The city I love, and the people that make San Francisco a place to leave one’s heart, are going away. Where are we headed? Some of us, a prevailing minority, are “moving on up” and replacing the rest, a diminishing majority who are headed “down and out.” I’ve heard this problem labeled as an “affordability crisis.” Over the years, I have observed a jagged prosperity. This growth is rapidly reshaping our city, society, culture, politics and economy. My only hope is that this prosperity becomes more evenhandedly managed.
In the last several years, I have observed cyclical waves of exodus. At this time, I am observing my third, and perhaps most devastating, wave. These waves are eroding our city’s foundational culture, heritage and spirit. I have watched our loved ones being washed out by the imbalances present in our city’s evolution. Through this tidal action, deposited on our shores, are a lot of new people from all over the U.S. and abroad.
It is apparent to me, and many old timers, that the latest waves of people that are coming to San Francisco are not doing so for the same reasons as many of those who arrived during the last several decades. Most of the latter were seeking acceptance, opportunity and a place to build a home. They wished to engage in a common culture, and to connect with our accepting community. Now, there is little loyalty to, or preservation of, these important foundational characteristics. Our differences are leading to clashes over policy and limited resources.
The streets tell this story, for those willing to listen. Stenciled on the pavement in black ink is “5%”. This indicates the population of Blacks estimated to reside in the city. Also stenciled are words like “clusterf**k.” I feel that these, and other such statements, underscore the overwhelming consensus that we are in a predicament that will not be resolved easily. The streets are filled with many such references for those willing to take a moment to see, and to understand, what is happening in our world. Sadly, everybody is working so hard that few have time for community, art, local culture, or to become actively engaged with our common fight for survival.
The job and housing markets are over saturated, as are our social service systems. The cost of living and minimum wage are light-years apart. There are more exclusionary roadblocks to opportunity and prosperity than there are programs and incentives to ensure equality and a nondiscriminatory playing field.
As I reflect upon my own experiences, and interact with other residents, the general sentiment is that even while the city prospers, many things are becoming worse than ever before. The situation, in my option, is unsustainable. I find that we are all on the razor’s edge. I, personally, am uncertain of which side of the widening divide I will land. I’m facing the same hardships and misfortunes that are affecting countless others. I am hoping that we will work together to find the solutions to these problems.
Shaun Hassan Haines is a philanthropist, community organizer, LGBT activist, Information Technology Operations Management professional and photographer. shaunhaines.net/