I was fortunate to get a house sitting job on Nob Hill. It’s hard to believe that I have been to Kathmandu, Nepal but never have been to San Francisco! I missed experiencing the revolutionary history of the 1960s in San Francisco. It was suggested to me in jest that I was the only Old Hippie left in San Francisco.
Here is a photo of a magnificent house, built in 1882, to which a reader and new friend generously invited me for a private tour.
Within an hour of arriving on Nob Hill, I was on the street with my house sitting employer, distributing donated food (pizza, which is rare for them to receive, and which they appreciate immensely) to the homeless. A few of the homeless that I meet are the old hippies. However, most of the old hippies seem to have left San Francisco for Berkeley, Northern California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, North Carolina, Colorado….
Rent has skyrocketed in San Francisco. The rent per month for a small, basic apartment, including in the over 100 year old house in which I’m staying, is $3500. In outlying areas the rent for a two bedroom apartment is $3,000 per month. Below are pictured some Painted Ladies. I can’t imagine how much the rent is for one of these gorgeous, gentrified homes.
San Francisco ranks third of American cities in median household income. People work long hours and commute long, long distances for work and school. No wonder many people look so unhappy in this beautiful city. There’s no time to spend with family and friends, which is what makes for a quality life.
I have unfortunately noticed this unhappiness and dysfunction in every state that I have visited in the United States, since I returned from my trip around the world in April. There are many, many poor people in other countries but they have a support system of extended families, tribes, communities, government support, that we lack, for the most part, in our country. Meritocracy seems to have become a fallacy.
I will talk in this post about the Homeless Community of San Francisco, but first here is some history of San Francisco.
San Francisco on the Bay had these historical affiliations:
Spanish Empire 1776–1821
Mexican Empire 1821–1823
Mexico, United Mexican States 1823–1848
United States 1848–present
The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid growth, making it the largest city on the West Coast at the time. Prospectors accumulated in San Francisco, raising the population from 1,000 in 1848 to 25,000 by December, 1849.
After three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later. These people are feisty, strong and creative.
In World War II, San Francisco was the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater.
After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, along with the rise of the Hippie counterculture, the Sexual Revolution, the Peace Movement growing from opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the Gay Rights Movement, cementing San Francisco as a center of liberal activism in the United States. Politically, the city votes strongly along liberal Democratic Party lines.
The historic center of San Francisco is the northeast quadrant of the city anchored by Market Street and the waterfront. It is here that the Financial District is centered, with Union Square, the principal shopping and hotel district, and the rundown Tenderloin nearby. Cable cars carry riders up steep inclines to the summit of Nob Hill, once the home of the city’s business tycoons, now where I feed the homeless,and down to the waterfront tourist attractions of Fisherman’s Wharf. Also in this quadrant are Russian Hill, a residential neighborhood with the famously crooked Lombard Street; North Beach, the city’s Little Italy and the former center of the Beat Generation; and Telegraph Hill.
Here are photos of Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, taken on the excellent, free walking tours, led by Britt.
It is the oldest Chinatown in the United States. 21% of the population of San Francisco is Chinese. Chinatown is the most densely populated area in the United States, except for New York. There are fifteen thousand people in 21 square blocks. There’s virtually no second generation in Chinatown. People live very frugally, saving money to move out of Chinatown.
GOLDEN GATE PARK
The largest and best-known city park is Golden Gate Park, which stretches from the center of the city west to the Pacific Ocean. Once covered in native grasses and sand dunes, the park was conceived in the 1860s and was created by the extensive planting of thousands of non-native trees and plants. The large park is rich with cultural and natural attractions such as the Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden and San Francisco Botanical Garden.
I attended a music festival there. It was more than 100 Bands on six stages, over a three-day period. I got there early and, of course, paid a visit to the Rose Garden. Then I danced to the Jones Family blues and gospel group from Texas, to Buffy Sainte-Marie and to John Hammond. What a thrill!
SOME SAN FRANCISCO STATISTICS
It is the most densely settled large city (population greater than 200,000) in the state of California and the second-most densely populated major city in the United States after New York City. San Francisco is the fourth-most populous city in California, after Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose, and the 13th-most populous city in the United States—with a Census-estimated 2015 population of 864,816. The city and its surrounding areas are known as the San Francisco Bay Area, with an estimated population of 8.7 million.
The city is 15% gay, and only 15% children, both unusual statistics.
It has the largest amount of college degrees of any city in the United States, except for Seattle.
It attracts the fifth-highest number of foreign tourists of any city in the United States and is one of the 100 most visited cities worldwide.
I have seen few overweight people of the population of San Francisco. They have strong calf muscles from walking up all the hills. There’s an excellent bus system, which costs me a dollar a day, with the transfer, as a senior citizen. The buses are used mostly by people of color. I am also doing a lot of enjoyable walking.
THE HOMELESS COMMUNITY
“Beggars had moved in, with shopping carts crammed full of filthy bags and their cardboard shelters”. Isabel Allende
I did not take photos, to show respect. I smile, offer them their choice of kind of pizza, call them sir and ma’am.
I walk the streets daily with my big cardboard box filled with the donated pizza, a handful of napkins, wearing vinyl gloves. The weather is temperate in San Francisco, for the most part. People don’t freeze to death sleeping on the streets. They have their shelters, made out of gathered, recycled materials. The fortunate ones, especially women, tend to congregate in small groups, for protection, on the side streets of San Francisco.
The homeless community are mostly the mentally ill, who were discharged from our mental institutions in the 1980s, during unconscionable financial cuts made by our government, war veterans, and a disproportionately large number of African Americans. There is only one Asian that I serve. This, I believe, is because of the amazing Chinese and Japanese communities in San Francisco. They take care of their own.
After a week in Berkeley and a week in Santa Cruz, I return to San Francisco to the same house sitting job from October 19th to the 27th, when I fly to Mexico City. I will continue to perform daily service to the homeless community of San Francisco.
There is lots more sightseeing to be done. I have only visited one museum, the stunning Asian Art Museum, see photos below. the first photo is of the most famous piece in the museum, a copper rhino, proving that there were rhinos thousands of years ago in China.
There are a number of museums that appeal to me for future visits. Could I get some suggestions from my readers about museums and other sights in San Francisco that they have especially enjoyed? Thank You!