Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Paradise or Perfidy?

There’s no recession in San Francisco. Last weekend I drove down the hill from elegant Pacific Heights to upscale Chestnut street, and then a short distance to the newly-renovated arts and culture Presidio. I smiled at “foodies” lugging bags of fruits and vegetables from the Embarcadero farmer’s market then watched crowds milling in Union Square waiting for the cable car to Ghirardelli Square for a chocolate bar. So many choices in this sparkling emerald city.

Gentrification made its mark -- Victorian homes in the Haight have been treated to a fresh coat of paint and brightly trimmed front doors. Where’s the smell of incense and pot? It’s still a mix of leftover hippie 60s along with moms pushing $800 strollers to nearby Golden Gate Park. I gazed at parents loading babies into car seats in super size BMWs while their golden retrievers swiftly scrambled between the two children ( a perfect family for a Silicon Valley venture capitalist).

Local pride and memory lingers in each community. Stinky fish trails out the door of restaurants in Chinatown while elders smoke in front of shops selling “authentic” Chinese trinkets made in India.

The shimmering Golden Gate Bridge links the city to Marin County where million dollar A-frames stack up the hillside overlooking snug harbors with impeccable yachts.

But there’s more to the “city by the bay.”

Forget cappuccinos and croissants in the Mission or Potrero Hill -- homeless encampments in doorways, worldly possessions stuffed in plastic bags piled high in shopping carts and those fortunate enough to get off the street for a night can get a room in rundown hotels. From former Mayor Willie Brown to current Mayor Gavin Newsome the landscape in downtrodden enclaves of the city haven’t benefited from the dot.com boom. Members of San Francisco’s social and political elite have geographic amnesia, a tradition that lingers from one generation to the next.

I left my heart in San Francisco, not.

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