San Francisco — Like that crazy Uncle you Love…


San Francisco — Like that crazy Uncle you Love…

I just got back from a couple of days in that city by the bay.  And let’s face it, San Francisco is beautiful — its clean, crisp, and artsy. Great restaurants, super food, wonderful shopping, absolutely perfect venues for vacations and relaxing. What’s not to like?

I see it, however, as like that crazy uncle that comes to visit.  He has great stories, he brings super gifts for the kids, he knows just the right thing to say.  But he can wear out his welcome.  You are silently relieved when he goes home. San Francisco is like that. For every wonderful view or great restaurant, there is something lurking, just behind the scenes.

I was told, for instance, about “critical mass.”  Don’t know what that is?  Thought it had to do with nuclear fission?  Guess again. In Baghdad by the Bay, critical mass appears the last Friday of every month when bicyclers decide to take over the downtown area and block traffic.  The person telling me about it said that she was trapped for two hours in what became a melee with bicyclers hammering on her car and riding their bikes over it. “I’m from LA, nobody touches my car.”  She was outnumbered.

This happened about five years ago. Although the ‘critical mass’ is a tad smaller now and a bit more civilized, it still exists.  Its goal — removal of all private vehicles from the city, by any means possible.  The bicycle coalition is deeply involved in all aspects of the city planning. They, it appears, are willing to do anything to get their way.

Something a bit closer to home, a luncheon meeting participant told me about an ordinance that was attempted (and later stopped) to force parking operators to set the monthly rates in their garages at a level relative to daily rates. In other words, if your daily rate was say $40, then your monthly rate had to be $1200.  The goal, make it economically impossible for people to drive into the city and force them onto buses, trains and bicycles.

The second issue regarded zoning. The supervisors attempted to pass a zoning change making all surface lots illegal.  Ninety days notice and you close down your lot. Their first goal was to tell a private business owner how much to charge for his product, and then to take away a person’s business.

When the regulations were stopped earlier this year, the changes were slipped into a 300 page omnibus bill and discovered by accident. They will be stopped again.  But what about next time.

The “crazy uncle” on the Golden Gate is being taken over by “my way or the highway” folks who aren’t in the business of compromise, or understanding that most people like to be left well enough alone. If you drive a car, get rid of it. If you stub your toe, get a handicapped parking permit (there are three times the number of handicapped permits in SF than there are on street spaces.)  If you want to live on the street, so be it (until you end up in front of someone’s house that doesn’t like it and has some pull, then you will be tossed in jail.)

The city is populated by environmental activists that oppose any damming of rivers in the Sierra, but bathe in water that comes from the very dams they oppose.  This is the place where low flow toilets and shower heads have reduce the sewage flow so much that the pipes are backing up since there isn’t enough water to “flush” them out and into the sewer plants.  Solution? Put bleach down them to clean them out…and ruin the environment.

San Francisco, like my crazy uncle, believes that the law of unintended consequences doesn’t apply. Its a city where “South of Market” is booming, because start-up software nerds don’t want to be in buildings with “suits,” high rises in the financial district, but pay more to occupy loft spaces.  I’m sure they feel the suits have ‘sold out,’ but are more than willing to meet with them when venture capital time rolls around.

San Francisco is a city where $250 a night hotel rooms are ‘average’   — “but they have a great view of the bay.”  I must live on another planet, as I think when I pay $150 a night I’m being shafted.

Like the crazy uncle, San Francisco is attractive, handsome, fun, and full of really neat people. However, its really nice to come home. I’m not sure I could take it, or him, full time.




Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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