2014 is slowly turning into the "Year of San Francisco." The East Coast media in America has anointed SF as the new hub for innovation, conspicuous consumption, and comically absurd rents. New York Magazine parachuted a bunch of reporters into the Bay Area to figure out how to steal their douchebags back. The article asked "Is San Francisco New York?" No, it's much worse. The existential crisis around San Francisco's ascension to the heights of assholery stands in stark contrast to the fact that it is damn near unlivable for most normal people.
The end is nigh for a city that used to be a magnet for the counter-culture. San Francisco was strangled, so we decided to go over the numerous causes of death.
Everyone Worth a Damn Is Moving to Oakland
San Francisco used to be that place you moved to if you were too weird for LA, but too lazy for New York. It was a perfect city to ply your trade as a quirky motherfucker with a penchant for “edgy performance art” and whimsical scarves. That was just dandy. We liked that.
Around every corner, there could be an anarchist bookshop or a dude covered in glitter, wearing a Spongebob t-shirt, and sporting a raging hard-on. Where did that San Francisco go? Across the fucking bridge, that's where.
Oakland is cheaper than San Francisco (but not by much), it’s close to Berkeley’s cultural gravity, and it’s just a BART trip away from what’s left of SF’s relevance. It's also an industrial wasteland full of crime and Raider fans. You might ask yourself, What happened to San Francisco’s iconoclastic spirit…? Well, in two simple words:
There's always been a bourgeois element to San Francisco that we all just ignored. The landed gentry of Nob Hill, Pac Heights, and Sea Cliff have always been there. They have owned their home for years, love wearing fleece sweaters, own nothing but real wood furniture, and are the type of people who tool around McCovey Cove in their yachts during Giants games. They are from a different planet and don't mingle with the plebs. They have their world of brandy snifters, champagne flutes, cheese tastings, and obscure European automobiles. They honestly don't care what you think.
The tech bro, on the other hand, seeks to engage in city life. They go to the same bars you do. They eat at the same restaurants. They badly want to be accepted as "cool," while also having more money than you and getting chauffeured to work in a free corporate bus. Their insistence on trying to infiltrate the real San Francisco has pretty much killed the real San Francisco. Dolores Park, once a safe haven for burnouts to drink 40s and smoke weed at 2:30 PM on a Tuesday, is now the world's biggest networking event for dudes who wear khakis to the gym.
In New York, Wall Street people know they’re pricks. In Los Angeles, Hollywood people are too stupid to know they’re pricks. In San Francisco, tech bros think they’re saving the world with their crackpot schemes aka “start-ups.” They’re the fucking worst.
16th + Mission
The intersection of 16th and Mission—home to a bustling BART station and breeding ground for MS-13 gang activity— is where some 1970s dystopian vision of pre-Giuliani Manhattan has finally found a home. Remember that crazy naked black guy doing backflips and attacking commuters at a subway station? That was here.
Dog Shit on the Sidewalk
These urban IEDs are everywhere, constantly threatening your ability to have a normal walk in a city that basically forces you to be a pedestrian. Also, everyone's got a dog now, which means they gotta shit somewhere.
Too Many Stores Are Cash Only
Don’t pull out a credit card to buy your bespoke iPhone case. Save that shit for ETSY. This is San Francisco, the home of the shopkeeper too lazy/cheap to get a card reader. "Oh, we're so edgy that we don't take credit cards! We're sticking it to the evil banks!" I have a crippling nicotine addiction and don't care about your principles.
Haight-Ashbury Street Kids
Remember how we were saying we missed San Francisco’s “local color”? Well, there’s a dark side to that, and it’s not concerned with the cost of rent. The stinky weirdoes who beg for change and scream profanities at anyone who looks too “normal” will never leave San Francisco. The parks, bus benches, and gutters are their home. Their only calling is to ruin your day. We don’t even hate hippies that much. We’re all just trying to get by, and hippies are occasionally creative or interesting. The street kids in Haight-Ashbury don’t produce anything other than contempt. They’re mean to everyone, and aren't shy about expressing themselves. They're so shitty that if you give them leftovers from a restaurant, you might want to be sure they don't spit the food back in your face and piss on your leg.
This shit should fall into the ocean. It’s easy to pick on a tourist trap, but to be fair there were only maybe three places in San Francisco that didn’t qualify as tourist traps, and they all moved to Oakland in 2007. The Wharf is where all the street vendors make $80,000 a year and live in SOMA. There’s a desperate air of indulgence that illustrates how visiting San Francisco is just smelling your own kale salad farts. Besides the press-a-penny machines, speed painters, octopus keychains, loud sea lions, and chain restaurants, it’s also perpetually cold as balls in a city that almost prides itself on being annoyingly chilly.
What kind of fucked up level of detachment do you have to have to bring your suburbanite family on a “funtastic” tour of a maximum security prison where hyper-violent men, stripped of their humanity, beat and raped each other? Hint: It’s the same people who get out of their cars and say shit like “I pay your salary!” when pulled over. I genuinely believe that if you willingly visit Alcatraz, you would have owned slaves with no moral qualms. On the other hand, the ferry ride over is pretty nice.
I am convinced that San Francisco was built as a dune buggy course, but became an actual city in the 1970s. I’ve had the displeasure of driving in Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, and Houston; yet San Francisco is the only city on earth where I’d rather set my car on fire and leave it smoldering in the middle of a one-way street than spend another two hours creeping up a series of 50 degree inclines, hoping to find a loading zone to briefly stop in before loudly, hopelessly weeping into my steering wheel. Cyclists, pedestrians, buses, and streetcars are keen to remind you that this is their city, not yours, and if they hit you, it’s your fault for being an eco-terrorist and not longboarding everywhere.
The Public Transportation Is a Joke
OK, we’ve established that driving in San Francisco is both pointless and dangerous. That’d be fine if the public transit system wasn’t still operating with an infrastructure from the Reagan administration. Muni, the city transit system, has trains that fall apart and fall off the tracks because of faulty, ancient overhead wires. They’re also always late because every line has an above-ground segment that routinely gets stuck in gnarly traffic. The train cars look like they’re made of plastic and need to be wound in the back to operate. The buses aren't much better since they're prone to randomly squashing cars. No big deal, right?
If you’re hoping BART is better, well... People get shot on BART—by the police. The seats are made of a fabric that is great for soaking up piss, vomit, and semen. The trains also make this godforsaken whistling noise underground. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. It sounds like a dolphin getting fucked in the blowhole by a grizzly bear. BART is buying new trains that address all these issue, which will start running in 2017. Of course, BART is also continuing to raise fares, making it harder and harder to afford to get anywhere, which makes living in the East Bay and working in SF even less tenable. Man, that Google Bus is sounding pretty good now, isn't it?