Greetings from San Francisco

Last Call

The rebellious city on the Pacific Rim is offering a glimpse into the future.

San Francisco was 15 years old when the San Francisco Chronicle started to publish its first edition 150 years ago. Much has changed since the early days, and will continue to change. What has not changed is that the Bay Area remains a magnet and kaleidoscope of influences from around the world and all walks of life.

What better place to learn about the future of digital media than in the tech hub of the world? San Francisco is the headquarter of numerous well known high tech companies such as Google, Salesforce, LinkedIn and any number of companies whose name you have likely never heard off.

Fail fast is the buzzword in the city and it definitely feels like a modern-day gold rush. Some companies have deployed disruptive business models such as Airbnb and Uber, changing the way the world utilizes empty bedrooms and empty car seats. On a more philosophical scale, they are challenging the way we think about traditional values. Convenience versus privacy. Shared assets versus pride of ownership. A new shared economic model on the horizon.

Prediction: Technology will continue to change the way we live.

If you like people-watching, Frisco is one of the best places to do so. It’s racial mix and re-mix is indeed very colorful, giving us an indication of what the face of America will look like as we continue down the path of being a cultural melting pot.

Prediction: Natural blonde will be rare (and sought after).

As I stare at the menu of the Italian eatery I was wondering why the “Branzino” had to be flown in all the way from New Zealand. After all, the biggest ocean is right in front of us. Then I read that the sardine harvest has been canceled because of insufficient numbers, Sockeye Salmons died in the millions because the rivers were too warm and the Dungeness crab were judged too toxic to eat just as the season was supposed to open.

Prediction: Non-farmed seafood will become a luxury item.

A corner garage piques my interest and as I stare inside I discover five iconic Alfa Romeos being restored, dripping with fresh new red paint — a clear indication that I’m in the Italian section of town. What makes San Francisco charming is that the various culturally driven neighborhoods are in danger of being lost. Real estate prices are skyrocketing. A young lawyer (who just graduated from college) and her boyfriend that moved here from NYC ended up paying $2,800 for a small one-bedroom apartment (and we are not talking about a penthouse loft)…

Prediction: The well-to-do move into city centers, pushing others to the suburbs in a reversal of what created the suburbs in the first place.

Voters in the city were divided over restricting the ability to rent rooms and apartments via Airbnb and measures that would halt the development of “market rate” housing in an attempt to keep housing affordable in the city, but at the end both propositions were narrowly defeated, influenced by the $8 million Airbnb was pouring into the campaign.

Prediction:  Money continues to rule politics. Selfish greed over shared values will continue to divide the nation.

High-paying tech jobs have created vast economic wealth in the Bay Area. In contrast, the increasing number of homeless people present everywhere make the streets feel less safe and remind us that the new economy is not going to benefit all.

Prediction: The income divide will continue to grow.

When I visited San Francisco as a student, it instantly became my favorite American city, and I imagined living and working here. This was in the days when you could still buy fresh seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf… (Which now has been transformed into a Disney-like waterfront tourist attraction).

Asking myself the same question today, I leave San Francisco to the young and restless willing to put up with overpriced cramped quarters, water shortages, high taxes and over regulation (of almost anything). I think Hilton Head Island will do just fine for me, and I enjoy my reverse commute.



P.S. Great vistas, iconic landmarks, ethnic food (off the beaten path), history and abundant cultural offerings still make SF a great destination to visit.