I used to live in San Francisco. Granted, it was only for three months, but that didn't stop me from writing a column about the place like some kind of expert. The response from the natives (at least those who read far enough to understand that I wasn't bashing their city) was fairly positive, which was comforting, but there's been a question nagging at me ever since that column was published: Did I really spend enough time in San Francisco to confirm that all of my opinions were valid?
Don't bother trying to change my mind about doughnut burgers, though. Still disgusting.
It's hard to say for sure, but with this column, I've tried to take a few more steps toward confirming that everything I believed was true. First, there's the column itself. Over a year has passed since I lived in San Francisco, and in that time, plenty of news stories have made the rounds that lead me to believe that I was, in fact, correct in my assessment of the city. Those are discussed in the text of this article.
What fun is there in me shouting out my opinions about San Francisco if I don't let someone with a little more knowledge of the area tell me I'm wrong, though? To that end, I invited my friend and former San Francisco landlord Harmon Leon to join me on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast.
He's a writer and comic, and, most importantly for the issue at hand, he lived in San Francisco for lots of years and still keeps an apartment there. Oh, and he also infiltrated Judge Joe Brown for a Cracked article once. Who better to tell me that everything I believe about the city is incorrect?
Speaking of new places, we recorded this episode in New York City. I was there for two weeks, and the fine folks at Stand Up NY Labs were kind enough to let me use their space to record my babbles. If you record a podcast in New York and you don't do it there, you're fucking up. Just look at the place!
I also brought along Alex Schmidt, who runs the Cracked Tumblr, among other things. He's a funny guy. We did a standup show together while I was there and everything (thanks to my pals at the Stand for that)! In keeping with the theme of today's article, we made the entire episode about living in different places, with one quick detour to talk about how goddamn awful Rolling Stone magazine has become.
They say your ability to honestly critique music is the first thing to go.
We kick things off in the podcast by talking about San Francisco, just like I do in this article. Give it a listen while you read!
Here are five reasons San Francisco is still the worst awesome city in America.
#5. Regarding the Filth
Filth was the first thing I brought up in my original column about San Francisco, mostly because it's the first thing I bring up whenever I discuss San Francisco. Everything I'd ever seen of the city before I lived there made it look like the opening sequence of Full House and nothing more. To say that's inaccurate probably qualifies as the textbook definition of an understatement.
Yes, the areas they show you on television and in movies look nice, but we're talking about a city where the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,800 per month. Those "nice areas" are outside the financial reach of most residents, leaving people to flee to less aesthetically pleasing neighborhoods, like the Mission District (where the median monthly rent is a mere $2,675). You'll find a whole lot of homeless people in that neighborhood, probably because it looks like the neighborhood you move to as a last ditch effort to save enough money to stave off homelessness.
Google Street View
Also because it's the only neighborhood in San Francisco that gets direct sunlight.
So, what's the word on San Francisco filth since I left? Oh, not much -- it's just killing people now. Well, that's not exactly true. It's more like efforts to clean up the filth are killing people. Since May of last year, three people have been hit and killed by garbage trucks in San Francisco.
Not just garbage trucks, but garbage trucks from the same company. If that doesn't seem like a lot, just take a moment to think about how many times in the past year you've shown up to work and heard that a co-worker killed someone. It's a rarity, at the very least.
Pictured: #26 on the list of the 100 worst ways to die.
Not if you work at Recology! They're killing people all the time these days! Two people were struck and killed less than a month apart late last year. In May of that same year, a Recology truck hit a bicyclist who wasn't wearing a helmet. Of course, most killers don't start racking up human fatalities right out of the gate. Serial killers usually start with torturing animals. Murderous garbage trucks start with crushing the feet of little girls before moving on to bigger crimes.
So, in retrospect, I still think trash is a problem in San Francisco, just not as big of a problem as the people cleaning it up.
#4. Regarding the Misguided Community Support
Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images
What the hell is it with this city and buses? When it's time to let The Man know you're not going to take it anymore, the go-to method for the residents of San Francisco is always making sure people can't get to work. So how convenient must it be that the new enemy of choice in the Bay Area is a bus?
Punch it in the face!
That's what San Franciscans less-than-affectionately call a Google bus. What is its crime? Well, it's a privately owned bus that takes people who live in San Francisco to their jobs in Silicon Valley (not just at Google, for the record) without the need to drive their own cars or use public transportation. I know, I'm pissed, too.
Except obviously I'm not, because how is this not the best possible fucking option for getting thousands of people from one place to another on a daily basis? Everyone driving cars is the opposite of environmentally friendly, something the people of San Francisco proved they care about when the city became one of the first to ban plastic shopping bags way back in 2007.
This man would be arrested in San Francisco.
Of course, that also proves that "caring" and "understanding" are two completely different things. There have been about a million studies by now that say paper bags are actually worse for the environment, but that didn't stop San Francisco from extending the ban to include more businesses twice since it was implemented. It's not going to earn me a lot of fans among San Francisco's professional protester set to say it, but I think they're just as wrong about Google buses.
Here's the thing: Most of these protests center on the idea that rental rates in the vicinity of the Google bus stops are increasing at a higher rate than in other areas of the city.
The signs even say so!
So, the logical conclusion to jump to there is that Google buses are contributing to gentrification in San Francisco. Where are people getting that idea? As far as I can tell, it's coming from this paper, written by a student at the University of California, Berkeley. Among the damning bits of evidence it contains is this chart comparing rental rates within walking distance of Google bus stops to those outside that range.
Yep, there certainly are some increases in the "walkable" areas. Of course there are also some spots where rates went up faster outside those areas. They went up at exactly the same rate in another. So what does this all mean? Google is evil.
I mean, don't get me wrong, Google totally is evil, but on the list of reasons why, "providing reliable transportation for their employees" has to be somewhere near the bottom. Even the paper that the protesters are using as their rallying point has an entire page listing limitations of the study done to draw these conclusions. Here are a few of my favorites:
"... other indicators of gentrification, such as educational status or racial make-up, are not available for the necessary geography and timeframe of the study."
"Future research should attempt to control for confounding variables, such as negative externalities caused by bus noise, and variations in neighborhoods and units."
But until we can do that, let's just assume the buses are the problem and shut the entire city down.
Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Get that pitchfork to a misguided protest where it belongs!
After all, that's exactly what the report says you should do, in the same sentence where the author says the study hasn't actually proved the point she's trying to make.
"While this study does not prove that the shuttle stops are having an impact, it does provide compelling evidence that the San Francisco Tenants Union, and other anti-gentrification activists, can use to help draw political attention to the problem."
Buses aren't your demon, San Francisco. Unless you're riding one, of course, in which case you should probably be more concerned about the next point.
#3. Regarding the Anarchy
Getty Images/Photodisc/Getty Images
In the last article, I mentioned that San Francisco has a law enforcement presence on par with your average Mad Max film. I haven't been back personally to confirm, but all indications I've received since leaving tell me that has not changed in the slightest. Case in point: How does this kind of shit go on as long as it does in this video? (Heads up, there's lots of NSFW man-ass.)
That's video of a crazy man terrorizing the shit out of people at the 16th Street BART station. The description says he's high on bath salts, but every video of someone going crazy these days claims bath salts are involved. An interview with a friend of that naked acrobat revealed that his name is Yeiner Perez Garizabalo, and while the friend didn't believe Garizabalo was a drug user, he thought he was depressed about getting kicked out of his non-profit circus troupe, ClownSnotBombs. Before you judge, think about how you would react if you were no longer allowed to perform with your non-profit circus troupe. Naked handstands are the absolute correct response in that situation.
This is the best Worldstar Hip Hop Circus ever!
Yeah, I get that the video is only three minutes long, but are those not the longest three minutes of all time? They sure as hell are if you're waiting for the police to show up and save you, like this poor woman ...
... probably ...
Speaking of police, no way would the criminals of San Francisco be this comfortable if there were cops around to worry about.
That's video of super-popular rapper 2 Chainz getting robbed in broad daylight on the streets of San Francisco. Is it the "broad daylight" part that makes me think criminals aren't worried about police showing up? No, it's the fact that, when the besieged rapper takes off running, his assailant doesn't run after him. He skips after him.
Skipping is a relaxed man's game. If this guy was worried about getting arrested for robbing a nationally known rap artist in front of several witnesses, he did a fantastic job of hiding it. That's probably because he knows the police have an even bigger scourge than armed robbery to fight in San Francisco these days.