If you attend Armistead Maupin’s musical, “Tales of the City,” you will see a very different San Francisco then what you see today. The time period is the 1970’s. As you watch the show, visions of disco, plaid pants, hand sewn bean bags, tight jeans, moustaches, and flower children will dance through your head.
The 1970’s was a time of sexual revolution, especially for the gay community. For the first time in San Francisco’s history, GLBT men and women found a place they could call home and express themselves with their body. It wasn’t just about sex, but that was part of it. It was also about a growing community that decided they didn’t want to be sad anymore. Now was the time of gay rights protests and petitions for more gay friendly laws. It was the time of Harvey Milk, the first gay supervisor in San Francisco. It was a time of optimism for the gay community; an optimism they would need to tap into in the next decade.
As you leave “Tales of the City” and are thinking about the greatness of the 1970’s, one can’t help but let their minds then drift to the horror of the 1980’s, when the other shoe fell. The 1980’s brought the AIDS pandemic and an unsupportive president, Ronald Reagan. How could we fight this disease when our president wouldn’t even say the word AIDS in public until 1987? San Francisco was hit hard by the disease. With the absence of government and family support, the community came together and took care of its own. The GLBT community realized it was strong, and growing stronger. Now was not the time for the closet, but the streets. “ACT UP! FIGHT AIDS.”
The 90’s and turn of the century brought with it the age of Google, Twitter, Mozilla, Yahoo, Zynga, and Facebook who are now shaping the landscape of San Francisco. These companies have brought young software developers to the Bay Area with good salaries. When the Recession hit, San Francisco maintained a little better than other cities simply because of it’s proximity to the Silicon Valley. For example, the real estate market dropped, but it did not plummet like in other areas. In some ways, the tech industry saved San Francisco from a meteoric fall. Even in the depths of the Recession, one can see new businesses and restaurants spring up that appeal to those in the tech industry. This population has influence and will shape the look and feel of San Francisco. For example, the CEO of Oracle is bringing the World Cup to the Bay Area. Current tenants of the water front are already being evicted to make room for all the new development that will take place in order to host this worldwide event. It will never be the same again. Hopefully, it will be improved.
This is a city that has always changed based on times. It grew overnight because of the Gold Rush, experienced vigilante justice, reveled in the Victorian age, and partied through the Roaring 20’s. Basically, San Francisco is always open to change and will throw itself into the present time. Currently, it is the tech scene, but that will change. No one scene dominates this city for too long. It won’t tolerate not being the center of the next movement.
The influence of all the different eras is still here in the city, some more noticeable than others. For example, the Gay Pride Celebration is alive and well, although it has changed to include so much more than anyone could have ever expected. In some ways, it is now a celebration for everyone to just appreciate and celebrate all of our differences.
No matter what, this city will continue to evolve. It may be through human intervention or even the occasional touch of Mother Nature in the form of earthquakes. Enjoy the city the way it is now, but don’t be surprised if in 10 years it is different. Don’t mourn and grieve the past, just cherish the memories. Instead, embrace every form this city decides to take as you move through its streets in your lifetime. San Francisco is NOT settled, and it will never be settled. It is always in the process of becoming something.