For the past year and a half, I’ve been doing a lot of grumbling about how quickly the neighborhood I’ve lived in for nearly a decade has been gentrified, and several months ago I began plotting our way out of it.
What we found was that we couldn’t leave.
The second wave tech boom that has flooded our ‘hood with $6 price tags on smoothies and more overpriced restaurants than you can shake a stick at has raised rents so high in the entire area that we couldn’t even move to another one-bedroom now, nevermind find a two-bedroom that would better fit our three person family. At first, this made me feel claustrophobic and rageful — 23 year olds with money to burn had taken over our artist’s enclave, and now I was stuck here to watch it die.
However, this summer I have felt rewarded by our decision to stay. First of all, two of the playgrounds that had been closed for renovation reopened. Some of those changes were great, some were problematic, but simply having those spaces available again has boosted the community of families in the neighborhood, and made me feel like I’ve found “my people”.
An interesting thing has happened in the art scene here, as well. Many of the artist families have moved, but a few of them are like us, and haven’t been able to leave, even if they wanted to. We can’t exactly “take back the streets”, as artisinal barber shops have a kagillion more dollars than us, but we can make our mark in our own way.
Walking down our street, Olive and I came across a muralist who was as friendly as he was talented. An ex-preschool teacher, he warmed to Olive’s interest in his art instantly, and soon he was teaching her how to work the spray bottle and letting her take a brush to the wall he was working on.
Over the next few days, Olive got to watch the mural be created, and she and I would often go home in the evening and she would ask to take out her paints to create art “Like Jonathan”. It was incredibly sweet, and really restored my hope that this neighborhood will continue to draw in artists like him, who are not doing it for the marketing strategies, but instead for the love of art and community.
Another fun city experience that you’ll just encounter on the street is buskers galore. At the Farmer’s Market, at the park, or on a random street corner, musicians are plugging in and filling the air with sound. It’s not always high quality, but Olive does not discriminate. ANY time we find someone playing music, whether it’s a lonely sitar or a five-piece band, she stops to dance.
This summer, many of the Parks & Rec and City College classes for children and families were cut, so the parents and nannies who spend all day with their toddlers found ourselves adrift. I have this mama friend who does not let any barrier stop her. She’s the kind of mom who creates craft tables for her son on a random Tuesday, teaches him how to make spring rolls (he’s 2!) just because, and hosts baby parties full of screaming kids with a smile.
She had been to my monthly free story hour at Rare Device, and had the idea of doing one in Dolores Park, open to anyone who came by. So, every Thursday morning this summer, she lugged her guitar to the park, played a bunch of toddler tunes, and I danced along and curated a story list of library favorites.
The other parents kept asking us “who is sponsoring this”? It made me kind of sad that they assumed we were getting paid to do something so fun and natural, but I guess that just means they thought it was high quality! Next week is our last one, as Rebecca’s growing pregnant belly and the encroaching Fall Fog are starting to cramp our style. I will really miss this gathering, however, and perhaps we’ll revive it next summer!
So, it’s been a rad summer, and I think I’m going to be reaping the rewards of my decision to stay put and make do with what we have for awhile. I love raising my child in the city because of all the easy access to free community events and artistic experiences. For a minute, I feared that all of that was going away. I have never been happier to be wrong, even when I’ve had to create it myself!