REAL SAN FRANCISCANS

Lots of people complain about changes in San Francisco. They see technology workers as threats to the city they love. I get it, but I don’t agree. Witness my recent post “Deported from San Francisco: A Fable.” Why? Many complainers conveniently define themselves as real San Franciscans and anyone who arrived in town a day later as pretenders.

We’re all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. I’m both. People always have moved to find better opportunities. San Francisco didn’t exist as a major city—and an instant one at that—until the 1850s when the Gold Rush drew newcomers from around the world. They built a “hella” city. Their efforts, not their birth records, made them San Franciscans.

So what am I? Could be I’m a real New Yorker. I was born in the Bronx and raised in Queens. But I’ve basically been away since I went off to college at eighteen. I lived in Texas for a while (San Antonio) and settled in San Francisco forty years ago. Would people who’ve moved to Manhattan or Brooklyn in the last decade consider me a real New Yorker now?

Do four decades in the Richmond District make me a real San Franciscan? I worked here, started a business, bought a home, brought up three children and became involved in public schools and my synagogue. I remember Mayor Joe Alioto, Giants shortstop Johnny LeMaster, the Omelette Parlor at SFO (best pancakes around), Blum’s at Macys, Bernstein’s Fish Grotto and Muni’s green-and-cream buses and streetcars (fare: 25¢). Do I count? Would I count with thirty years residency? Twenty?

What about my kids? They’re native San Franciscans. But my oldest son lives in Los Angeles. My middle son lives an hour east of Nashville, Tennessee. My youngest son lives here, but he spent three years at Humboldt State, a year in New York and another in Detroit before returning. Was it wrong for him to come back? Are my other two kids welcome?

Yes, San Francisco is changing. That’s only natural. Cities are akin to living organisms. They constantly evolve. That also goes for neighborhoods. Irish and Italians lived in the Mission before Latinos. Jews filled the Western Addition before African Americans—and my own Richmond District before an exodus from Chinatown thanks to the old 55 Sutter bus. Even New York’s fabled Lower East Side was German and Irish before it was Jewish. As the Jews moved out, other ethnics moved in. Today, the Lower East Side is hip.

Maybe it’s natural to think that those who come to a place after us lack bona fides. But what makes someone a San Franciscan or New Yorker or Chicagoan or whatever is the commitment they make to their city. It takes time to sink roots. But no law says people can’t pass through as they seek the place that’s right for them.

San Francisco’s challenges, marked by high rents and home prices, are very real. Placing the blame on people who make a good living is bogus. Turf wars hurt, not help. We can and should treat each other with more respect—and find genuine solutions while we’re at it.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first three chapters of The Boy Walker, at davidperlstein.com. Order in soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Check out Green Apple Books, too.

Tags: , ,

3 Comments


  1. Carolyn Perlstein
    Mar 28, 2014

    I’ve lived in San Francisco the same 40 years and watched neighborhoods change and shift with each decade. I say go with the flow.


  2. Ron Laupheimer
    Mar 28, 2014

    Let’s see if any of your opinions change after seeing Charlie Varon’s “Feisty Old Jew” at the Marsh.


  3. Sandy Lipkowitz
    Mar 28, 2014

    I’ve lived here 43 1/2 years, formerly from Pennsylvania and Brooklyn. During that time I lived in Puerto Rico for a 1 1/2 years. My experience is that the City has changed a lot,so has the State, so has the country and so has the world. Post Jarvis Gann, mid to late ’70’s Real Estate prices soared. Post rent control every one converted to condos and rents skyrocketed (did exactly the opposite of what the rent control people thought it would do. That’s another discussion). Everyone said it was the rich landlords who caused the problems in the ’70’s. Everyone blamed the Yuppies or the Japanese in the ’80’s. Then it was the .comer’s or the people fleeing Hong Kong’s take over by China in the 90’s. Now it the young affluent techies. Every decade young successful people will have a new name, but the dynamics are the same. Things change, life changes, that’s what makes this such a dynamic place to live. If you don’t want change than move to a small closed community. Your life will always be the same, boring, but the same.

Leave a Reply