Who Gets to Love San Francisco?

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That’s right, people who grew up here who believe that because of that fact I’m an assimilated foreign witch. I am not a native San Franciscan.

There seems to be a movement of some natives in this town who lash out against those whose local lineage doesn’t stretch back generations. If you weren’t born here, you’re some evil transplant who’s ruining it all (you know, because you moved somewhere…nice?). Natives come out of the blog commentary woodwork (pick a San Francisco blog, any blog) to say things like, “In my day, this town wasn’t just a gentrified group of uncultured asshats.” Try telling these natives that you’re a diehard Giants fan and you’ll hear that you aren’t a real one because “you didn’t brave the ‘Stick where there wasn’t all this wine and cheese shit” – even if you’ve been bleeding orange and black since you could put on a onesie (and for Christ’s sake, who cares?).

Whatever you do, transplants, don’t support businesses moving into neighborhoods and changing them in any way at all. Some natives will kill you on that one.

For some odd reason, these born-and-raised San Franciscans love to tell us how amazing this town is, yet hate it when we actually listen to them, take their advice, move here, and love it ourselves.

I wasn't born at SF General. I didn't grow up roaming the streets of the Avenues (which are lovely, by the way). I get it, native San Franciscans, you're the best at being from San Francisco, and I'm not. And you know what? On some levels, that's fair. You have a right to feel pride for the city you live in. It's a pride I thought you'd let me share one day in the 7x7 sandbox, but I guess that wasn't what you had in mind. 

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No, I didn’t grow up in San Francisco proper, but I sure as hell love it and have loved it since I first laid eyes on it as a kid from down the peninsula. Not that it matters that I grew up near here; didn’t we all fall in love with this place from wherever the hell we were, even if it was eleventy billion miles away? San Francisco is like the older sibling you look up to, the one who ventured off to college and called home from time to time to tell you about how great you’d have it someday.

When I finally did move here a decade ago, San Francisco was everything I had dreamed it would be. Acclimating to things here was no different than any other "rite of passage" experience. There are times you ask the cabdriver to steer clear of Van Ness (always). You learn the Frogger-type patterns of crossing Mission Street and get better at not killing people while driving (or hell, biking) it. Most places that serve any form of food inexplicably have a line, all the time, and people are certainly different in every little neighborhood you wander into. It's not like I'm describing anything earth-shattering here, but it does take a hot minute to not be the goddamn tourist on the bus. Once you learn a bunch of her little idiosyncrasies, though, this town becomes a part of you. You just fall in fucking love with this place. 

Like any rite of passage, though, once you get through it you should be rewarded with becoming part of the club. You should be greeted with open arms and a proverbial laminated "welcome to this shit show" membership card. And that's where San Francisco gets a bit confusing.

For some reason, no matter how long you live here, it’s simply not long enough for some natives. That scarlet transplant letter is on you for life, and boy will those born-and-raised types let you know about it.

Especially if you’re a writer who happens to like it here an awful lot.

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Once I fell in love with this place, I found myself lovingly screaming from the hilltops everything I’d learned to anyone who could hear me. "Move here!" I'd yell. "It's the best!" I'd say. "Don't live in the Tenderloin!" I'd offer, while giving people the polite option not to heed that warning if they moved here.

I thought, “Hey, just for fun, I’ll write about moving to the city that I live in, so that others might want to move here, too!” But I found out the hard way through the comments section of this very site that either you’re a born-and-raised native or you have NO OPINION OR FEELINGS ABOUT THE PLACE YOU LIVE IN. I got responses like "You're not a true San Franciscan. You're not a native. This is why this town sucks now. Shut the f*%k up."

And that's when my head exploded. 

It just blew my mind that for years and years, people told us that we should totally get into San Francisco, like it was some cool band, man. That it was the BEST LIVE SHOW EVER. And then, the minute we showed up to the concert? The original San Francisco fans who liked the band before us can't believe that we listen to that bullshit "they call San Francisco nowadays," and tell us that "you're the one who's ruining it."

Here's the grand irony, select-group-of-upset-natives: the transplants are telling you that of all the places to live,YOU were right about how awesome this city is! We got here, put our bags down, and wake up every day pinching ourselves slaving away just to make it in this town. We’re not Christopher Columbus coming in here telling you the land is ours. We're appreciative of everything here before us. 

And yet transplants are to blame for gentrifying the city by simply following the advice of others: we put our stuff in a duffel bag, follow our dream, and rent a crappy apartment. We’re somehow ruining San Francisco culture by loving everything about it that we were told we’d love.

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But really, natives, we’re the guy asking if there's a room of yours we can rent. We're gladly listening when you tell us with a smile at the bar, or the park, or the Muni bus –that is no doubt stuck on the street while the electrical cords are being archaically put back on – about all of the things we don't know about this place. We're madly in love with the city you told us about, and we're trying hard to become a part of your family, even if we seem to sometimes have little in common. 

Things are changing in San Francisco, even since I got here. No doubt, I have a fear of culture dying. A fear of traditions ending. Look: We all understand a fear of change. But not all of the people who move here are filthy rich transplants. Not all of us came here with a lack of care for the little idiosyncrasies that are the very charm that is San Francisco. Many of us just came here for the same reason that you dig this place so much: we’re in love with this amazing city. Standing on the corner shaking your canes at the people who are following their dreams and listening to your advice, natives, isn't doing much to keep the culture we love so much alive, now is it?

To every over-the-top native San Franciscan, I'm pleading:

Try and get that the transplants love it here because people like you told us to. We love this town, too, and we don't want this place getting all red state/blue state, native/transplant either.

I may not be a native San Franciscan, but I am a San Franciscan and this is my home.

I'd love to share the 7x7 sandbox with you. 

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Published on July 8, 2013, 2013

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