The top stories of 2013: Tech wars, superhero kid, kill switches, tarmac tragedy, and the last days of school

The worst disaster and the biggest spike in crime in half a decade. The most expensive rents, the most expensive bridge — and the longest drive over it, with the worst traffic. All while a huge college is on the brink of extinction.

And … Batkid.

It sounds hackneyed and trite, but there’s no debating it: 2013 was a superlative and unforgettable year in San Francisco.

It was the year technology truly took control of a region’s economy and consciousness, but also when the accompanying benefits exacerbated long-running rifts between the rich and poor, owners and renters, haves and have-nots.

Plus … Batkid.

In no particular order, here are some of the top stories from the past year:

Disaster at SFO

The worst airline disaster of the jet era at San Francisco International Airport occurred July 6, when the tail section of a too-low and too-slow Asiana Airlines Flight 214 struck the seawall while attempting to land and crashed and burned. Three people died — including a teenage girl who survived the crash only to be run over by two fire trucks while she was covered in firefighting foam — and 181 people were injured.

The freedom to marry finally became official

The odyssey to give same-sex couples the same marriage rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples ended where it began: a tumultuous crowd cheering and popping bubbly at San Francisco’s City Hall. It took almost a decade, but after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and declined to consider overturning the repeal of California same-sex marriage ban Proposition 8, all couples are now equal under the law — and under tax law, too.

New Bay Bridge

With its 10 lanes of traffic spanning almost 260 feet, the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge is the widest bridge in the world. And all that drama — the inexorable delays, Caltrans’ scandal of broken support rods, the grand citizens’ Labor Day opening that wasn’t to be — built to a climax that’s also superlative: at a final cost of $6.8 billion, the Bay Area’s new iconic span is also the most expensive bridge in the world.

BART strikes paralyze, polarize Bay Area

Whose side were you on? No matter who you are, where you live or how you get to work, you felt it when BART unions went on strike in July and October. The first strikes on the Bay Area’s most vital transit system since 1997 — and the most significant transit-related work stoppages in the region in a generation — were vastly unpopular with all commuters, not just BART’s hundreds of thousands of daily riders. But it wasn’t a fed-up public with commute times doubled and tripled that finally led to a deal. Rather, it took a fatal on-track accident to bring management and workers to terms on a new labor agreement. And even then, a disputed provision over family sick leave led to the threat of a third strike near year’s end. Ultimately, the trains kept running.

Tech rules everything around me

Already in better shape than most of the country — unless you’re poor, but more on that later — San Francisco roared back from the depth of the Great Recession in a big way. The City’s 5.3 percent unemployment rate is the envy of the rest of the nation, though not so much the accompanying highest-in-the-nation average rents. The November IPO of Twitter, lured to mid-Market Street by a tax break, created thousands of millionaires. Cranes now dot a heightening skyline to build the housing demanded by the tech boom, and heightening tensions are encapsulated in sights of Occupy veterans blocking the buses that ferry tech workers from expensive homes in the Mission to jobs in Mountain View. With evictions increasing to levels not seen since the first dot-com boom, 2013 left many questioning who belongs in San Francisco — and at what price.

As thugs swipe smartphones, Gascón innovates

Smartphone thefts are behind a five-year spike in crime in San Francisco, and District Attorney George Gascón is taking action. The DA, tired of asking phone manufacturers and service providers to install kill switches that remotely render stolen phones useless, affixed his name to a proposed state law that would make such innovations mandatory.

CCSF faces possibility of closure

The City’s great equalizer — the affordable path to higher education provided by City College of San Francisco — is at risk of disappearing. Management and money woes moved an accrediting body to revoke CCSF’s accreditation effective in July, which would mean the loss of crucial funding and essentially spell death for the institution as we know it. The college has until summer to sway the hearts and minds of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Meanwhile, the school’s faculty and staff, along with the City Attorney’s Office, are fighting the commission in court.

Batkid saves the day

Where were you when 5-year-old Miles Scott became San Francisco’s superhero? When the Make-a-Wish Foundation persuaded The City to become Gotham for a day, the entire world tuned in to watch Miles, whose leukemia is in remission, become our hero. The touching story of Batkid also became one of the top trending topics on Twitter in 2013.

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