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Living in San Francisco Means…(Redux)

Updated: Apr 25, 2019 11:35
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I originally did this piece for The Bold Italic in January 2015. Shortly afterwards it closed down. And now it’s back open. This piece is updated version of a piece I did in 2011. The incredible illustrations were done by the brilliant Jon Stich.

So much of this still rings very true.


Living in San Francisco means being torn apart. It means having people you love get evicted. Seeing cultural institutions replaced by trendy cocktail bars. Moving to this city for a job in technology and getting vilified for being the reason for higher rents, even though you can barely afford your own. Reading the news and getting sick to your stomach because the elderly and the mentally disabled and the working class and the creative class keep getting “displaced,” which is a euphemism for “thrown out of their homes in the name of greed.” It means reading the news and being enraged that a 98-year-old lady is getting evicted. It means reading the news and worrying about when you’re going to get evicted yourself.

San Francisco evictions

Living in San Francisco means seeing someone you know in the Planned Parenthood waiting room. Seeing someone you know at the DMV. Seeing someone you know at the grocery, the gym, a sex party, the airport, Vesuvio, Ike’s Place, the Warfield, in Oakland  (where you find out they’ve been living for the past two years). It means meeting someone for the first time and being weirded out because you have 77 Facebook friends in common. It means meeting someone for the first time and being even more weirded out because you have zero Facebook friends in common. It means living in the biggest little village in the world.

Living in San Francisco means being matched with a hilarious amount of your friends on Tinder. It means making plans to go on a date with someone you met on OkCupid for Sunday but running into them in a bar on Friday. Realizing how bad the dating scene has gotten for women here. Chatting with someone on multiple dating sites eight months ago, never meeting up with them, but then seeing them at the Independent. Having friends who are just friends but who used to be friends with benefits. Having social circles in which, at some point or another, most people have slept with each other. Knowing it’s impossible to date someone who hasn’t fucked someone you know.

San Francisco neighbors

Living in San Francisco means hearing people say that art is dead in the city. It means hearing people say that music is dead in the city. Hearing these things and saying “fuck that” by going out to spray-paint and wheatpaste, hanging weird mobiles from the telephone wires, having shows in your living room, joining flash mobs, organizing new local festivals, and dressing as bananas and handing out PB&J sandwiches to homeless people. It means wandering past the open-mic poetry night at 16th and Mission and smiling because art will never die in San Francisco. It means feistily starting your own business doing the thing you love.

Living in San Francisco means being enamored by the legend of Emperor Norton. It means seeing Frank Chu and telling him, “Give ’em hell, Frank!” Wondering when Omer, a.k.a. “Bum Jovi,” stopped playing horrible guitar on Valencia. Being terrified of the Filipino guy with the megaphone screaming about “honoring your mother and father!” at the cable-car turnaround. Mourning the death of the Bushman but not being sure which one died. Realizing that the death of the Brown Twins is really the end of an era. It means being absolutely gutted when you heard about Robin Williams, because he represented San Francisco at its very best.

San Francisco mrs doubtfire

Living in San Francisco means knowing that local politics are completely crooked. It means knowing that Willie Brown still runs this town, even though he hasn’t been mayor since 2004. Well, he and Rose Pak, anyway. It means knowing Ron Conway and Reid Hoffman are trying to buy this town, and that Ed Lee is giving it to them. Knowing that the David Chiu’s backroom deals with Airbnb were shady. Worrying that SF isn’t as progressive as it used to be. Worrying that all the new people who moved here won’t vote or care about local issues. Worrying that “San Francisco” will no longer represent an ideal but will now just be a place. It means crying into your keyboard when you heard the San Francisco Bay Guardian had shut down.

Living in San Francisco means thinking that jaywalking while smoking a joint and drinking a beer in front of a cop is totally normal. It means seeing a men’s knitting circle in a café in the Castro and thinking it is totally normal. Seeing Deep ride by on his trike blaring Prince and thinking it’s totally normal. Seeing people walking around dressed in bondage gear and thinking it’s totally normal. Seeing people wearing strange costumes at any hour of the day on any day of the year and thinking it’s totally normal. It means seeing 13 people sleeping on the sidewalk during your walk to work and, unfortunately, thinking that’s totally normal too.

Living in San Francisco means knowing someone who worked someplace that got acquired or went public or some other shit and became rich. It means always wondering just how rich they really got. Having friends at some of the most powerful tech companies in the world who can actually help you when their technologies don’t work how they’re supposed to. Being a guinea pig for every imaginable app that launches. Having six different ways to call cars to get home. Being able to order Thai food, a plumber, toothpaste, booze, smoothies, and never even have to pick up the phone. Wondering if you’re losing the ability to actually talk to people in person. It means coworking, ridesharing, renting your car out by the hour, renting your extra room out by the night, and renting your couch out by the week. It means knowing that the “sharing economy” isn’t a movement; it’s a business plan for companies who don’t want to pay their taxes … but fuck, it makes life easier.

san francisco tourist

Living in San Francisco means having a tattoo of the Golden Gate Bridge or Sutro Tower or a California bear or a California poppy or the city’s skyline, but definitely not one of Coit Tower. That would look too much like a dildo. It means hearing “Nobody’s got it better than us” and really believing it. It means cringing when people say “San Fran,” and actually, kinda, maybe warming up to the name “Frisco.”

Living in San Francisco means knowing your neighbor’s schedule, even though you’ve never met them. Using the word “hella” as often as you breathe air. Being excited for pumpkin and strawberry It’s-Its. Having long-standing arguments about which is the best taqueria. Having conversations wondering when this bubble is gonna burst. Having conversations about weird guys in the park who make giant bubbles. Having a bike you love stolen. Having a bike you don’t even like that much stolen. Knowing at least seven people who’ve been hit by cars while riding a bike. It means words like “scaling” and “pivoting” and “disrupt”are part of your vocabulary, even though you work in a restaurant. It means knowing a remarkable amount about wine varietals and cooking techniques, even though you work in tech.

San franciso kids

Living in San Francisco means acting like you never have to get old but worrying that you really are. It means being in your thirties, and all your friends are now married and having kids, while you still live with three roommates you found on Craigslist. It means being in your twenties and hopping from job to job, trying to find something you actually believe in. It means being in your forties and doing work that you believe in but still worrying about paying your bills. It means starting to consider what it would be like to actually move out of San Francisco. Considering Portland or Oakland or even LA – yes, really, LA – but knowing how much it would break your heart to leave the city you’ve given so much of yourself to.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.


  1. Auntie Techy
    July 8, 2015 at 11:33 am

    It means knowing that if you want to get married you have to move because you both can’t live in a 238 sq ft studio apt and you can’t afford 4k a month for a 1 bedroom.

    • Hyde
      March 14, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Yeah. That’s why I live in Takoma Park, MD, now. I sure do miss my 210 sq ft apt in the Castro! After 20 years in SF, it was good to leave, but my heart’s still there! (Sigh!)

    • Artivist
      October 18, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      Are you kidding? Getting married and sharing a 1 bedroom was the only way most of us could afford to stay in this city. Forced cohabitation is part of the deal, like rent control.

  2. Art Vandelay
    July 8, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    “Reading the news and getting sick to your stomach because the elderly and the mentally disabled and the working class and the creative class keep getting “displaced,” which is a euphemism for “thrown out of their homes in the name of greed.”

    Do people like using Google? Do people like having Uber, Postmates, Tinder, Facebook, and most other technologies? Then stop complaining about gentrification here. Don’t say people are displaced because of “greed” without admitting we’re all the cause. These people are displaced because they don’t offer any competitive good or service to the market. They’re not forced out, they’re leaving due to their own lack of ingenuity.

    “Creative class” my behind. Unless they’re creating jobs or industry then they’re just college graduates who shouldn’t have studied English.

    • Haz_Been
      July 8, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      You’re a vile piece of trash without empathy for anyone. “people are displaced because they don’t offer any competitive good or service to the market?” really, that’s why Uber and all these twats rely 100% on these same “uncompetitive” people. San Francisco may have opened her golden gate to you only to have you shit down her throat, but let me advise you not to talk that shit in front of me or anyone in public.They keyboard will never save you from karma. I may have to start hanging out in the Mission again, just on the off chance I can hear you or someone like you say anything as remotely vulgar as what you just did.

      • Art Vandelay
        July 9, 2015 at 12:21 am

        Liberals are apparently all for free movement of people until they’re the ones being displaced. Empathy? Do you want technology or empathy? Do you like using Uber? I sure do.

      • Haz_Been
        July 9, 2015 at 12:59 am

        “Innovate” yourself out of a job. If you think your job isn’t going India, Romania, or China you’re a fool. Empathy isn’t relegated soley to liberals, just people with a soul. Enjoy your piss laced latte!

      • Art Vandelay
        July 9, 2015 at 8:13 am

        Generally, those nations do not create content or intellectual property. However many of my colleagues are from India or China, they just live here. Although by your disdain it appears your job already has disappeared.

        I prefer plain iced coffee.

      • Haz_Been
        July 9, 2015 at 10:08 am

        Actually, I work in a periphery of technology, have a degree in finance and make more than most in my circles (not that earnings are a gauge of character). However, the real difference here is I have a heart, soul and still advocate for those not as fortunate in the lottery that is life. You appear to be one of those, “I did it on my own, I don’t owe nobody nothing” conservatives masquerading as libertarian, completely oblivious to the advantages you probably had in life.

        Chicks must really dig the whole aloof, sheltered white man thing these days (or not). You don’t date/get out much do you?

      • Friend of the Devil
        July 9, 2015 at 12:32 pm

        Chicks do love the privileged, my daddy is a lawyer, I went to Stanford, no fucking clue vibe. it’s so fucking quiche.

      • Art Vandelay
        July 9, 2015 at 11:09 pm

        I do pretty well with the ladies when I try, I think I’m good looking I just got no game, plus the whole Catholic guilt thing, I don’t really try to sleep around even if I could. My dad is a title searcher, or was one before the housing market collapsed. My mom was too, the weird thing was they stayed co-workers for 12 years after they got divorced. I went to SUNY Binghamton, not Stanford.

        Do you mean cliche? I think “quiche” is a dish, similar to a frittata.

      • Friend of the Devil
        July 10, 2015 at 11:57 am

        No I meant “quiche” its an expression that means cool, dope, fresh, etc. Try it sometime.

      • Art Vandelay
        July 9, 2015 at 11:04 pm

        Let’s cut to the chase. What do you think is a solution to this issue of families not being able to afford living in the city?

        I don’t know why you think I don’t have a heart and soul, man. I’ve merely explained the market reasons why some people can afford to live here and some can’t. It’s not like I LIKE the idea that people can’t afford to live here, and it hasn’t had as large an impact on lowering the crime rate as one might think. Plus it’s not like I’m driving around town in a Benz either.

      • Haz_Been
        July 10, 2015 at 10:08 am

        I can appreciate bluntness, it’s market-based, “might makes right”
        rhetoric that I hold disdain for. And I empathize with millenials who have a $150K/year job and but have no savings due to the increased cost of living. But here’s the thing: Imagine being the waiter, bartender, teacher, policeman, hell…I know lawyers who can’t afford this city. In fact, London Breed (another native) and president of the SF Board of Supervisors, publicly said, “I can’t afford Divisadero. A Chronicle reporter can’t afford it. The bus driver definitely can’t afford it.” What does that say about a city’s priorities when they allow BILLION DOLLAR businesses to essentially use public resources for FREE (Google, Apple, etc), break zoning laws and skirt taxes (AirBnB, Uber, etc) meanwhile, offering up public land to developers to build hastily thrown together “luxury condos ” to sell at market-rate that even one of the most powerful civil servants in the city cannot afford. This is NOT free-market economics. This playing field is not level, so supply-side arguments are and have been proven over and over again as fallacy.

        See, I can be civil and thoughtful but when you ape the rhetoric of capitalist pirates, raiding our communities people will respond to you in like kind. Dig?

      • Friend of the Devil
        July 10, 2015 at 11:58 am

        I dig! <3

      • Friend of the Devil
        July 9, 2015 at 12:31 pm

        you’re bold for saying this shit. Want to say it to my face? I’d LOVE to get together for a 1 on 1 discussion. For real. What’s your name and how can we meet up, bro? Or are you going to hide behind computer?

      • Art Vandelay
        July 10, 2015 at 12:09 am

        Are you really so upset and feeling personally victimized by an internet comment where someone tried to explain the reasons behind the fact that some people can’t afford high rents, that you’d meet a stranger from the Internet in person? What if I’m a lunatic? What if you are? This is like the beginnings of an article you read on your phone while pooping or on BART, about a pissed off video gamer in Florida who finds out that the another gamer that pissed him off lives in the same town. When all is said and done, one person ends up making a coat out of the skin of the other, and wears it with his wiener tucked in like Buffalo Bill or something.

      • Friend of the Devil
        July 10, 2015 at 11:56 am

        I love you too. This made my day. Not because you’re intentionally funny.

      • Art Vandelay
        July 12, 2015 at 11:51 pm

        I don’t know what this means.

      • George C.
        March 13, 2016 at 8:22 pm

        Art Vandelay- a troll with a name based on a Seinfeld joke. Fun times.

      • Friend of the Devil
        July 9, 2015 at 12:25 pm

        haha! love it!

      • temich1985 .
        July 11, 2015 at 12:38 pm

        Well there is only one thing I can tell you. Well fed will never understand the starving one

      • temich1985 .
        July 9, 2015 at 12:49 am

        I am just waiting for a moment when it’s going to be a major recession in computer technology field. Remember those days when tons of those techies got laid off after dot Com boom crashed? I feel that those techies over inflating bubble that will explode one day hard, than we will see who is laughing and being a smart as lol

    • temich1985 .
      July 8, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      OK so let’s populate the whole town with ugly running shoe and cargo shorts wearing nerds like you. OK so we got bunch of people with enginuity, all sitting with your latest MacBook and bs’ING about your techie start-up or who got the coolest cubical. So we got all of you super smart arrogant snobby nerds. Now, if all of us average or dumb what you probably call us wI’ll leave a town, since we can’t keep up with rent and bills and we have no enginuity. The question is who is going to feed you? Who will maintain your luxury sedans? Who will maintain and clean the city that you feel like you own now? Who will operate MUNI or BART that you use to commute to work? Who will run Starbucks and bars where you love to hang out? Who will do all of the “dumb” “worthless” work so your sweet as can enjoy the city. Did you think about that before posting yet another nerds smart as comment in here?

      • Art Vandelay
        July 9, 2015 at 12:20 am

        The US has long been becoming a service economy. This is the last step in the evolution of an economy. Those services that need to be provided on the spot, like auto mechanics, that cannot be outsourced or crowdsourced or shipped from China, they will be performed by people from SF or around SF. That won’t change.

        I don’t wear cargo shorts or ugly running shoes.

      • temich1985 .
        July 9, 2015 at 12:30 am

        Exactly, services can’t be outsourced. Yet people who do services don’t make $150k / year like cubical sitting techies. So how do those people in services suppose to afford living there? You can’t just put every single one on BART and have them live somewhere in East Bay or Vallejo AND Commute. It’s just impossible to transport every single one to this peninsula city. On top of that not that many people will be interested to commute fir 2 hours and pay expensive BART tickets just to get a shifty minimal or close to minimal wage job in SF

      • Art Vandelay
        July 9, 2015 at 8:16 am

        Then the market will react by raising the price of those services. Auto mechanics will become increasingly expensive until people are willing to commute to SF for it, or until locals are performing the service. This will make the cost of living here higher again.

        It isn’t an optimal solution, that inflation creates more inflation, but that’s how markets work. People may also begin leaving the cities and innovating elsewhere like Austin.

      • July 28, 2015 at 1:06 am

        It’s “ingenuity”, “cubicle” etc. Perhaps try using one of those web browsers with spell checkers that happen to be built in the South Bay by Google and Mozilla?

      • Friend of the Devil
        July 9, 2015 at 12:25 pm

        DUDE. SHUT THE FUCK UP. Dropping the hammer.

    • Friend of the Devil
      July 9, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      yeah, basically, go fuck yourself — bro.

    • Artivist
      October 18, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      You are nasty. There are no words for how nasty

  3. Friend of the Devil
    July 9, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    this made me cry a little. again. just had to go one more round… what the fuck happened? what is going to happen? I make good money and I’m still broke. No savings, shitload of law school debt* and insane rent = stupid. nonsense.

    *thanks UC Regents for raising tuition every year. And thanks Hastings for sucking ass.

  4. Sfanimal
    July 10, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    This article stands the test of time for being as aweful and out of touch as the first posting . Some bad articles should just be allowed to die

  5. camperdude
    July 22, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    To be in love with San Francisco is to be in love with a whore… sure, she can do stuff to you that no one else can, but as soon as someone younger, prettier, and richer comes along, you’re history.

  6. Josie
    August 5, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I resonate with a lot of the things you wrote here, having escaped LA 20 years ago to this great City. My homeland used to make me gag but has surprisingly gotten really cool as of late- many of my artist friends have fled SF for cheaper living down there, in successive waves since the 1st dotcom boom. Right now Echo Park, where I grew up, reminds me of the Mission circa 13 years ago- an eclectic & friendly mix of Latinos, artists, musicians, progressives, bohemians. I walked around there & felt like they stole all the coolness from us, ha! So the reflexive need to resist LA’s siren call, at least for me, seems to be lessening & who knows, one day I may move back if things continue on their homogenized, entitled course here. The scripts seems to have flipped. Life’s a trip, for sure.

    • Artivist
      October 18, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      When LA is now far less douchey than SF, you know we’re done for

  7. Artivist
    October 18, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I’ve never used the word “disrupt” except in mocking tones

  8. TED garrett
    April 20, 2020 at 7:22 am

    Living in San Francisco also means if you’re gay and in your 70’s your
    considered an old troll ready to be recycled into Soylent Green by most of the thousands of younger gay men in this city. Even other old farts are looking for a young guy.
    Going on an internet dateing site and looking for a nice man aged 55 to 80 for coffee and conversation is futile.
    At this age friendship is more important than slam bang thank you sir see .
    San Francisco’s golden years are long past