhone on Market Street to check a text without worrying about somebody nicking it, and I never lock my door when I’m home. There are people out everywhere at night and I never feel unsafe walking home at 2 AM. I simply can’t say the same about the Oakland experience.
Maybe I’m weak. Maybe I’m old. Maybe I’m secretly Republican. I’d just like to minimize my exposure to crime, that’s all.
5. I will never change my sports allegiances.
The Bay Area only has one basketball team and one hockey team, and it is very exciting that both of them are currently in the playoffs. However, we have two baseball teams and two football teams, and although one can casually support multiple teams in one sport in theory, you can only have one baseball team that is “your team,” and the same goes for football. Thems the rules!
I did not select my baseball and football allegiances; they were chosen for me. I grew up in the Bay Area in the 1980s, when the Raiders were in LA and the Niners were the greatest team in football history, so football was a no-brainer. Baseball was a little trickier: in Marin, we could go either way, and the fanbase split in my elementary school was about 50-50. At that time the Giants had Will the Thrill and Rod Beck, but the A’s had Pretty Rickey and the original Bash Brothers. The schoolyard was filled with green and orange during the ground-shaking ’89 World Series.
So how did I make my decision? My father was a Giants fan, and thus I was a Giants fan. That’s the way it works. I still am a Giants fan, and I love it when the Giants are hot and people proudly wear their Buster Posey jerseys in the streets and slap each other five when they encounter another fan, which happens every five steps you take during an Orange October. I know that SF is not the most community-friendly city, but we do rally around our Gigantes. I’m sure people do the same in Oakland for the A’s, but I wouldn’t be a part of that and that would suck. I can’t just become an A’s fan after 25+ years of Giants fandom. That’s not the way it works.
P.S. All of the stuff I said about the Giants also applies for the Niners…I just wish that our QB wasn’t such a freakin’ douchebag.
4. There’s more San Francisco than Oakland.
There are more great restaurants in San Francisco. There are more chill dive bars in San Francisco. There are more museums and galleries in San Francisco, even if all of the artists are moving to Oakland. There are more record stores in San Francisco. There are more music halls in San Francisco, which means there are more concerts in San Francisco. There are more festivals, street fairs, and farmers’ markets in San Francisco.
I know what you’re going to say: “In Oakland we value quality over quantity.” I will concede that there’s a lot of crap in San Francisco. However, I maintain that you can add the word “good” or “awesome” or “dopetastic” after each instance of the word “are” in the paragraph directly above this one and it would not affect the veracity of any of those statements. Granted, you can do the same with the words “bad” or “lame” or “craptacular” and that also would not diminish the truthfulness, but this writer knows enough to separate the shit from shinola, if you know what I’m sayin’.
By the way, I did a search for “quantity quality cartoon” and came across the gem:
It ends up that the late, great Roger Ebert came up with the caption!
3. I have some pretty sweet rent control.
If you clicked on the Bold Italic link in the preamble to this post and read it in its entirety, you would have noticed that the punchline is “all of my friends are moving to Oakland, but I’m not going to because I have kick-ass rent control.” I can certainly identify with that sentiment. I live in the best part of the city (Hayes Valley/Lower Haight border) in an adorable, functional, and perfectly sized and shaped apartment, for which I pay a lot by non-SF standards but very little compared to my neighbors. For the same rent amount, I would probably get a similarly-sized apartment in what I suppose might be a comparable part of Oakland, but I would not be upgrading at all. Granted, if I moved to the city now, for the amount I pay I’d have to live in a shoebox in the TL with 4 roommates so the East Bay would be a heckuva lot more appealing, but I didn’t move to the city now, I moved here three years ago. Your loss, Oakland.
2. I know San Francisco.
I’ve been coming to the city since I was knee-high to a june bug and I’ve thoroughly explored most corners of it. I’ve spent years researching the background of the city and can honestly say that I know more about San Francisco history than most of its residents. I give walking tours in the Lower Haight and am expanding to other neighborhoods. I know all sorts of bizarre events going on in any given week. I volunteer here. I can take a girl on an amazing date here.
This connection was not consummated overnight, like an awkward arranged marriage. It takes quite a while to form a meaningful relationship with a city; hell, it can take a lifetime. San Francisco and I were doing the long-distance thing for a while: before I lived in San Francisco I lived in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, 3 places in Japan, Sydney, New York, Israel and of course Marin County. During all of my journeys away, we kept in touch. I visited as often as I could, and when I could not be with her physically I continued to get to know her, read about her, watched movies about her exploits, “cybered” with her—if you’ve ever been in an LDR before you know what that’s all about. By the time I finally moved in with her, it was as if we’d been together my entire life, and our relationship has only flourished and become more intimate over the past 3 years as I’ve gotten to truly know San Francisco, both in terms of the kind of city she was in the past and what she has become/is transforming into today.
I’m sure that Oakland is a groovy place to live. I’m sure it has a rich history and all sorts of marvelous things to see and people to do. I just don’t know Oakland, and frankly, if I had to commute to work every day, drive or take public transportation everywhere, and devote at least 1-2 hours every day to trying to look cool while avoiding being mugged, I’m not sure I’d ever be able to get to know it.
I know that picture may have been more appropriate up at number 5. I also know that San Francisco doesn’t like to be called “Frisco.” That’s okay—we’ve been together long enough that I can call her that. Oakland would probably kick my ass for such a transgression.
Moving on, the number 1 reason I’m not moving to Oakland is…
1. I’m no quitter.
Okay, that’s not true. I’ve quit a ton of things in my life: piano, math, marathon training, jujitsu, water polo, improv, writing screenplays, creating my board game, watching Orange is the New Black…the list goes on and on. But this is different. A lot of people are heading to Oakland because they’ve given up on San Francisco. “This place sucks now, man. The tech bros have come to the city because of its culture but now they’re killing the very culture that enticed them here in the first place, with their over-priced food trucks and Google Glass…” We’ve heard that shpiel plenty of times.
I’ve actually started collecting articles on San Francisco gentrification and its discontents. In the past 6 months, I’ve collected 92 of them (several of which were actually not written by Rebecca Solnit), and at this point I think most of the arguments have been overstated ad naseum (in fact, SFGate’s hilarious piece about how out-of-town reporters should write about the city is probably the most pertinent article in my collection so far). We’ve done an excellent job diagnosing the problem, now it’s time to fix it, not to run away from it. Grow a pair and make the city a better place. The city is going to suck if all of the people who love it emigrate, so if you love your city, the best thing you can do is stay right here.
I know that San Francisco is not the same city it was 20 years ago. Guess what—neither is Oakland, and a number of the locals think that you’re making things worse by moving there. In the end, I have nothing against Oakland—it’s a fine town, and I will happily go there to visit my friends and family. But I’m not giving up on San Francisco, and I will stay here and do everything in my power to make it a city my friends do not want to leave. When it comes to things in life I truly love, I’m no quitter.
I think this sums up my feelings on the subject rather nicely: