San Francisco: Notes from month one in Bay City

There is plenty of time for a change of heart but, thus far, San Francisco seems like a great place to visit, not to live. Like San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver, and other cities on the water-- it's gorgeous. There are all types of things to do. But, like the typical San Franciscan row house we live in; we're glad we tried it and will be glad when we're someplace less noisy, drafty, and expensive.

Part of this view comes from being extremely spoiled. We went to Baker Beach yesterday and watched hundreds of tourists standing around taking pictures of the Pacific. Each one will probably bring those pictures home and talk about how picturesque the city and ocean were. But we just moved from Oregon were we regularly had miles of pacific ocean to ourselves with no roads in site. At the beginning of the year, we lived on an island in the Atlantic where we'd be the first ones on the beach in the morning with no one to share it with but starfish and crab. A small crowded beach with hundreds of people standing around with their fingers in their noses is better than no beach, but it's also not particularly enjoyable, either.

The other major thing standing in the way of my loving San Francisco is the prohibitive cost of living. I'm all for paying more for good food and drink, but there is a limit. I write a bit more about it  below.
Notes from the first month:

1. Carry Cash! Before moving here, money would sit in my wallet for months waiting on the rare "cash only" situation. Not in San Fran! Cash only businesses are so common, everyone is in the habit of carrying it, notices are practically hidden, and nothing says "you're not from around here" like not
having cash. It took some getting used to, but I've made it a habit to check for cash before going anywhere.

2. BYoB While many grocery stores elsewhere charge extra for bags or at least offer boxes, all single-use bags here in San Francisco are illegal. Most stores will sell you a paper or plastic bag if you forget yours, but the plastic is thicker and easier to recycle. We're about 50/50 on remembering to bring bags.

3. Power to pedestrians!: In other cities, pedestrians are given priority in certain neighborhoods, but not to the extent they are here. Our street is busy; five lanes and no light at the intersection. To get across, you just walk out in front of oncoming traffic-- carefully of course. It was a little unnerving at first, but it really does seem like the best system. Cars get used to watching for pedestrians and pedestrians don't have to wait for a light. In Denver, many of the lights are on three phases-- one exclusively for pedestrians. People get so impatient waiting through the other cycles, they just walk out in front of cars.

4. An arm and two legs: We've lived in downtown Chicago, in Alaska, in the northeast, and elsewhere in California. These places were expensive, but the cost-of-living doesn't compare to what we're experiencing here. It's obnoxious! Yes, housing is expensive, the average two bedroom runs around $4500; but that's just the beginning. The average cost of a mid-range dinner for two is $80. We'll go out for two beers and some sad-looking appetizers and spend $50. Groceries are equally expensive. 

Yes, people get paid twice as much here, but what does that matter if it costs three times more for everything else? In case you missed it, San Francisco is now more expensive than Manhattan! There is no value when chefs and business owners are leaving California for places like Denver and Portland and we can get the same quality and experiences there. Something that's worth spending money on, here-- Burmese! That's still hard to find elsewhere.

5. Fog horns and sirens: The Golden Gate Bridge has its own set of fog horns that take some getting used to. Now that we've been here a month, they've become a calming background noise. The city also has an emergency alert system that is tested every Tuesday at noon. The first time I heard it, I thought there was an emergency.

6. Garbage and recycling The recycling program is so inclusive that we only had one bag of garbage the whole first month we were here. Recycling is the largest can here, not the smallest. And no, that one bag of garbage didn't smell. All the food scraps go in a third compost bin.

7. Blistering internet speeds / Fast shipping: Things happen fast here, especially if you're willing to pay for the speed. Wireless internet is beamed down from a hill allowing speeds of 280Mbps. It's not uncommon to order something on Amazon and get it the same day or next. The post office even delivers packages on Sunday. Similarly, delivery service apps like Magic will deliver anything legal in an agreed upon time. This guy spent $500 just testing out what they would actually deliver.

8. The car experiment: At only seven miles across, we figured San Francisco would be the perfect place to try living without a car. We used less than a tank of gas the whole first month, but still used the car more than planned. The transportation here hasn't been as efficient as expected and the light-rail and train are lacking or non-existent. We're hoping it will rain less in the spring and we'll be able to ride bikes more often.

I'll write another post on our experience without the car later in the spring.