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I’m Finally Hopeful About the Future of San Francisco

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This originally appeared in my Broke-Ass City column for the San Francisco Examiner on Feb 25th.

For the first time in a long time, I’m optimistic about the future of San Francisco. I know that’s a weird thing to say considering most of us barely leave the house, tons of people don’t have jobs and many of our favorite institutions keep closing down. But honestly, I can’t remember the last time I felt SF was so full of hope.

The reason for this is that almost every person in San Francisco is here because they want to be here. Whether they’re transplant or native, rich or scraping by, tech worker or artist, nearly everyone here looked the pandemic in the face and said, “Not even you can make me leave San Francisco.”

Of course, there are some folks who wanted to leave but couldn’t afford to, and there are plenty of people who wish they could be here but aren’t, but everyone I talk to in this city is excited to be part of building the San Francisco that comes next. It’s actually exhilarating.

And it makes sense. We spent the last decade in a culture war where one side didn’t care enough about this place to even participate in the culture war. We saw our loved ones evicted, our rents skyrocket, and our favorite places shut down (well, I guess some things don’t change). And all this was to accommodate tens of thousands of people who only planned on being here for a short time anyway.

And now they’re gone. One hundred thousand of them. Yes, some of the people who left actually did love SF, but the toll of the pandemic was the final thing that made them buckle. You know who you are and we miss you. But for most of the people who left, being able to work from home meant not having to live in San Francisco, because San Francisco wasn’t their home. And that’s fine — farewell, good luck, and please try not to ruin things wherever you end up.

For those of us still here, it’s a brand-new day. Suddenly, for the first time in a decade, people can afford to move from the golden handcuff of a rent-controlled apartment to a better one. They can finally leave dilapidated buildings or unhealthy living situations, and not have their rent tripled. They can make decisions that benefit them more holistically instead of having to sacrifice safety and sanity just to be able to pay rent. Because that’s what so many of us have done just to live here. That’s how much we love this city.

And the best part is, the strife we endured over the past decade has led to many more renter protections and discouraged some of the most egregious speculation. If these laws had been here 10 years ago, many of our loved ones would still be in The City. But maybe now some of them can come home.

So, hell yes, people are optimistic.

Even the blight is filled with possibility. While all the empty commercial space we see around places like Union Square is unsettling, people are already scheming to see what kind of beauty they can create once things open back up. Commercial landlords will have to lower rents to meet the diminished demand and quirky shops owned by local people may take over where corporate flagships once existed. The Westfield mall downtown is already paying attention. They plan on opening up space previously inhabited by huge brands so that local artists, designers, and craft makers, can sell their wares instead.

The performing arts are starting to adapt to the new normal as well. The Midway in the Dogpatch is beginning to book seated, outdoor dining experiences with fantastic live performances. And last weekend Red Light Lit, the sexy literary series, had a live reading at Chambers in the Phoenix Hotel. While most venues don’t have the outdoor space and capacity that these places have, it shows the creativity folks are using to move forward, taking the performing arts off of Zoom and back into real life.

The most important part of my current optimism is the fact that vaccinations are real and they are happening. (My parents just got their second shots last week, YES!) There is light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccinations obviously aren’t just a San Francisco thing, but that combined with everything above fills me with hope.

We are just beginning to come out of one of the most trying and traumatic periods any of us will likely live through, and what we might find on the other side is exciting. San Francisco has a bright future ahead of it because the people who live here believe in this place. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next, and I’m glad we will be experiencing it together.

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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 BrokeAssStuart.com 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, Geek.com 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.

4 Comments

  1. July 6, 2021 at 1:49 pm — Reply

    We’ve noticed the same exact thing. The people who are still here are the ones who really want to be here. The rents have dropped and we’ve found an amazing apartment for a fair price. Still pricey, but after 7 years in our 500 sqft apartment, we don’t mind paying a little more for this new space. It’s amazing.

    I feel like the vibes are wonderful in the city too. Most folks are vaccinated, new restaurants and bars are opening up, and there’s live music everywhere now.

    • Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap
      July 7, 2021 at 9:38 am — Reply

      It’s such a lovely time to be here!

      • July 8, 2021 at 10:43 am

        A couple weeks ago, I wrote this ( https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Socializing-in-reopened-S-F-is-kinda-fun-but-16275511.php , which originally included a mention of your “Fully Vaccinated, Still Antisocial” shirt, but it was cut due to word count), but just today they published articles saying “Bay Area COVID deaths plunge to near zero, thanks to high vaccination rates” and “S.F. office vacancy rises to 20%, highest level since 2003, despite more leasing activity”.

        Now, I read Violet Blue’s regular COVID (and tech) round-ups on her Patreon, so I’m not ignorant of Delta and breakthrough cases. Still… I have hope. I went to a vax-required 4th of July party, which was a blast. Hell, reading of how taxis – TAXIS!! – are gaining ground over price-surged ride-shares warms my heart. Combine all that with new work-from-home options and a supposed “tech exodus” to Austin and other places, and I honestly like where this all may be heading.

        There’s still (freaky-as-hell) life in The City that birthed me.

      • Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap
        July 8, 2021 at 10:50 am

        Hell yes!!

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