Longtime "Native Son" Chronicle columnist Carl Nolte, who you might expect would be one of the first to decry the ways in which San Francisco has changed for the worse, penned a column this weekend that we can add the archive of the opposite camp.
"It’s the damndest thing," Nolte writes. "A lot of cities are going to hell because the economy is going down. San Francisco is going to hell because the economy is going up. People are mad because the city is booming. Too many people. Too much money, dammit."
So he goes about surveying a cross section of his friends, "expatriate San Franciscans, a cab driver or two, and a couple of artists," and he finds that no, SF is not an irredeemable, soulless, techie hellscape, despite what you may have heard or read.
With money, of course, comes much better food, as many have pointed out. But Nolte, who grew up on Potrero Hill, says that back in the "Good Old Days," "Potrero Hill didn’t have restaurants... just coffee shops."
Despite the demise of some dive bars, he champions the new, calling out the recent opening of Bernal beer spot Old Devil Moon, noting that back in his day, you wouldn't find fancy Belgian beer on tap on Mission Street, just Rainier Ale, which they nicknamed "The Green Death."
And to counter the idea that the city has lost its soul, he points to Chinatown, which hasn't lost its soul, and he talks to a painter friend who came here in the '60's and who says, "The city still attracts young people. It’s still a city of different cultures, different races, sex practices. Always an attraction."
Also, observing a fancy cruise ship about to depart from the new terminal at Pier 27, Nolte writes, "I’m old enough to remember the old waterfront, crowded, dingy, a bit dangerous. This one is better."
You may hear from your grumpy neighbor who went to Burning Man when it was still on Baker Beach that everything has gone to hell and all the cool people have left. You may hear from BrokeAss Stuart that you have to go Oakland to find anything cool anymore.
But you can take it from one old-timer, at least, that it's a changed city that only gets better with age if a bit more expensive.