I remember attending Treasure Island Music Festival shortly after moving to San Francisco in 2011 and catching a performance by The Coup. The sunny October skies and first brew of the afternoon had me blissing (and buzzing), but I can’t shake the memory of Boots Riley telling the crowd that the single most important difference that they’ll ever make is to participate in life and their community.
It’s nearly four years later and hating on San Francisco has become perhaps the easiest and cheapest sentiment out there. It’s this defeatist attitude that San Francisco is OVER from people who have most likely lived here a short time. Are there some serious issues at the moment? Of course! But what disturbs me the most is how few people are actually offering solutions.
I find these attitudes, even in my own friend circles, frustrating because the people doing the most complaining are often people who aren’t contributing in the least to what they’d like San Francisco to be. It’s all about what San Francisco can do for you and that seems selfish. I find myself wondering, whether in spite of this city’s astounding history, people are really going to just lie down and give up on it. To me, that’s embarrassing. That’s lacking the resolve of every single person that came before us to make this place great.
Great cities aren’t sustainable when its residents’ participation merely consists of fancy brunches and expensive cocktails (or for you homebodies, watching Netflix). Sure, by all means, enjoy those things. I do sometimes, too! But living here comes with more responsibility than your job and existing within that bubble. It requires participation in the community. Don’t opt out of the experience of being a San Franciscan. Otherwise, what’s the point of living here?
So if you’re down for the cause, here are 11 things you can do to earn your karmic keep:
San Francisco is admittedly pretty good at this, but you’d be surprised how much of our money is being shelled out to large corporations or others that, if we’re being honest, only make life marginally more convenient and solve first-world problems. While not the cheapest, supporting local businesses and co-ops is a great way to support the community and help our friends and neighbors cover basic needs from housing to health insurance.
Talk to Your Neighbors
It surprises me how few people know their neighbors because that’s the backbone of community. I think that regular conversation and dialogue with your neighbors, particularly when you’re new, can help you understand and co-exist with people that are different than you. It also shows you give a damn and aren’t just looking to colonize their neighborhood. If your neighbors aren’t up for schmoozing, there are always local business owners to chat up. Become a regular at your local café or bar. These small efforts can help you feel better connected to your city and neighborhood. We live in the 2nd most dense city in the country. Take advantage of it and if you don’t feel like interacting with people, go live in a more suburban or rural area.
Use Public Transit
Yeah, I know. You planned poorly and ridesharing is the only way to get there on time. That has its time and place, but public transit is part of the magic of living in a city. I’m not the biggest fan of New York, but I love that nearly everyone there rides the subway. It’s the great equalizer. We don’t need any more class separation than we already have.
Explore Different Neighborhoods
San Francisco is SO MUCH more than The Mission, NOPA or SOMA. Explore all the different neighborhoods because they all have something to offer from authentic international cuisine to iconic history. You might shock yourself to the diversity that still exists here even when every internet article paints SF as all tech. If you can, walk, because it’s healthy and gives you a sense of how all the neighborhoods are interconnected without being so dependent on your phone. I don’t think everyone realizes the privilege we have of things being so walkable. Yes, there are hills, but they’re gorgeous and they build character, goddamnit. Take pride in them and thank them for being the reason your ass looks so great.