San Francisco in a Few Words

San Francisco Cable Car

If I had only one hour to spend in San Francisco, I would walk from Washington Square up Telegraph Hill, stopping for a gelato and cappuccino, pass through narrow Varennes Street and up to the base of Coit Tower, admire the breezy view of the Bay and the white houses clinging precipitously to the edge of Russian Hill, then stroll down the rickety wooden Filbert Steps, pausing to watch the cats at Napier Lane, then end my hour in the sheltered sun by the Halprin fountain in Levi’s Plaza. 

If you were to describe San Francisco in one word, what would it be?

Heavenwithskyrocketingrents
Gene Mahoney, Editor/publisher/delivery boy for the San Francisco Herald.

eclectic.com
Michael Martin, Editor & Publisher, San Francisco Observer

Young
Dana Weissman, Senior Channel Producer, Womensforum.com

Self-contained
Rick Laubscher, Principal, Messagesmith Strategic Communications

Choices
Eric Scavetta, Intern Architect/Urban Designer

Beautiful
Robin F. Levitt, Architect

Charming
Don Operario, Ph.D., UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies

Amazing
Lion Barnett, Neighborhood Activist

Eclectic
Gavin Newsom, San Francisco City/County Supervisor

If someone told you they were moving to San Francisco, what advice would you give them?

Remember, you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Rick Laubscher

Bring a tent.
Michael Martin

Bring a lot of money.
Dana Weissman

Prepare yourselves for the cost of living.
Don Operario

Try not to take the city at face value. There are many intricate layers yet to be discovered, but it requires time and participation in the life of the city.
Eric Scavetta

Bring lots of sweaters and jackets.
Robin Levitt

Don’t! Stay away! You’ll have to work 50,000 hours a week to afford a studio apartment out here if you can even find one! Go back! Back, I say!
Gene Mahoney

Sell your car; buy a bicycle and Muni pass.
Gavin Newsom

If a tourist had one hour to spend in San Francisco, what one thing would you tell them to see?

Walk around the Castro, Inner Mission, and Dolores Park.
Dana Weissman

Go to the top of Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower.
Robin Levitt

Twin Peaks
Michael Martin

Coit Tower The Filbert Steps on Telegraph Hill. To get to the bottom, they’d likely go via the new Embarcadero, a beautiful waterfront promenade and roadway. Walking up the steps, they’d see the history of San Francisco in a succession of architecturally-distinctive housing ranging from ship captain’s cottages more than 125 years old to Art Deco apartments. They’d pass through an incredible urban garden hacked out of an unbuilt street right-of-way over a period of 40 years by the late Grace Marchant. They’d tread a rickety wooden staircase symbolizing the fragility of this city smack in a major seismic zone, and at the top they’d reach Coit Tower, a monument to the city’s firefighters built by Lillie Coit, one of the greatest eccentrics in a town renowned for them. And all along the way, fabulous view corridors of the Bay and its bridges. It’s a lot packed into a two-block climb.
Rick Laubscher

If I had only one hour to spend in San Francisco, I would walk from Washington Square up Telegraph Hill, stopping for a gelato and cappuccino, pass through narrow Varennes Street and up to the base of Coit Tower, admire the breezy view of the Bay and the white houses clinging precipitously to the edge of Russian Hill, then stroll down the rickety wooden Filbert Steps, pausing to watch the cats at Napier Lane, then end my hour in the sheltered sun by the Halprin fountain in Levi’s Plaza.
Eric Scavetta

Mission San Francisco de Assis.
Don Operario

View of San Francisco from the top of Twin Peaks.
Lion Barnett

See the Palace of Fine Arts and the newly restored Crissy Field.
Gavin Newsom

What’s the best thing about San Francisco?

The lack of pretension for such a cosmopolitan city.
Dana Weissman

Its diversity and tolerance, which keeps it on the cutting edge of society. This is the place to get the best look at the likelihoods of tomorrow.
Rick Laubscher

History of openness and opportunities for diverse cultural groups.
Don Operario

Its curves.
Michael Martin

The relationship of the City to the landscape.
Robin Levitt

The bustling yet comfortable activity in the streets, squares and parks.
Eric Scavetta

Social progressiveness.
Lion Barnett

It attracts the best and the brightest.
Gavin Newsom

What’s the worst thing about San Francisco?

Its self-indulgence.
Rick Laubscher

The rain.
Dana Weissman

The bone-chilling fog.
Eric Scavetta

People who talk during live jazz performances.
Michael Martin

Diminishing opportunities for people from lower socioeconomic strata to survive in the city.
Don Operario

The weather.
Robin Levitt

“Alternative” weekly publications.
Gene Mahoney

Crime and poverty.
Lion Barnett

Too many people want to live here, resulting in a housing shortage, greater cost of living, traffic, and long lines.
Gavin Newsom

If you had the opportunity to move, would you? And if so, where would you go?

Depends on how I feel at the time. Sometimes I think I never want to move, other times I’m ready to start packing my bags and head for the suburbs.
Don Operario

I’m a fourth-generation San Franciscan. I’m here to stay.
Rick Laubscher

I could move anytime but haven’t because I love San Francisco. But if I were to move to another U.S. City it would be either New York or Chicago. If I were to move to any City in the world it would either be Berlin or Havana.
Robin Levitt

I never feel like I CAN’T move. I mean, I’m not under house arrest or awaiting trial for anything. When I move, I’ll probably go back to my roots in New York.
Dana Weissman

Why would I move? If I did, it would be to a warmer climate, but not one where I would spend my days commuting in an air-conditioned car. Perhaps Marseille or Genoa?
Eric Scavetta

I was born and raised in New York (well, Long Island) and it’s just as expensive in the Big Apple as it is here, plus the weather’s not as nice and I don’t get to stand out and be the occassional center of attention because of my accent. Nope, been there, done that. Hmmmm… I lived in Los Angeles and gave up working as an intern on Seinfeld to move back to the Bay Area (and ended up working as a classified ad rep at the Palo Alto Weekly. Jeez, what the hell was I thinking?). No, something about LA rubs me the wrong way. Probably all the people who are even more self-absorbed than me (and that’s tough to do!) Florida? I’d get to see mom and dad, but… it’s not really a state, it’s more like the burial place for New Yorkers. Plus there’s a Bush running the place. Austin, Texas? I know a lot of native Californians who have moved there. It’s got a faster growing internet market than Silicon Valley. Let’s see, that’s 2 strikes. Oh, George W. Bush is governor. Strike 3! Prague? I’m half Czech. Na, I’ll stick right here in the good ol’ USA and hang out in cafes listening to Eurotrash talk about how they wish they were back in the old country (hey, guys, there’s flights leaving all the time. Hop on one). Okay, here’s where I would live if I hadn’t stupidly started a magazine in San Francisco that has no chance of making it: midtown Sacramento. The J Street area near I think 19th and 20th is actually rather cute. There’s Hamburger Mary’s, some cute boutiques, and The Beat (a really cool record shop). The rents are cheap, you’re just 90 minutes from San Francisco. It’s a little cheaper than Davis. Yeah, that’s it. Midtown Sacramento. I know Davis is nicer, and there’s cute co-eds all over the place, but that would probably make me feel old. To make a short story long… midtown Sacramento.
Gene Mahoney

If I had the opportunity to move, I would not take it. But, if I were tarred and feathered and driven out of town, I would live in Marin County, where I would still be close to everything that is great about San Francisco.
Gavin Newsom

About Eric Miller

Rick and I started this web magazine as The New Colonist back in 1999. I was in San Francisco, and he was in Los Angeles. We had a common interest in sustainability and city life. We're still at it. Today I am happy to have lived in both New York, San Francisco and Pittsburgh and to now reside in Dallas. Find more at ericmiller.me