You can love San Francisco as much as you want, but San Francisco may not love you back. If soft rent is a sign of municipal tenderness, the city of the summer of love is discreet in showing its affection. It has only gotten more inflated in the past several years since I moved here. It’s common to see a studio listed in the Mission District for $1,400.
That is why I’m moving (back) to the East Bay, to the Oakland neighborhood called Temescal. It is not an easy decision to make. Even in a quiet neighborhood of SF like the one I live in, there is a special atmosphere. The homes that are palaces of wood; the carefully tended, gardenlike feeling of the neighborhood after dark. But Aurora and I found a listing for a storefront apartment in Oakland that turned out to be an incredible live/work space. In SF, the rent would be double or even triple.
As a kid in Berkeley once said to me of the Bay Area, “it’s all one big city.” Practically, it is; and early on in Bay Area history, there were plans for a “greater San Francisco” akin to NYC and its borough system. Like L.A., the Bay Area is economically de-centered, despite SF’s towering business district. With Silicon Valley miles away, there is talk of SF itself becoming a high-rise bedroom community for an office-park army who commute to and labor in the suburbs.
Whatever city you live in, your experience depends entirely on the neighborhood. So to say I’m moving from SF to Oakland isn’t saying much. I’m moving from Bernal Heights/Excelsior to Temescal. It might be a bigger change to move from one SF neighborhood to another; say, from the Outer Sunset to the Tenderloin, or from the Bayview to Pacific Heights. My commute to work in SF on BART will be almost exactly the same after moving.
Oddly enough, in Oakland I will be closer, walking, to a cafe, a bookstore, a farmer’s market, and a public library. There are other perks, like Ethiopian and Korean food within a couple blocks, and a shop selling recycled and remaindered art materials. Oakland is very diverse and, if it is like it was years ago when I last spent time there (it’s probably even more so), there is a thriving arts scene, though it is under the radar, with many artists living in Oakland and with most galleries in San Francisco.
Despite Temescal’s desirable attributes, I still would have a hard time leaving my neighborhood in San Francisco, with its proximity to the Mission and its ready supply of pupusas, if it wasn’t for the space. Space to have a workshop, to entertain guests. So I quiet my doubts with the knowledge that the Mission District, which I love so dearly, with its thriving nightlife and teeming daylife, is still only a few BART stops away.
After the move, I’ll follow up with a report on Temescal.