Today is my last day of freedom. Although I start tonight a sixteen-day trip through Asia, I feel like a kid at the end of summer vacation just before school starts. No more empty days of San Francisco wanders.
I’m excited for the work ahead. I want to meet my colleagues, learn a new discipline, contribute to a team, and help a company grow. After the end of a workweek, I shall value my weekends and cherish my scarce free time. With a paycheck, I can spend again on luxuries and the necessities that I have needed to replace for so long.
Today on my last day, I will run (always running), survey San Francisco from the top of a hill, clean my floors, and a do my taxes. I mix practical with frivolous.
In my runs through San Francisco, I notice the changing demographic of the city. When I arrived almost ten years ago, the San Francisco population clustered more with thirty and forty year olds. The high cost of living and absence of universities raised the median age compared to Austin or college-rich Boston.
In this boom time, the city floods with twenty and early thirty-year olds, mostly male, almost completely white, similar to the 1849 gold rush denizens. San Francisco looks more northern European than west coast American. I lament the plummeting diversity, not just racially and economically, but also creatively. Followers of the growing conservatism here, the new herd seeks validation in commodified products, so all over the city spring up old-timey cocktail bars, bespoke haberdasheries, and yoga studios. I guess the city’s average salary is one-hundred thousand dollars.
My less-affluent friends move away to Oakland or hold their collective breaths. Is this boom just temporary and how soon will it end? Can San Francisco go back to the way it was or has “tech culture” irrevocably changed (ruined?) life here? Both are likely true. I plan to move away and on to less intense pastures before I turn 50.
I don’t know why I complain so much, as I am a boomtowner too of that white, male, privileged, tech ilk. That same ilk are also my friends. Furthermore, the newly arrived may impact the city more gently than the veterans. As traffic worsens, more newcomers bicycle and don’t own cars. Although new apartments cost much more – close to one million dollars now, they are smaller and consume fewer resources per capita. San Francisco turns into Manhattan.