Fellow suburbanites: Do you avoid San Francisco?

KGO 810 radio host Brian Copeland posed another good question on his show this morning. It was directed to suburbanites in all nine Bay Area counties. He wanted to know if any listeners rarely, if ever, go into San Francisco. He said he’d been chatting with Pat Craig, the former theater critic and columnist for the Contra Costa Times, who had mentioned hearing about some people out here in the ‘burbs who had never been to The City, or for many years.

Copeland, who grew up and lives in San Leandro, was a bit astounded. After all, San Francisco is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, he said, mentioning how snooty travel magazines, such as Conde Nast Traveler, will list it up there with Paris, London, Rome, New York City, as one of the world’s great cities to visit.

So, there are those of us in the ‘burbs who live 20 or so miles from one of the world’s great cities–but we don’t visit it. Copeland wanted to know why.

Ever since I was a kid, I loved the chance to get over to San Francisco. For me, it represented a kind of glamour, sophistication and excitement that my hometown of Walnut Creek lacked. When my husband and I fell in love, he lived in the City, and he and I spent our early courtship bopping around different neighborhoods, hanging out in Golden Gate Park, going to see plays and concerts. We lived in San Francisco for about six years in the first years of our marriage, and only moved soon after our son was born. During the time we lived in The City, I felt like I lived in the best place on earth.
My husband, though, was growing disenchanted with how San Francisco, with the tech boom, was becoming a place, it seemed, that was only affordable to new tech millionaires. Working and middle-class families, artists and others in interesting, worthy but low-paying professions–the people who arguably give urban neighborhoods their sense of community and personlity–were getting priced out. San Francisco, under Mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom, was becoming this picturesque but bland playground for the uber-rich.

Now that I’m back in Walnut Creek with a job and family, I don’t get into San Francisco as often as I did, when I was 20s single gal living in Walnut Creek. Traffic seems worse, you have to pay lots to cross the bridge and pay for parking or to ride BART. I also don’t have the stamina I once did to go into the City after work to go out to eat or to see a play. Battling traffic over the bridge, then coming home late at night: I can’t do it.

And we in Walnut Creek like to think we face the hassle of parking in our downtown? Try finding parking on Russian Hill on any evening.

Listeners on Brian Copeland’s show called in to complain that the city is dirty, and noisy, and that they can’t stand the panhandlers.
What do you think? Do you or do you not go into San Francisco? Do you even venture often west of the Caldecott Tunnel, to dine out in Oakland or Berkeley?

Or do you find everything you need–shopping, entertainment, culture–right here in the ‘burbs?

36 thoughts on “Fellow suburbanites: Do you avoid San Francisco?

  1. I used to go to the city frequently with friends or, after I was married, with my husband. I looked forward to taking our children their for plays, shopping, dining, etc…

    I lost interest after the homeless, the street people, and the panhandlers were allowed to take over.

    Now, we stay in the burbs. It's prettier, safer, and has everything we need.


  2. Being from NYC originally, I can attest to the fact that SF panhandlers are the WORST I have ever seen in the US. Giuliani fixed that problem in NY years ago, but alas, there's a different 'culture' in SF I suppose.


  3. The bums on the streets of SF are so dirty, aggressive and plentiful. However, I make it out to SF about once a week. I love the farmers market on Saturdays at the Ferry Building and love to excercise on the marina down to Fort Point. It's an easy BART trip to make too.


  4. only for shows like Cirque du Soleil or a Broadway play or an occasional children's chorus concert in Union Square… otherwise, more important things to do out here.


  5. Just got back from a round trip on BART. Went to SF MOMA, had a nice lunch. Walked around Union Square. Beautiful day. Having lived here 30years, we love to take advantage of as many amenities in the Bay Area as we can.


  6. I prefer to shop, get my hair cut, and dine in San Francisco. You just can't beat the sophistication of a great city. However, I do enjoy the tranquil, crime-free environment we seem to still enjoy in Walnut Creek. I am happy to travel to SF whenever I need and want to, and yet, return to the very beautifully charming country-like setting of Walnut Creek. I love not having sidewalks, being surrounded by trees and wildlife. In general, I feel like I am living in the countryside here. I so do love both worlds.


  7. Anon 5:34

    If you think that this topic is self-indulgent, please go away and stop trying to make positive people feel bad.


  8. I may be atypical among your regular readers: I live in WC but work in SF's Civic Center area, so I'm in the city every day.

    Ideally, I'd go to a show after work at night, but if I can't squeeze one in after work, I find myself BARTing back to SF for shows on the weekend, or to Berkeley for live theater or a show at Zellerbach as part of their CalPerformances program.

    I lived in SF for more than 25 yrs, and agree that the panhandling has become worse, especially in the Powell Street BART station, where they congregate around the ticket machines to ask you for your money as you try to buy your ticket without being hassled. (Word to the wise: Buy your BART ticket at some OTHER station for that reason.)

    However, having said that, if I hadn't been Ellis Act-evicted out of my SF apartment so the bldg's new owners could have my unit for their relatives, I'd still be in the city. I can see why people like the open spaces of Walnut Creek and its downtown (and most people like the warm summer nights in WC and some can even tolerate the temps in the 90s and 100s), but I miss the conveniences (mass transit, stores you can walk to, etc.) and attractions (entertainment, culture, shopping, restaurants) of city life — and those who think there's no crime in the 'burbs are kidding themselves. A guy tried to mug me near the BART station one night. Fortunately, he didn't succeed. If this were the city, with more people (witnesses) out walking after dark, he probably wouldnt have tried that.


  9. I went to college in SF and went at least once or twice a month up until I was about 35. By then I was too old to be part of the club scene and was settling down anyway. Now that I am married with children, we go there as a family maybe twice a year.

    In general, I try to avoid the city. The older I get, the less comfortable I am being there after dark. And although there are some great places to eat there, for me it's not worth the drive. We can eat well in WC, San Ramon, and Lafayette without having to pay crazy bridge tolls, waste a lot of gas, fight for parking, and look over out shoulders as we walk away from the car. And we know the odds are on our side that our car will be there when we return.

    SF is just not what it used to be. Other than the tourist areas, it dirty and unkept, and the homeless are almost encouraged to be aggressive.

    BTW, SF is not even close to being in the same category as Paris. It's not even in the same category as Los Angeles.


  10. As I get older, I go to the City less and less. Getting there has become more expensive, no matter what mode of transportation one uses, but I still go if there is a concert or play that I want very much to attend. I no longer go in to the City “for no good reason,” meaning, on a lark. I hate being forced to deal with the panhandlers and drunks/addicts who are so aggressive. The streets and sidewalks are dirty. The traffic sucks in SF, just like most cities.

    Since a family member moved to the City, I do go to visit her whenever I can. And that's the BEST reason to go to SF.


  11. I went in this weekend for dinner at Town Hall and a concert, and we had a great time. The street people can be a nuisance and walking around the Tenderloin to get to the Warfield was a little scary, but all in all it was really fun. I don't think I could live out there though, I'm just not a city kid and the politics and ridiculous ordinances and laws SF has would drive me insane.


  12. I go to the City once or twice a year, and one of those times is for Fleet Week. Otherwise, no. It is the dirtiest, filthiest city I have ever seen. It stinks of urine. Panhandlers abound everywhere and are a blight.

    Sad, because SF could be a world class city. Other major cities have their issues too, but SF is the worst. The days of Herb Caen are gone (did he have the best column or what?), long gone. Nothing can get done because it is run by the militant gay leftists.


  13. In the last 12 months I have gone to SF:
    For business: 12 times
    For entertainment: 4 times

    The issue of panhandlers have no impact on my decisions.


  14. Was there last night for the Steely Dan concert at the Masonic Auditorium.

    I also love to go to the city for SF Giants games and the farmer's market.

    Panhandlers aren't cool, but I hate to think that we would pass up one of the worlds' greatest cities just to avoid them.

    People come from all over to see the jewels that SF has to offer.

    Get out of your comfort zone and go to the CA Academy of Science or take in the SF Opera once a year. Do a little internet research on parking and restaurants in the area and even use Google Street view to check out the neighborhoods.

    You won't regret it!


  15. We typically visit the city monthly for dinner out, a Giants game, to run the dogs at Fort Funston, or some other reason. BART is expensive but still a 'relative' bargain given what parking and the bridge cost. Why WOULDN'T you take advantage of a destination people travel to from all over the world to enjoy?


  16. Love the City. deYoung, California Academy of Sciences, Union Square, Ferry Building, eating/shopping in the smaller neighborhoods, the ocean, Alcatraz at night, etc. Everywhere you go there are problems, even in the 'burbs. Make the best of wherever you are, enjoy the sights and sounds, too much complaining can ruin anyplace.


  17. We, I have to agree that it's more on the self indulgent side

    It's like asking: Do any young women still wear white gloves?

    It's powder puff nonsense. Soccer Mom is smarter than this.


  18. The pan-handlers and the stench of urine keep us from going into the city just for the heck of it. We don't even go to Giants games anymore because of the ticket prices. Still, we do go to the museums, the Academy of Sciences, and when I could afford it we'd go to the opera (the operas performed at the Lescher Center just don't cut if for me).

    I also like Christmas shopping in the city (window shopping this year…no money) and my son loves riding the Cable Cars.


  19. We live in WC and in our 50s. My wife and I go into the city often for lunch outings and scenic walks. We take BART into the city and then take the bus to wherever we want to go. With a transfer, there are many times we've only had to pay for one bus ride that took us to multiple stops. It's awesome! We don't get to stay late in The City, which we would love to do, because public transportation in WC sucks.


  20. “Everywhere you go there are problems, even in the 'burbs. Make the best of wherever you are, enjoy the sights and sounds, too much complaining can ruin anyplace.”

    What a cop-out. Let's take this a step farther and imagine someone walked up and peed on you. Would you just laugh it off and go on merrily? Well, that's what the numerous panhandlers are doing to the great city of San Francisco. They are peeing all over it, and if enough people stood up and shouted as loud as they could that they're not going to take it anymore, maybe, just maybe it might make a difference and have SF become a better place.

    Have you ever been to NYC in the 70s or 80s? It was one mean and ugly place. Until a new mayor came to town, Rudy Giuliani, and for better or worse, he cleaned up the place, and now it's one of the safest big cities in America, and a lot cleaner, too.

    Where is San Francisco's Giuliani? Probably not going to happen thanks to the liberal apologists so prevalent throughout the city. Too bad.


  21. This is a totally legit question. I have relatives and some friends living in the city that think Walnut Creek or the Sleeptrain Pavilion are on the other side of the freaking earth! I see self centered-ness and self indulgence on both sides of the bay bridge.

    I commute 5 days to SOMA, so I guess some peoples world is pretty small. And I spent time living in the city so I'm not knocking it.

    For me the city is just a part of the total bay area. As is San Jose, or the Shoreline Amphitheater, Livermore or Sonoma valleys for wine tasting, etc.


  22. I go into the city as much as I can. My daughter and her husband live there, so it makes it fun to go in and visit them. Love My city by the Bay. People take it for granted I think. I've lived in Walnut Creek for 20 years, but I never get tired of seeing that spectacular view, the minute you get out of the Caldecot tunnel!
    I lived in Paris for two years, and when I told some of the people that I would meet that I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, they would sigh and say AWWW San Francisco!! They thought I was crazy for living in Paris over San Francisco. So, listen up people…Don't take this gorgeous city for granted!!


  23. About a month ago, my husband got off work early from his job at the office. We decided to drive over to San Francisco to visit the Aquarium of The Bay at Pier 39. It was a wonderful experience for our almost 3 year old toddler.

    There were even coupons for parking and buy one get one free for admission to the museum. Overall, it was an excellent, quick visit for us.


  24. anonymous 10:40
    I work in the City and often go to events or establishments there. Are there problems, like anonymous 9:10 said. Yes. But I've never been “peed on” during my time there. And I've seen plenty of homeless and panhandlers in NYC when I've traveled there for business or pleasure over the years. It's a problem in most big cities. (And by the way, there are plenty of homeless in Contra Costa County, and not all of them are in the West County!)


  25. We only moved to WC so we could afford a bigger place for our children. They move out in 11 years and we can't wait to move back.


  26. I live in San Francisco and love my city. I especially love my city because it is completely devoid of whiny children and suburbanites. Please stay in your comfortable homes. You are bad drivers and clog up the city streets with your Chevy Tahoes and Hummers.

    The Tenderloin may smell like pee, but if you have never lived here, and only visit 3 times a year, then I doubt you have any real perspective on anything San Francisco.


  27. Dummies. You liberals are so into social justice, a welfare state and all that BS. Well you got it in that toliet bowl of a city and now you avoid it? Drugs, homeless people pissing all over, crazies yelling at you when you get off BART, drunks, hookers…….and so on. Go enjoy your city!


  28. 9:38 – Without the suburbanites coming into the financial district every morning, there would be a major shortage of pretty women in San Francisco.


  29. I worked in SF for 10 years, so I pretty much got my fill.. but I have a lot of great memories. On a clear and warm day, it's the most beautiful city I've ever seen.


  30. Um. We have lots of urine stench in Walnut Creek. Such as: the Plasa Ezcuela stair wells, the underground garage at Barnes & Noble, Locust Street. Why balk when it's in the backyard?


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