I rolled into San Rafael, a Bay area suburb, on a Thursday night, just in time to fall asleep in my friend Shelby’s bed and wake up early enough take the ferry to San Francisco’s financial district. It was a blue-sky day -- the rain would strike later -- and we stood on the railing of the ferry, watching the iconic buildings grow closer. We docked, the gate opened, and we followed the crowd of biz-cas sweaters and kaki pants through the ferry building and down Market Street.
San Fran’s closeness is what makes it beautiful -- the townhouses squeezed together in the lower Haight, Español ricocheting off the storefronts of Mission street, the neighborly Polk street bars. It’s almost like a small town in a big city, save for all the people.
As a lover of people, I initially felt like a kid in a candy shop, taking it all in. I’d been to San Francisco once as a college freshman, before the existence of smartphones, but I’d kind of just been along for the ride. This time, after I caught up on the hours of work I was behind on in Shelby’s office, I was my own guide. All I had to do was let my camera tell me where to go -- the lens loves San Francisco, after all.
Turns out, I have at least a handful of friends (and friends of friends) in San Fran, and even more in the Bay Area. I was on the hunt for potential millennial interview subjects and also getting the read on potentially moving to the area, so I was asking a lot of questions, starting with: how much does it cost to live here? Turns out, quite a bit. And as a follow up: how can you make the creative dream work here?
Historically, San Francisco is known for its culture of creativity and freedom, and perhaps even a liberating combination of the two. But with all the gentrification and inflated housing prices, this seems harder to tap into -- even if you live in Oakland.
Walking down the streets of San Francisco, it’s hard to ignore the homeless population, more so than any other city I’ve been in (note: I have not spent much time in NYC). Next to a neighborhood section where older architecture mingles with modern, luxury housing, I ran into so many homeless people I started to wonder if I should put my camera away; meanwhile, well-dressed middle-aged people walked in and out of a coffee shop and I paid $3.50 for a cup of house drip.
Then again, what do I know? I’m a tourist, an outsider, just trying this on for size with 0% commitment. It feels good, but maybe not right.
If you or anyone you know has anything to say about prioritizing creativity while living in San Francisco or another high-cost city, get at me.