“There is nothing permanent except change” – Heraclitus.
Countless articles have been written over the last few months regarding people moving out of the City and some people moving back, companies moving out, and others moving back in or relocating from elsewhere for the first time. I find the articles both interesting and confusing, significantly since rents never dropped down to the point where they became real “bargains.” Yet, there is more inventory than before the pandemic. This may be because landowners expected the economy to turn and did not want to lock themselves into a long-term contract for less rent. Regardless of the reason, this latest exodus and influx of people is not a new phenomenon to San Francisco.
The City has seen a shift in population and culture in the past, dating as far back as the arrival of the missionaries in 1776, and that is based on available recorded history. Another major event, which reshaped the City at the time, was the Summer of Love in 1967. At that time, significant stretches of the Haight were boarded up, and many of the shop owners and residents moved out to the suburbs. Castro residents followed suit, and it became the gay mecca it is now, and the Haight became the “hippie” neighborhood. At that time, many residents and City leaders thought it was the end of the City they loved; it might have well been because San Francisco did change. For many of us, the change was for the better, but not all would agree, even today. However, the point is that San Francisco, like everything in the world, is not a constant. Change and growth are inevitable, but it is up to us to decide to embrace it or recoil from it. Luckily, we have a whole planet on which we can live.
As someone who moved to San Francisco in 1989, the City has changed a lot, but, fortunately, so have I in the last 32 years. It would be dreadful if both an iconic City, as well as its people, remained stagnant for over three decades. However, the things I love about San Francisco, which are at its core, are still there and have even enhanced over time. I refer primarily to the “live and let live” attitude we all know and love about this City. Over the decades, I have had the opportunity to travel for long periods. Although I have many favorite cities worldwide, I realize that San Francisco is unique in its respect for human dignity and social awareness. When I first moved to the City back in the late 90s, I was always amazed at how people would ask me, “do you have a girlfriend or boyfriend?” They never would or wanted to assume anything about me. It was up to me to define myself.
So, for those of you moving for the first time to San Francisco, you are in for challenges, but also many rewards. And for those of you who have left the City for good, I hope you take what you have learned from the City and spread it around where you are now. Regardless of one’s socio-political views, tolerance, mutual respect, and empathy will go a long way in healing the country and the world over time.