In the "Star Trek" movies, San Francisco serves as headquarters of Starfleet Command. This cracks me up to no end, as I cannot imagine the Board of Supervisors approving construction of Starfleet Academy or the oddly shaped high-rises you see in the background. And if City Hall somehow did approve the project, you know there'd be some ballot measure to kill the deal. The grounds could be endless: No photon torpedoes. Too many techies already. What about affordable housing?
In many ways, San Francisco is a museum. It's a city that continually attracts new waves of people who are drawn to what the city has represented, and therefore they want to keep it a museum.
When Apple announced plans to build a Union Square store where Ruth Asawa's San Francisco Fountain is perched, the all-powerful tech giant had to back off. Last year, after the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission approved condominiums at 8 Washington, voters passed a ballot measure that torpedoed the project. The same activists who killed 8 Washington are pushing a new ballot measure to establish a height limit on waterfront development. Despite his vow to oversee the construction of 30,000 new homes by 2020, Mayor Ed Lee dares not oppose Proposition B.
It's also a city in which I cannot afford to live. When my husband and I moved here in 1992, we rented a flat in Noe Valley. But when it came time to buy, we moved to Oakland. We've been in the East Bay ever since. And guess what. It's not Siberia. You still find good coffee, ample parklands, tony eateries and fun little stores -- but with fewer panhandlers on the sidewalk and more parking spaces.
And that's OK, because though I love the city, there is no right to live in San Francisco. Advocates argue that the city benefits when nurses, teachers, police and, yes, journalists own homes in the Special City. I don't disagree. But San Francisco has been more accommodating to the affluent than it has the middle class since the gold rush, and I don't think any enlightened policies are going to change that for the majority of would-be San Franciscans.
Middle-class workers who want to live in the city can make certain trade-offs -- sparse square footage, lots of noise, living in the fog belt. Otherwise, about the only thing that can make San Francisco more affordable for working stiffs is an economic downturn.