Leaving San Francisco?

I may spend Saturday buying the computer I threatened to buy a few weeks ago. Or I may just sit around the house enjoying the rain which seems finally to be arriving after a disturbingly dry rainy season. I haven’t decided yet. After the past couple of weeks, it will be nice to treat myself to a day of very few pressing commitments.

This evening at dinner, a new addition to the Friday night dinner thing I do with Dan and Jamie made the comment that “San Francisco sucks” and that he was planning to leave after living here considerably longer than I have. No one argued. San Francisco pretty much DOES suck these days. My friend Dave sent me email upon his return from vacation stating that, after more than two decades here, he’s decided that SF is “officially boring”.It seems at least half my friends are planning to leave San Francisco these days, and I think the right push might convice a significant portion of the rest as well. I’m not talking about bored 20-somethings with short attention spans here. I have several friends in their 50’s, people who have been here close to thirty years, who are either moving on or contemplating it.

This is not about dissatisfaction among “flavor of the month” types who’ve lived here a year as part of some Bohemian circuit. These are people who have made a significant emotional and time commitment to the city formerly known as The City. It’s sad.

I think this emotional investment is a large part of why I didn’t just pick up and leave a year ago. Frankly, I’m convinced that being near Oakland is about the only compelling reason to stay in San Francisco.

These voluntary departures combined with the many who have been forced out (and the many new and interesting people who can no longer afford to move here) don’t bode well for the San Francisco of 2010.

South of Market is already lost, of course. Underground culture and nightlife cannot thrive in an upscale residential area; “mixed use” of this variety is nothing but a fantasy. The bars along Folsom Street are already suffering, whether from lack of crowds and new blood or from the lack of energy among what patrons remain.

Most of the youth culture which used to offer regular tranfusions has now shunned recreation in favor of 90-hour work weeks. The remainder of the young’uns can’t afford to be here in the first place. And a large proportion of those of us in that 25-45 range (which used to be the prime Folsom Street demographic) have just plain had it. When I bother to go out at all, I almost never see people I know.

A lot has been written in the local press about gentrification, displacement of the poor, etc. Less has been written about the fact that San Francisco just isn’t any FUN anymore. The suits have changed into khakis and have managed to convince a whole city that pursuing a career instead of a life is not only acceptable, but preferable.

Barring another earthquake or an economic catastrophe, I fear San Francisco in ten years may well be nothing but a city full of career-obsessed drones whose only excitement will come from chance encounters with street people, the only low-income group which will survive this “great economy”.

Of course, I’m exaggerating, but I sure don’t want to be here in 2010 to see by how much. Which is a sad thing, since I used to believe I’d live here the rest of my life.