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The Streets of San Francisco & Oakland in 2020

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What a year.

To tell the story of 2020 I teamed up with Bay Area photographer Marcell Turner, whose imagery captures both the comforting and horrifying views of our streets in vivid detail.  Let’s take a visual walk down memory lane, in both Oakland and San Francisco.  All photography by Marcell Turner, all captions by Alex Mak.

Spring, 2020

One positive thing about 2020 was the traffic, or lack there of.   When’s the last year you remember driving from San Francisco to Oakland in under 30 minutes?  Especially in March of 2020, when no one was on the road.

Our politicians were never quite sure whether to shut down beaches in 2020.  ‘On then off’, ‘closed then open’, was the story of 2020.  We all had a lot more time to spend doing something outdoors. I can’t remember a year where I took more walks in remote areas.   Here, overlooking Ocean Beach, SF.

The streets were oddly quiet in 2020. Mostly empty in the Spring, & when you did see someone you only saw their eyes, over a mask.  The silence was at first, deafening.

SF’s number one industry (tourism) was silent for the first time since the ’89 earthquake.  A massive shift away from hotel, restaurant & ferry. Even General Norton had to get on board.

Many people had to keep working, and not from the comfort of their own homes.  Many residents began fleeing the Bay Area for cheaper pastures. Especially those who only came to get high paying tech and finance jobs.  It should be noted that none of the artists or poets cried over this loss.

Our politicians argued over what to do with our most vulnerable population.  A deadly pandemic forced their hand is some ways, along with progressive Supervisors like District 6’s Matt Haney and institutions like the Coalition on Homelessness who fought the city, and got them to begin opening vacant hotel rooms  to house some of the homeless. The government also set aside public land for ‘tent cities’ in outdoor spaces.

The pandemic didn’t just threatened the lives of our people, it skewered our small businesses as well.  Thousands of restaurants, bars, salons, and vendors of all shapes and sizes closed in 2020. Not even the historical Cliff House was immune, and it finally shuttered for good this fall.

All photos by Marcell Turner. See more photos

Summer, 2020

If we thought things were strange in the spring, nothing could have prepared us for the murder of George Floyd in front of the entire nation.  Police officers, and the very system itself, were put on trial in the streets nearly every night, for weeks, across the bay and the country. The streets of Oakland in particular, raged.

Cops in 2020, Oakland.

BLM protests summer 2020, Oakland.


A standoff in Oakland. Summer 2020.

To emphasize how strange 2020 really was, I’m including one of Marcell’s photos from 2019. You know how you can tell this wasn’t taken in 2020? No one is wearing a mask.

All photos by Marcell Turner. See more photos

fall 2020

Oh, and remember when the fucking sky turned orange?  Yeah, that was also this year.  California had it’s worst wildfire season in history. 4.1 million acres burnt, over 10 thousand buildings lost, and at least 33 people died in the flames.

September 9th, 2020. Orange photos of San Francisco went viral across the world.  With captions like “Apocalypses?”.  Then, nearly every state in the western united states began to burn. We huddled inside to escape not just a virus, but chocking fire and smoke as well.

winter 2020

Many of our most prized institutions  and historical businesses are fighting just to stay on life support. Constantly being asked to follow new and strange regulations when open, and then shut down completely in an instant. No one can say what businesses will be resurrected in 2021, and which will simply remain a memory.

All the while somethings never change, the bay’s favorite prognosticator Frank Chu, masked up, and continued working hard in 2020.

And not everything was miserable this year. Remember when our artists began painting the boarded up businesses in SF & Oak? Check out the Paint the void project to see a lot of beautiful, community minded art work.

To check out Marcell Turner’s awesome photography and films go to or @marcellturner on insta.  To continue to support independent press in the Bay Area visit

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managing editor here at Broke-Ass Stuart. I enjoy covering Bay Area News as well as writing about Arts, Culture & Nightlife.

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