Before moving back to San Francisco, I read a few articles to prepare me for a few changes I should be wary of after living away from the west coast for seven years. At the time, home was New York City, another urban landscape that is a bubble of overwhelming activity and a beacon for people trying their luck in a renowned metropolis with a faster gait and short fuses. Friends and family were surprised I would leave a city of over 8.4 million people for one of 837,000 (and growing, though not as quickly as you think), and argued that I would be disappointed to find the scale of diversions significantly diminished. I do not deny that New York outnumbers its smaller counterpart by tenfold, but I did not come back with the expectation that the City by the Bay would pit itself as a rival.
But in the year since being back, I’ve learned that significant attention concerning the Bay Area has spawned comparisons ranging from food to housing situations, almost short of saying, “Who Wore It Better?” which would generate a fair amount of search results on Google. Sometimes I get questions that try to establish my loyalties, especially after revealing particular mannerisms (jay-walking, folding a pizza slice in half), when in reality some major differences between the cities factor little in determining who has the upper hand, if at all. But where New York City maintains an individualism separate from its waterways, San Francisco is only part of a larger question in relation to the Bay, which has been a point of collaboration and action between its communities.
If there is common ground they share that is rarely pointed out, it would be that both offer accessibility for pedestrians. However, the Bay Area boasts more immediate open spaces and access to public land, which would be a luxury and a trek for New York residents without a car or patience. As an urban denizen my entire life, I find no better way to rediscover home than through its parks and trails less than a couple hours and a bridge away. Their close proximity is both a benefit and testament to the close relationship with our Bay, how its counties are reliant on its health and access to maintain an identity of inclusion among its residents, now felt more strongly in light of the current drought.
What I hope to learn more at Save the Bay is not only the urgency of maintaining and restoring its natural habitats, but also to take stock of what our goals as a community are in preserving a region that now is sharing the spotlight with one of the largest cities in the world. There may be consequences in attempting to match its inimitability, but the Bay has always held its unique personality, and I hope to continue advocating its merits.