My heart still in SF, but it aches - 1/2/2013
As an SF native and someone who has lived in SF most of my life, I totally concur with posted positives on character, architecture, beauty, diversity, parks, and the overall uniqueness. Also, SF is the most amazing, world-class restaurant town for quality at every price point. I offer to round out other facts. I no longer live in SF but was born, raised, and spent most of life there. Caution, the following is long.
First, SF public schools mostly suck (e.g., budget challenges, overcrowded classrooms, gangs) with the exception of Lowell and a few other high schools (from experience and from inside information). Lowell is a genuine standout as a magnet school with a national reputation and why it receives way more freshman applications than freshman class slots. BTW, UCSF is a graduate school that requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree. An unfortunate side effect of diversity is the well-documented-in-the-90's Balkanization of the high schools. SFUSD does have lots of dedicated teachers, but they are not led or supported well by an inept administration. Parental involvement is nearly non-existent in most schools.
Second, the weather quality depends if on which side of Twin Peaks you live. Between the ocean and Twin Peaks, fog is a frequent companion with accompanying moist cold that makes it feel 10-15 degrees colder even though it's only in the 60's. In the evening, the fog often rolls across the city to the Bay. Of course, there's Mark Twain's famous quote about SF's summer weather (well before folks lived west of Twin Peaks). Most natives are accustomed to carrying a jacket or sweater because cooler weather is always looming. On the plus side, SF has temperate weather that does not get as hot or as cold as most places.
Third, while housing prices may be justified by a desirable lifestyle, housing prices include several other very important factors such as the building code for resistance up to an 8.0 earthquake, the geography and hilly terrain, the fixed amount of land for residential housing (essentially built out by the late 60's with the majority of residential lots only 25 feet wide), and the ability of many SF residents earning high enough salaries that can afford the housing (especially two-earner married and unmarried couples). The square footage is smaller compared to housing in Bay Area cities and suburbs of comparable price. Being house-poor is very common. Diligent house hunters should conduct thorough and care home inspections due to deferred maintenance and the marine air.
Fourth, snobbery and rudeness are common (I concur with comments in other postings). I still have many friends and relatives in SF so I always have friendly faces and open arms available. But, I did not discover public manners and civility until I left SF (and California) due to job relocation. While the urban attitude, distrust of others, and "don't be a victim on the streets" demeanor I embodied most of my life is common to many in a large city, the snobbery of "we live in the best city in the world" can be quite off-putting, even coming from those I care about who live in this fishbowl perspective. Until I relocated, I wasn't aware I was such a snob. After all, why does being the best place need to be constantly reinforced by residents, the local media, and City Hall?
Fifth, driving and parking is not for the faint of heart. As a native and hardcore urban driver, I have no issues driving in The City. Most visitors will have issues if they are unaccustomed to narrow streets and lanes, jaywalking pedestrians, lack of street parking (readily-available free parking essentially gone citywide by the 80's), expensive downtown parking, diligent meter maids (steady source of city revenue), aggressive bike messengers (during weekdays) and cyclists, taxis, and buses (just remember that Muni buses rule the streets like pachyderms at the local watering hole). On top of all this, SF has some of the most expensive auto insurance rates in the country. The state estimates that 20-25% of drivers do not have insurance (mostly illegals). Having been hit by an uninsured driver, at least my insurance company took care of me. Since the insurance company can't recover repair costs from the other driver's insurance company, it's legal action and/or write off as a loss. Also, Asian and Latin immigrants operate under a different set of unwritten rules of the road depending on where they learned them.
Sixth, while SF is an exciting place for singles and DINKS, it's a challenging locale to raise children unless you have the income and/or means when considering housing, safety, and education.
Seventh, many of the homeless in SF feel entitled. While city hall was being quite humane in how the homeless were treated with a significant increase in the 70's and 80's with services to the homeless, the well-intentioned actions has unintended consequences. Local governments across California and the West that could not afford such services gave their homeless a one-way bus ticket to The City. The 80's saw an explosion of panhandling, especially aggressive panhandling. Our network of friends shared critical information by joking about where we experienced less or more panhandling. Such information was invaluable planning evenings out with a significant other that minimized this aspect of The City's colorful scenery. The caring and well-intentioned may feel good about what they do, but what about the quality of life impact on the majority of residents?
I could go on, but it was getting depressing. So, I had to stop.[read more...]