Goodbye (sniff) San Francisco, Hello Oakland



{A rendering of the house in Oakland I’ll be moving into in two weeks}


Twenty-two and a half years ago, the day after I graduated from college, I moved with a suitcase of clothes and two boxes of belongings to San Francisco. Everything I owned fit easily into my parents’ car. They picked me up in the East Bay town where I attended college and drove me over the Bay Bridge to my new home — known affectionately by locals as “The City.”

San Francisco is a City (with a capital C), and while it’s not a huge city (it’s only 7 miles x 7 miles wide), it is far larger and more urban than any place I’d ever lived. I was arriving on my own to make a new life here. I had no job, no idea how to get anywhere, and no concept of the lay of the land. I rented a room in the basement apartment of a friend of a friend at Taravel and 22nd Streets where I stayed for the next three months until I moved to another neighborhood.

On my first evening in San Francisco, my new roommate Beth and I took the bus to the Bridge Theater on Geary Street to see Cinema Paradiso. In one evening I did three things that I’d never done before: 1) took a city bus 2) went to a historic Art Deco theater (and not a suburban cineplex) and 3) saw a foreign film.  As I laid in bed that night, I was literally euphoric. A whole new world was opening up to me. I’d only been here 8 hours, but one thing was true: I was already falling in love with San Francisco and my new life here.

Over two decades have passed since that evening, and, as you may have guessed, I never left. Until now. Two weeks from Friday, I’m packing up my Mission District apartment to leave my beloved city for Oakland, back across the Bay Bridge. I have been known to say emphatically to friends over the last 20 years, “I AM NEVER LEAVING SAN FRANCISCO. I LOVE IT TOO MUCH.” Clearly lots of other people love it here too — and that’s not surprising. It is utterly beautiful, diverse, rich in food, art and culture, gay friendly, colorful, wonderfully weird. The economy is good here, too. Lots of people have money. The tech industry thrives here. Facebook and Twitter and Google are either here or a stone’s throw away.

Four years ago my partner Clay moved into the apartment where I’ve lived for almost 10 years. And now as we enter our middle years, we are ready for a slightly larger living space, a yard, a quieter street. But the problem is, we can’t afford that in San Francisco anymore. The wealth of this city has driven apartment and home prices up and up — especially in neighborhoods that are quiet and tree-lined. So we are heading over to Oakland, a larger but slightly lesser known city about eight miles across the bridge. Oakland has a lot to offer — more affordable housing, fantastic parks and outdoor space, farmer’s markets, great restaurants and galleries, beautiful shops, diversity and warmer summers.

I am really excited to try something new. In some ways this feels like a new adventure. I am thrilled to have a slightly larger place to live (though many people would call our new house tiny) with a big yard in a nice, quiet neighborhood still central to urban life. I even found a studio space that is 1/3 larger than my current space for $600 less a month than I pay in San Francisco (!!!). And Oakland (when there is no traffic) a only 20 minute drive from San Francisco, and a few train stops away.

But this is a double-edged sword. I love San Francisco. It’s my home. I have spent over 1/2 of my life here. I became an adult here. Every major event in my life has happened here. Part of me feels like I am about to lose a limb. Truthfully, if it weren’t so expensive, I would stay.

And that is my story: part happy, part sad. I plan to make the very best of this promising life change, despite my heartache. But I sure will miss you, San Francisco.