I’m about to become homeless. Barring a miracle, in less than a week, I will no longer have a place to live.
While the past three months of sheltering in place seemed to drag on forever, since giving our landlady notice at the first of June, when it became abundantly clear that we could no longer stay in this apartment, time has been moving at breakneck speed.
Looking for a place in the Bay Area, where affordable housing is nonexistent, is already a terrifying prospect, but these days, in the midst of a pandemic and social unrest, with a 3-year-old in tow, it can make you want to just curl up into a fetal position and admit defeat.
So two weeks ago, my wife and kid went down to stay with her parents in L.A. We put all our stuff, except a bed and a desk, in storage, and crossed our fingers and toes that something would work out.
There was no turning back. But also nowhere to turn.
It’s hard not to succumb to despair when you spend hours on Craigslist, reading one listing after another, only to realize there aren’t many neighborhoods you can even remotely afford. Much less ones you want to live in.
All those articles about Bay Area rents going down might sound promising, but when a one bedroom was going for $3,700 pre-pandemic, even with a $500 drop, it’s still nowhere close to our price range.
There are no deals. If a listing looks too good to be true, it’s a scam.
As a working-class renter in the Bay Area, you have very few options. If you have rent control, you can never move. If your apartment has issues, you suffer them. If your landlord plays fast and loose with the law, you suck it up. Because what are you going to do? There’s nowhere else to go.
If you’re lucky, you end up with a place that mostly accommodates your needs. When we first moved to Temescal, it was quiet. Just a few trendy restaurants on Telegraph, interspersed with thrift shops, dive bars and storefront studios and artisan workspaces. It was conveniently located. A 10-minute walk to BART. Easy access to the bridge. Without traffic, The City was 12 minutes away.
Nothing ever stays the same though.
Sudden life changes can be disastrous. Now, I wouldn’t call having a kid a disaster, but when you’re paying below market rate for a small one bedroom, the constant reality that you’re going to have to move eventually never goes away. It loomed heavy from the day we brought our daughter, and the first wave of her accouterments, home.
Every month she seemed to get bigger while the apartment kept getting smaller.
Long before the lockdown, this apartment and the neighborhood had become insufferable. We’ve put up with so many injustices over the years because of a lack of options. From our landlady. From the neighborhood.
Raising a child with a street party going on outside your windows all day and night is a major challenge. It’s almost impossible to get a child who’s looking for a distraction to take a nap as music shakes the windows and people are having profanity-laden arguments a few feet away.
The constant madness all around began to wear us down. We had to finally accept the reality that we had to move.
Then the pandemic hit. After three months stuck in this apartment, going stir crazy, you just want to feel like you have some semblance of control. So you make decisions that may or may not work out in the end. Like giving notice to your landlord before securing a new apartment.
At least you’re doing something.
We haven’t given up hope yet, but we’re getting close. Even though we want to be in the Bay Area, sometimes it feels like the Bay Area doesn’t want us to be here.
Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. A veteran zine publisher, he is the author of the novel “A Masque of Infamy.” His long-running Behind the Wheel zine series was recently collected into a paperback Omnibus, available through all book marketplaces or from his blog, idrivesf.com. His column appears every other week in the Thursday Examiner. He is a guest opinion columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner.