‘How crazy is it that, at this point, Oakland is way cooler than San Francisco?”
I asked Matthew and Dan this as we descended the steps at the West Oakland BART Station.
“There’s really just too much to say on that topic,” Matthew responded. “I can’t even go there right now.”
We were heading to Heiro Day, a five-year-old Oakland music festival featuring some of the Bay Area’s best hip-hop groups and some legends from other regions. Considering I’d been in Oakland the night before and saw DJ Shortkut play one of the best sets of my life, I was pretty jazzed about The Town.
Oakland really is cooler than San Francisco. There’s no two ways about it. Most of what made The City special for so many years has been evicted, displaced and pushed out — and it’s now taken root in Oakland. That’s not to say that Oakland didn’t have positive things happening there before all of this, but it’s suddenly become an epicenter; Oakland is having a magical moment.
Art, music, activism, stimulating food, underground happenings: All of these things need an interesting and diverse community to grow, and that’s exactly what Oakland is.
San Francisco, unfortunately, has become far less so. It’s no secret that The City is becoming less diverse with regard to both ethnicity and income levels. And with that has come the blunting and dulling of this city. Well-off people move to a neighborhood because it’s “cool” but don’t what put up with the things that actually make it so. They’ll pay a million dollars for a condo in the Mission and then complain about the sound from a music venue downstairs that’s been there for 20 years.
San Francisco is dead: Long live San Fran.
There, I said it.
Taking such a name as beautiful and melodious as San Francisco and blanding it down to San Fran is perfect analogy for what has happened to The City itself.
San Francisco is languid and romantic, like making love while incense and candles are burning in the room. San Fran is having sex in the missionary position, with your eyes closed, in the dark.
San Francisco is meeting a beautiful stranger in a bookstore and then taking them out to coffee. San Fran is riding your electric skateboard to your Tinder date.
San Francisco is a name that contains nothing but possibilities. San Fran is a lazy abbreviation for still doing the same shit you were doing before you moved here.
I already know there are some of you who just spittled and red-facedly yelled, “Then why don’t you just move to Oakland!?” The answer is simple: This place will always be San Francisco to me, even if it has become San Fran.
San Francisco is that one family member who you love, even though they pretty much screw up everything they touch. This isn’t the place I fell in love with, but my memories of the way it’s made me feel are what keep me here. Well, that and rent control. If things continue how they’re going, San Fran will spread to Oakland sooner than later. And Oakland doesn’t have nearly the same renters protections that The City does.
So, instead, I’ll continue to visit Oakland for the magic it contains and hopefully I’ll be able smuggle some of it back to San Francisco.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.