TRAVEL: Time to return to San Francisco Again?
Reading all the recent headlines about the seemingly out of control homeless situation, the smash and grabs, rampant thefts, large retailers closing shop in response and open heavy drug use on the streets, I wondered if San Francisco was really on the “doom loop” that many media suggested.
Then the APEC conference was staged in the city, and officials cleaned up the streets to put on a good face for visitors, a roster that included our president Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping.
So what’s the city like now that APEC has come and gone? Still clean or back to as bad as the media had said?
In 2021, my big camera gear was stolen while on a video shoot in San Francisco. My camera was tripod mounted, and I was addressing it, several feet away. During APEC a camera crew from Europe had $18,000 worth of camera gear stolen at gunpoint in San Francisco.
This time around: my big camera gear was at home. I didn’t trot out a tripod, which is a signal to thieves that I’m theft worthy. I held an iPhone on a selfie stick. Period. It never left my hand.
The verdict: all good. Nothing stolen. And the city itself: as beautiful and glorious as I remember it.
I went to every major tourist spot in the city, on foot, via Cable Car and on the Big Bus, the on-off vehicle that brings people to all of San Francisco’s finest on a day tour. From my vantage point, all good except two areas.
On Upper Market Street, the avalanche of store closures was a depressing sight. When the bus turned towards City Hall, I saw a drug victim overdosing on the ground, and four people trying to revive him. This was from the vantage point of the bus’s top level.
But still as magical as ever: the Presidio, Palace of Fine Arts, Fort Point, Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, North Beach, Chinatown, the Ferry Building and Embarcadero. The amazing views from those hills.
Where I didn’t go: the Tenderloin, which is known as the worst area of the city, where drug use is rampant and homeless tents are seemingly everywhere. This is the San Francisco that seems to get the most negative attention from media, and excuse me, but it’s also where no tourist in their right mind would dream of ever going to.
The Financial District was quiet. This is one of the area’s hardest hit, due to tech workers preferring to stay working at home, and that’s had a major effect on the area, with nearby stores that cater to office workers seeing sales drop and vacancy rates rising.
Sad, but if you’re a tourist, doubtful you’ll be going here. The hits are what you’re after.
Australian tourist Brownwyn Owens told me she was worried before her family arrived to San Francisco about what their visit might be like, due to the media reports, but “it’s been a beautiful trip.” She had no complaints, whatsoever.
To sum up, if you’d like me to take you to the worst parts of L.A. or New York, I’d be happy to oblige. If on the other hand, you’d like to see the best, whether in San Francisco or any great vacation spot, stick to the postcard spots, keep your money in your pocket, don’t flash around expensive stuff, document the trip with a cellphone camera that can be turned off remotely, making it not as worthy to thieves, and you’ll have a ball.
Big camera users: bring it all along, but try to photograph in groups, and don’t forget to leave NOTHING in your car. The smash and grabbers will take it all and ruin your trip.
But if you want to leave your heart in San Francisco, that’s okay.