The happiest city -- for some


Not to go all gloomy on a day when it's finally not cold and the sun is out and San Francisco was just named the happiest city in America, (based on things like the number of shopping centers and cultural events), but really: Let's not all jump up and down and celebrate. This is a very happy city for people who have money; it's becoming a very anxiety-filled city for everyone else.

I've gotten quite a few comments and emails from friends on our cover story this week, and most of them go something like this:

"Great story. Really scary. I hope they don't Ellis Act my building or I won't be able to stay here, either."

If you're a renter in San Francisco, and you've been here a while, and you're under rent control, chances are you're nervous about your future. Because if you get evicted, you're almost certainly leaving town. Maybe you can find a place in Oakland that's smaller than what you currently have at twice the price, or maybe you can't. 

This is a city under immense pressure, and while the economically secure can happily go to shopping centers and see the Opera, I would say a majority of the current residents of San Francisco are more stressed about their future than they have been in years. And that doesn't seem to be addressed in the happiness calculus.


No bias there then?

Posted by anon on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 7:52 am

According to the city I'm homeless since I live in a microhouse on wheels. I haven't lived a conventional 'home' in 8 years. I could get a room. I have a job and all that but I just can't bring myself to pay Bay Area rents. It feels like I'm being robbed. I wouldn't live in the Bay Area at all, you all can have it, except I got a teen age daughter doing her 1st year of college at SFAI and she needs me around for moral support.

Posted by pete moss on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 5:03 am

Pete Moss, did you once work as a bike messenger for U.S. Messenger and start a "zine"? If so, I think we may have worked together in the 80s.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

Yep that was me. I was an SF bike messenger from '79 to '91 then moved to SoCal. Spent 20 in Long Beach. Now there's a real City full of real people.

Posted by pete moss on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 4:50 am

Well, pete, I hope you are enjoying being back in the City, living on four wheels -- a creative response to a rental market that otherwise keeps one working all the time just to make ends meet. Hope your daughter really likes art school. Best wishes, Sally T

Posted by voltairesmistress on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

Have you been to Daly City? The housing stock is primarily SFO homes, good luck renting one. Where there are apartments, such as Westlake Village, they are primarily upscale complexes, no cheaper than The City, run by property management companies that won't look at anyone who's credit score isn't north of 700.

Posted by pete moss on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 5:09 am

like they could be expensive. But if not there, then try Oakland.

Posted by anon on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 7:32 am

Actually my sister lives in Oakland. Owns 4 buildings, hobnobs with the mayor. My sister and I hate each other so Oakland is outta the question. All I need is a couple more years til my daughter graduates and moves to England then I'll be gone for good and all you greedy pigs can have this mudhole to yourself.

Posted by pete moss on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 5:10 am

It always always been the case, that you make money, you either buy or rent. If you can't afford SF or any other place you find a place that you can, but this is the bay area. You can live almost everywhere or anywhere just as long you can pay for it.

I am not from New York City, but I do know the New Yorkers have their own places to live either rent or buy, most cities do. Most of those cities that you have mentioned that are world class cities, have better transit and better growth management. Something the SF bay area lacks, we have 101 different cities all wanting to be special and quite a few of them NIMBY,

Build all styles of housing, all income levels, because the super wealthy need a place to live and so does the low income working type.

Posted by Garrett on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 9:32 am

that is trying to pretend it is not a neighborhood within a big city but somehow like some standalone town.

The Bay Area is balkanized to near death.

Posted by anon on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 10:12 am

I think the journalist Redmond got it right. I returned to my home town, SF, in 2007 after nearly twenty years. At first the City, except for the South of Market area, Mission Bay, and the Presidio, looked the same to me. But then I realized that while grid and buildings had stayed virtually unchanged, the population had shifted pretty dramatically. The most noticeable change was the near absence of African Americans, very different from my childhood experience of the City in the 1960s. But over time I've felt, rather than seen, other changes -- an increasing tension among and between people. Arguments seem to arise over minor slights, impatience roils beneath a thin veneer of pleasant detachment, people seem nervous about conversing briefly with a stranger and cut off such talk in awkward ways. In short, I find current San Franciscans anxious, hurried, afraid of unstructured contact with other persons. I think much of the inner tension comes from many feeling pressed economically and uncertain of their futures here. Others may be economically secure but are still kind of rootless and disinclined toward establishing connections to people not already in their mobile phone's contact list.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

Maybe there is a reason why you left, and perhaps you should elave again?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

"Guest," I wish you would engage with the content of my comment -- how people may or may not relate to others. What I'm describing may be related to the changes in the regional/local economy, or maybe not. Perhaps I am harboring a misconception? Or perhaps what I see out there is related to changes in communications technology, social media, the self-sorting kind of socializing that's more possible now. I would hope for more substantive discussion.

I have had many people of all ages say to me they find San Francisco a tough place to make deep friendships. Many of my closest friends have moved, precisely because they are part of a more globalized economy that offers them well-paid or interesting opportunities in Singapore, Sydney, New York, and Berlin/Munich.

As to the underlying snark of your comment -- that perhaps I could not hack it in San Francisco and that's why I left and should leave again -- that's just snark. I left to attend graduate school back East and returned because of my spouse's corporate transfer and our desire to be near extended family. We are very happy here, though we struggle to create a web of close friends. But I do wonder if we'd be as relaxed if we were not as financially comfortable and instead struggling with the cost of living.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

leaves a town for 20 years and then goes back will find it different and, given the rose-tinted glasses we often apply to the past, and our tendencies for nostalgia, think that the "good old days" were better as we age.

Maybe SF has changed and maybe it hasn't. But so what? It is what it is and you either deal with it or leave. SF has higher costs now because it has been booming (with the odd bust) since Silicon Valley became a powerhouse. It's expensive, it's successful, it's desirable and not everyone can cut it here.

I don't know what else you want me to say.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

First off, thank you for your more considered response. I mean that.

"Maybe SF has changed and maybe it hasn't. But so what? It is what it is and you either deal with it or leave."

What you just said is true, but incomplete. I don't begrudge change, but I study it for a living. (I am a historian by training.) So, to me, the evolution of social changes is worthy of contemplation and maybe understanding (if I'm lucky), not just dealing with it.

And I do think any city is more interesting, inspiring, creative, and humane when it houses a diversity of people. San Francisco will retain more of those beneficial qualities, if we live by more than market forces alone. We can use government policies to broaden the spectrum of people able to live here, not because it's helpful to the financially less successful "them", but rather because it's helpful to all of us.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

Took the words right outta my mouth!

Posted by pete moss on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 4:55 am

I have a great job, make a wonderful wage, and I live in rent controlled apartment. I too would have a challenge moving into the city today; the environment of high rents and competitive bidding from individuals willing to drive up the rents. I understand, everyone wants money...if someone is going to pay you more for something, who is really going to deny the opportunity. I don't really know many people that would (I do know there are some out there so...)
The major issue I have with these comments is the so-called big baller types making despicable comments under the anonymous pen of 'guest'. You are cowards, and you are argumentative, behind a sad little veil. This is a serious issue for many upstanding individuals who have been living here for many years. Rich, poor, young and old--this is what make this city so awesome! There is a diverse culture here, and just like in the rest of the world--we don't need people in this world that cheer at the misfortune of others. You are scum. You are a cancer to the rest of the good people in this world; more specifically, in this city. We don't need you, we don't want you, and we hope you disappear. The reason why this city has been so great is because of people like us, who care. Now that you are moving in...well, as the old adage goes, "there goes the neighborhood!" (that means because of you, sad little scum)

Posted by emilie on Feb. 13, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

Hey Voltaire Mistress, you wouldn't be 'Jaye' would you? If you are I remember you. There's an SF Bike Messenger group on Facebook. About the liveliest on line group I ever found in 20 years of joining groups. If you haven't already why not join. The admins are kind of picky, you have to actually have worked as a messenger in SF, but I'll vouch for you.

Posted by pete moss on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 4:53 am

Hi Pete, I would love to participate. My old U.S. Messenger # was 2041 -- when Paul and Valerie dispatched there. I am not on Facebook, but wanting to touch base with people in that group might just break my resolve never to give up my information to Facebook's maw. Would you want to meet up sometime for coffee? Sally

Posted by voltairesmistress on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 8:14 pm