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The Bay Area's Your Home. What's the Real Story of Living Here?

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A young person wearing a face mask holds a microphone with KQED branding on it as an adult kneels next to them and looks on.
Erica Davis, a YMCA East Bay apprenticeship program member, talks with a child using KQED reporter Daisy Nguyen's microphone during recess in Berkeley on Nov. 16, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Perhaps Jimmie Fails said it best in the 2019 film, The Last Black Man in San Francisco.

As he rides Muni, Fails — an actor who himself is a born-and-raised San Franciscan — overhears a conversation between two other passengers who are listing off their complaints about moving to and living in the city. One of them suggests that they move to Southern California. “The city is dead,” she says.

Fails interrupts their conversation. “You don’t get to hate San Francisco,” he says. “You don’t get to hate it unless you love it.”

Living in the Bay Area is definitely not always straightforward or easy. Ask anyone working two or even three jobs to afford their rent. Or someone who no longer feels safe parking their car to get groceries after being robbed in a car break-in.

But despite how complicated it is to live here, the Bay Area still inspires love and community for so many of us who call this place home — and don’t necessarily want the Bay’s story to always be told by national news outlets or online commentators who’ve never lived here.

So we want to know: What stories are not being told about the Bay Area? How do you think the place we call home is misunderstood?

Tell us: What does the Bay mean to you?

You could share:

  • Your favorite place in the Bay and what it means to you.
  • An aspect of living here that makes it worth it for you.
  • How you define your feelings for this place (even if they’re complex).
  • What you think the rest of the country should know about this place — that they haven’t already heard before.

You could see your answer featured on KQED.org, KQED’s social media or on KQED Public Radio. We’ll only use your email address to get back in touch with you if we have follow-up questions about what you tell us, or to sign you up for our News Daily email if you check that box below.

Why we’re asking

The “doom loop” narrative

San Francisco, along with the rest of the Bay Area, has received significant coverage the past few years from national news outlets. And the focus is usually on crime, substance abuse and homelessness in the region.

On Fox News, conservative commentators bash San Francisco as a “hellhole” on the regular. And even Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — an aspiring Republican presidential candidate — came to the city to film a campaign ad, pointing to one littered street corner in the Tenderloin as proof that “the city … really collapsed.”

Even here at home, some folks have developed a pessimistic view of the Bay. Last month, a San Francisco city commissioner organized a “doom loop” tour that would show attendees the “squalor” of the city’s downtown. The event quickly attracted controversy, and less than 24 hours before it was due to take place, the tour was cancelled. The commissioner later resigned. For many residents, this was a sign that even some city leaders have adopted the narrative that San Francisco, and the Bay Area more generally, are on some sort of downward social and economic spiral — the infamous, much-discussed “doom loop.”

And yes, there are tough realities we cannot gloss over. Cities across the Bay Area have seen a spike in certain types of crime since 2020, including retail theft and car break-ins, popularly known as “bipping.”

Building affordable housing in the region — necessary to house working- and middle-class families — is still something that eludes political leaders, and many Bay Area cities are struggling to meet the state’s housing goals. And the continuation of the fentanyl epidemic is straining the capacity of public health officials to respond to the needs of those struggling with substance abuse.

But it would be inaccurate to say that these very real problems are the only things that define the Bay Area.


Resilience in community

As COVID-19 cases were quickly spiking in March 2020, the Bay Area set an example for the rest of the country by being the first metropolitan area to order residents to stay home. Across the region, neighbors quickly came together to organize mutual aid efforts to safely distribute groceries to the elderly and immunocompromised residents. In San Francisco, Oakland and San José, public health officials partnered up with community organizers to design testing and vaccination programs that would effectively serve the Bay Area’s diverse communities.

When the ownership of the Oakland A’s announced in April that the team would be moving to Las Vegas, fans processed the loss by quickly mobilizing a campaign to push the team owners to sell the team so it stays in Oakland. When the A’s played the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 25, the stadium erupted in “Sell the Team” chants taken up by both A’s and Giants fans alike. And just last week, Oakland’s USL Championship soccer club, the Oakland Roots, announced that they raised $1 million in six hours through a community investment campaign that invites residents and fans to invest in the team.

Love for the Bay Area may be a hard-fought love.

And it’s one that’s complicated to explain to folks that have never lived here. That’s why we want to better understand the relationship you, as a Bay Area resident, have with your home — that mix of joy, frustration, affection and all. Tell us: What does the Bay mean to you?

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