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August 9, 2019

David Keenan

Cole Valley

35 years in SF

0:00 / 1:00:25

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San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods

Community is one of the biggest things I would emphasize about San Francisco because it’s a city of neighborhoods. They are all very different from each other. One of the things I always love about San Francisco is that it’s very unique and different. Each neighborhood is very different, but they all combine to make a whole, make one big city, but it’s so varied. There are so many types of people. The ethnic breakdown of San Francisco is so

many different groups.

You can build dense, but do you

have the infrastructure to support it?

San Francisco is still a small city compared to some of the other megacities, like Shanghai, Mexico or Tokyo. We have 875, 000 people here. The cool thing is you can’t “go out” but you can “go up”. You see those skyscrapers, big buildings, condo towers. But there’s the ocean here, you had to stop there. I think in San Francisco there’s a trend to build upwards in the future. The population here has increased since I’ve been here. It used to be 750,000, but now it’s more than a hundred thousand more. So they talk about density that we want to build more like New York and Tokyo. But you need to think of the quality of life. You can build density, but do you have the infrastructure to support it? One of the great things in the city is that you can walk to the street,

have dinner and have coffee. But some of the places where

they’re building, South of Market, these big towers, do they have these places to support them? Like laundromats, restaurants, convenience stores, different sorts of stores, where do those people go for what they need? You could build a tall building. It can be that many people live there. But are they supported by

a community? Like we are supported here (Cole Valley). I think it’s not right now.

Now you can’t live in San Francisco

unless you have money

In the 1980s, the city was affordable. You could get a studio apartment $400 or $500 in the Tenderloin or South of Market. And then if you didn’t like your place, you could move to another

one at the same price. Now, if you live somewhere and you want to leave, you can’t get it at the same price. It’s always going to be more expensive. You’re always going to pay more because rents keep rising up. So that’s a fact in San Francisco. It changes the city a lot. You can’t live here unless you have money. It used to be a place… if you were musicians or artists and you weren’t making money, you could find a way to live here. But now, I don’t know if you can. I do worry about what the future will be like.

Walk the city, ride bikes, and

take public transportation

My wife and I, we’ve already joined the walking group in San Francisco probably 10 years. We have been on many hikes before all over the city. We like them. And also we ride bicycles a lot.

We’re with SF Bicycle Coalition. They usually have a big party at

the end of July in the Civic Center. They’re very politically well connected with the mayor’s office and the supervisors. They’ve gotten a lot of good things done for bikers and really made

things easy for us. I ride and I try to ride every day. I still go downtown to the library and connect up with the city. I feel safe when I use the bikes there, which is a very good thing in San Francisco. In this neighborhood, even in the city, you don’t need a car. If you’re not afraid of other people, it’s a very good transport city. We don’t do Uber and Lyft because I think it’s really messed up the taxi industry. 

There’s great light in San Francisco

I think the weather forms people’s opinions. I think

there’s really great light in San Francisco when

you go to the bridge and you look out unless it’s foggy.

But it’s great light for an artist to draw because I

think the air is cleaner and the light is better than

other places.

“The Cool, Gray City of Love”

I thought that’s the perfect way of describing San Francisco because it’s cool and certainly grey. Right now, July and August, the whole country probably was hot and sweaty, but here it’s so cool outside. I think this also adds to the culture of San Francisco.

Our city icons and symbols make

San Francisco always unique

Our icons, like Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Twin Peaks, these are the symbols of San Francisco. So many people come here

from all over the world to see San Francisco and these are what they take with them when they come home. A lot of cities don’t seem different from other cities, but these make the culture of

San Francisco unique and interesting. Especially Golden Gate Bridge, even when I've lived here all these years, I still look at it and just feel like I'm seeing it for the first time. It’s so beautiful. One moment you could have fog go through and you can’t even see the bridge or you might see the top of the bridge and lights. I just think that’s the symbol of San Francisco.

San Francisco not only has physical

symbols but also mental symbols

I think San Francisco always has that reputation. It’s wide open and free. People come here and do anything they want. I think it is a symbol. So there’s physical symbols, like the bridge, and then mental symbols, like this idea that if you grow up in the Midwest, it was more conservative, but San Francisco is so liberal and free. You could come out here and be who you want to be.

After World War II, a lot of artists and poets, like Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, came out from the

East Coast. They looked at San Francisco, the perfect weather,

the view, the light, the scenery, and then they decided to settle

in North Beach that was called the Beat Generation. There's

even a museum if you go to Columbus and Broadway. It's called the Beat Museum. And it talks all about the beatniks coming

to San Francisco. 

I think people had a sense of freedom and liberation. You can come out here, join in a rock-n-roll band, be a painter, or make music. Everything was wide open for you. I think that is changing, but I think it’s still the impression. 

Really, physically go to

bookstores and movie theaters

The first thing I would say is to go to the bookstores. Don’t buy Amazon. And go to the movie theaters. Because if you don’t,

they disappear. And all sudden, everyone will watch movies on their screens and get books online. But there’s something about the culture of the spaces that really makes community. It’s so important for the community because those are meeting spaces. 

Get to know your neighbors

It’s not just for socializing but for security. And there’s a comfort that you look after them, they look after for you, especially people with children. The kids might play together, and also it maybe helps keep them from getting in trouble. So I think it’s important to get to know each other.

I think San Francisco always has that reputation. It’s wide open and free. People came here and do anything they want and be who they want to be.