Monday, November 25, 2013

Goodbye to all that: San Francisco edition

The Sunday New York Times had a nice article on how Joan Didion's famous leaving-New York essay, "Goodbye To All That," has spawned a collection of goodbye letters to Gotham.

I thought of Didion's essay in light of an article in today's NYT about how tech money is changing San Francisco, a city where I lived for more than a decade and where I still spend a fair amount of time, and is forcing an exodus and a redefinition of the city's neighborhoods.   From the article:

For critics, such sights are symbols of a city in danger of losing its diversity — one that artists, families and middle-class workers can no longer afford. On the day of Twitter’s public offering this month, 150 demonstrators protested outside the company with signs reading “People not profit” and “We’re the public, what are you offering?”

More and more longtime residents are being forced out as landlords and speculators race to capitalize on the money stream.

Mary Elizabeth Phillips, a retired accountant, is fighting eviction from the rent-controlled apartment where she has lived for almost half a century. If her new landlords have their way, she will have to move in April, shortly after her 98th birthday, because they want to sell the units.

Her neighborhood has given way around her. The car dealership across the street is now a luxury apartment complex, complete with rooftop herb garden, a butterfly habitat and a Whole Foods.

“I can understand it from an investment standpoint,” she said of her landlords’ actions. “But I don’t think I’d ever be that coldblooded about this.”

All of which makes me wonder, will this transformation of the former bohemian capitol of the country spawn a batch of leaving-San Francisco essays?  Or, ironically, will the goodbyes come in the form of tweets and Facebook posts, the very media that transformed the city having transformed the essay itself? 

Stephen R. Miller

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