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San Francisco Conundrum

(At least I didn’t go to Fisherman’s Wharf. Besides, cliched view notwithstanding, Alamo Square is a very groovy dog park).

Devyn and I are back from our coastal sojourns and it’s official: he wants to move to New York (eventually), and I want to move to San Francisco (yesterday if possible, please). The unbridled density and punishing beauty of SFO are mind boggling. Devyn reminds me San Francisco has earthquakes. Well, NYC has terrorist attacks. And unlike terrorists, the earthquakes aren’t actually trying to kill you. For now, we content in the midwestern middle.

Observations…I can’t believe they complain about Muni, its transit service is miles ahead of the CTA. (Meanwhile, can someone please, um, clean BART? Three bucks just to cross the bay, you shouldn’t have to sit on wino stains).

The view from the top of Mission Dolores Park beats Alamo Square’s any day.

Gay couple walks hand-in-hand past homeboys in a scruffy part of the Sunset, nobody bats an eye.

Scruffy Sunset is redundant.

Oh God, the density, the density. Can we please import that to Chicago?

Fewer homeless thanks to Gavin Newsom, yet I still have to call 911 on a gang fight at the Powell Street cable car turnaround.

Somehow makes me grateful SFO isn’t perfect. But standing at the top of Lombard, at 10 p.m., when the tourists are firmly ensconced in North Beach or bed and it’s finally quiet and deserted, gazing across to Telegraph Hill and the line of lights twinkling atop the East Bay hills beyond, with the faint clang of a cable car bell in the distance, you’d sure think that it was.

Ten percent of the San Francisco that I shot. (Captions are for pishers…)

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Categories: Adventure San Francisco

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Mike Doyle

I’m an #OpenlyAutistic gay, Hispanic, urbanist, Disney World fan, New York native, politically independent, Jewish blogger in Chicago. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I write words and raise money for nonprofits. I’ve written this blog since 2005. And counting...

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9 replies

  1. A Public in Civility

    (Photo: In New York City, pretty doesn’t always lie in the details: squinting up the East River from the Brooklyn Heights Esplanade. Credit: Looper.) Recently, my Korean foodie friend, (“I don’t fucking look like Margaret Cho!”) Rozella, and I…

  2. I might as well throw in my two cents here…first of all, great photos of San Francisco. Quite a few of them were taken in my neighborhood, North Beach. I too take issue with what T. Rostan said about San Francisco…for one, while MUNI isn’t perfect, we don’t expect it to be. It’s MUNI. It’s *always* late. Whenever you’re in a hurry, you can be guaranteed of at least an hour wait for a bus that should arrive every 8 minutes. When the bus finally does arrive, it’s followed by four other buses…all the same route. It’s like they travel in herds for protection against…god knows what. And finally…cabs. I NEVER have a problem just hailing a cab. You just have to know where to find them (hint: Union Square, any major hotel, the Castro district, and North Beach are hot spots for getting cabs. Also, NEVER call Yellow Cab. They never show up. Call Veterans or Luxor…you’ll have much better luck AND your cabbie will probably speak English and know how to get to other places besides the airport.

    Mike, San Francisco awaits you. We need people like you here.

  3. Reading My Way into Why

    (Photo: San Francisco’s little bookstore with a big effect.) It’s been three years since I came to Chicago and I still haven’t figured out why I did it. I know the factors that pushed me away from New York…

  4. I think you’re being both a little unfair to SF and little over-appreciative of Chicago. While I’m no apologist for Muni, the agency has come up a good deal since the transition from Brown to Newsom (as have lots of things in SF, especially the homelessness problem). What struck me for three days was the ability to get on a Muni vehicle, any vehicle, and have it not smell like pee or be covered in trash. As anyone who takes transit in Chicago knows, those are sadly quite common things here.

    But beyond the abject odor and filth that accompanies many a CTA trip, it’s has been my experience in three years of not owning a car in Chicago that people simply cannot process that you don’t. I don’t get asked how I do my laundry, I get asked how I get anywhere or do anything at all.

    Here in Chicago we have the double-whammy of substandard transit and a pretty deep anti-transit bias shared among even some people who live within our very walkable downtown. SF as expensive I’ll grant you. But SF as a worse transit environment than here in Chicago? Not by a longshot.

  5. True, San Francisco is a nice place, especially to visit. It’s dense. Its topography and much of its architecture and even its weather are charming. It’s progressive-ish. Its restaurants may not be substantially better than Chicago’s, but they are typically better-designed, more ambitious, more thoroughly conceived. It’s smoke-free.

    But anyone reading Chicago Carless and considering a move to the Bay Area might be surprised to learn that one who lives car-free there, as my wife and I did for about four years, is apparently begging for such non sequitirs as, “You don’t have a car? How do you do laundry?” and “Since you don’t drive, you must eat all your meals in restaurants.” We never face this bizarre manner of interrogation in Chicago.

    Public transport there really does stink. I feel safe in saying so even though I last lived in San Francisco in 2000. Muni is a terrible, unreliable, delay-plagued system (with union-protected “sickouts” an oft-cited part of the problem), and, at least under Mayor Brown, the city lacked substantial will to improve the operation. This, though, can be said for Muni: It is inexpensive.

    Taxis are another quality-of-life problem. There are too few, and, again, vested interests fight change. One rarely just hails a cab, as in New York or Chicago, with any success. Even when one phones ahead for a cab, he’s likely to be told that a driver should arrive at the address given within an hour — “should.” And if the taxi doesn’t turn up? “Call back.”

    Bicycling is a good, workable alternative, hills notwithstanding. But it’s hardly idyllic, unless you can map a route that takes you mainly through Golden Gate Park or the Presidio. Elsewhere, far too many surface streets are so wide (and often one-way) that the suburbanites using them to access one bridge or the other can almost be forgiven for thinking they’re freeways. It goes without saying a cyclist doesn’t feel 100% safe.

    So go ahead and dream of relocating from Chicago to San Francisco. But actually do so at your own risk.

  6. That conundrum doesn’t only belong to you! My better half wants SF while I want NYC… Chicago is it for now. Great shots by the way!

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