5 Unexpected Truths About Living in the San Francisco Bay Area
5. People Don't Love the Techies as Much You Think
Yes, it is true that the Bay Area is a haven for techies and people that want to work in the industry. It is also true that the vast amount of people in the industry and the ever-growing size of these companies has turned a lot of people off of the idea that these companies are in any way good for the Bay Area. Not to mention the change that these companies have had on the social and political atmosphere in the Bay Area.
Of course it's a controversial topic in the area, it's about as controversial as it gets and everyone you ask will have an opinion on it. That's how big the situation is, just about everyone knows what's happening and everyone has something to say about it. The majority opinion however has been turning against the tech companies, specifically the employees. The people who work at companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter make more than enough money to afford apartments in more expensive parts of the Bay such as San Francisco and the Peninsula, and because of that the cost of rent goes up and drives out other tenants. Obviously people aren't happy about that, to the point where gentrification is a popular word being thrown around these days.
In short, the tech companies that have secured their place in our economy have an iron grip on the Bay Area, and the people who were here for the dot com crash and Bay Area residents in general are starting to turn sour to the idea of being virtually monopolized.
4. Oakland Is Not a Crime-Infested City
This is no surprise to people that live in California, north or south. There are still people that will condemn Oakland as a crime infested city that isn't safe even in the daylight. This is simply not true, Oakland is a culturally diverse city that has a very tight knit community in some parts and has arguably the cleanest downtown area in the Bay.
Oakland does have its problems of course, as any city of that size will. Crime is a regular thing in some parts of town, but it is mostly gang-related and lots of people will attest that regular citizens don't usually see the business-end of a lot of the firearms tied to most of the crimes you'll hear about in Oakland. Rarely will you meet people as devoted to clearing their city's name than passionate Oakland residents. The assumption that going to Oakland means that you're coming back in a body bag or minus a wallet just doesn't apply these days.
Here's the bottom line; yes there is still a good amount of crime and there are bad neighborhoods in Oakland, just like any other major U.S. city, but the amount of random crime that happens to tourists, regular citizens and elderly people is much lower than people would have you believe. In reality most of the crime on Oakland is gang crime that is concentrated in those bad neighborhoods and if you ask enough people some would say that the Police are just as bad as some of the criminals that people love to talk about so much.
3. The Bay Area Is a Dirty Place
If you live in a major U.S. city, or a large city anywhere in the country, or any country really, it should be no surprise that an area this populated is not the cleanest place on Earth. The real surprise comes in people that are completely new to the area visiting for the first time and seeing that it's nothing like they imagined, in fact it can be quite the opposite.
San Francisco has (arguably) the dirtiest downtown area in all of the Bay. The streets smell like urine, and if it's raining they smell like fresh urine. This is an almost undeniable fact, it is the third truth in life besides death and taxes; San Francisco's streets smell like piss. Smaller cities in the bay like Berkeley and Palo Alto are a lot cleaner, but the Bay Area as a whole is a dirty place. You might be asking "Why?" well, the Bay Area is notorious for its Homeless problem. The Bay Area has one of the largest concentrations of Homeless people in the country, and with that many people living in the streets, things are bound to get smelly. I'm not anti-Homeless, I'm merely stating the fact that with this many vagrants and vagabonds, keeping the streets clean is a herculean task.
If you've visited major cities before you know what to expect in terms of cleanliness, but a surprising amount of people that have visited parts of California but not the Bay Area have told me that it is much dirtier than they ever expected.
2. All of the Hippies Grew Up
This one is fairly obvious, and there are a lot of people, tourists included, who forget that San Francisco and the Bay Area are the birthplace of the hippie movement and the summer of love in the 1960s, however there are also a lot of people who believe that the Bay Area is still a haven for the hippie culture.
Don't get me wrong, yes, there are still people preaching peace and love and who very much live the hippie lifestyle, but it has become a small niche in an area full of niches. You can find hippie communities if you look, and you don't have to look especially hard. A lot of the people who were a part of the movement all of those years ago have all moved on and found success in the bay, and they do their part to keep the culture alive sometimes, but for the most part it's tantamount to relics of an ancient civilization of rainbow-clad Pot-heads. Long story short, no, The Bay Area is no longer the place to drive a van out to or hitchhike to on a whim and spend a couple of years in the sun sitting in the hills and just let yourself soak up the Bay. You can give that a try, sure, but The Bay has stopped caring about Hippies unless they're selling souvenirs.
1. Good Luck Finding a Sunny Day at the Beach
If you live near a beach you know just how erratic weather can be, and that traditional seasons don't always apply to your area. This is very true for the Bay Area, specifically San Francisco. A lot of people that have never been to the area have no idea that the majority of the time San Francisco is enveloped in fog and all that's visible of the city are the tops of skyscrapers, poking through like the hand of a massive corpse beneath the waves. With that visual in your head, picture that for the majority of the year. That and needing to bring a jacket on a "Summer" day when you're going into the city, especially if you're going to the beach.
No, San Francisco doesn't have the trademark sunny beaches that California is known for. In fact, it's popular around the Bay to joke that San Francisco has two weeks of summer in October, and having experienced that firsthand, I would say that the joke bears some truth. The summer is cold at times, believe it or not, and living on the East Bay means that you'll be about 5-8 degrees warmer than San Francisco at any given time. This might seem obvious to a lot of you, but it's still a shock when one side of the bay is all sunshine and warm weather while the other is covered in fog and you need to dress accordingly for that.
There are sunny days on the beach, don't get me wrong, but I've seen more shooting stars in my life than I've seen sunny days on San Francisco beaches.
What do you think?
You might think that I have nothing but bad things to say about the Bay. This is simply not true. I live here now and I love the diversity of the culture and lively atmosphere throughout. You'll never find a dull moment here, good or bad. Of course this place has its problems and its quirks, but that's part of the charm.
I have my problems with the area, but I love what it has to offer and this article is meant to inform, not to scare people away from ever coming here.