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How shortsighted neighborhood activism fuels the city's housing crisis, and pushes the best of San Francisco deeper and deeper into the suburbs

In an urban, rather than suburban, San Francisco, more people would walk, bike, and take public transit to work. Cafes and small shops would germinate on blocks that now aren't densely populated enough to support them. The Bay Area's vital economy would serve as an engine that added to the vibrancy of San Francisco's diverse, eclectic cultural life, rather than what it now is: a force that strips the city of the artists, musicians, students, minorities, and low-income groups who can't afford to live here.

It's possible, but given the current political culture here, it's fantasy.
But it's a valuable fantasy, providing a counterweight to the denial-laced civic dream-state that is San Francisco. In this dream, it's possible to ignore the social, political, and economic forces that are transforming the Bay Area; it's possible to ignore the devastating consequences of the city's anti-housing political culture.

It's a dream that spawns the model homes of Brentwood, where some of San Francisco's banished residents will go to live. The Hallmark, like the Cardinal, and the Tribute, is generously decorated for visitors. Dining rooms sport thick-legged dinner tables dressed with handblown dinner glasses, which are stuck to rough-woven place mats with silicone caulk to prevent pilferage. The houses are filled with large-screen televisions, computers, and stereo systems that aren't really electronic equipment, but hollow, plastic facsimiles. The larders are generously stocked with boxes of Potato Buds, Crunch Berries, and Cinnamon Grahams, empty, yet homey and colorful.

It's a surreal, remote universe, a pleasant, fantastic dream.
San Francisco, welcome home.

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Cynthia McGarvie
Cynthia McGarvie

I left SF in January of that year with a deeply heavy heart. I knew I would never be able to afford to live there for the rest of my life. If things stay the same, it's going to end up as a ghost town.


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