- Traffic was the top headache for the 21 Bay Area residents I spoke to.
- Many also expressed dismay about homeless people, saying they were concerned and sad that more wasn’t being done to provide housing.
- Some people had a hard time coming up with even one thing they didn’t like about the Bay Area. When pressed, they gave very personal answers.
The most surprising result from my informal and very unscientific survey about living in the Bay Area was that the cost of housing wasn’t on everybody’s grudge list.
That may reflect the fact that all the people I spoke with are housed, so that crisis, while concerning, isn’t on their doorstep.
Among their top concerns with the area were issues of homelessness and traffic, the latter being their primary headache.
Here are the worst things about living in the Bay Area, according to the 21 residents I asked.
It’s the traffic.
When asked to name the worst of the Bay Area, many people responded with a single word, spat out in frustration: “Traffic!”
That’s no surprise. A local CBS affiliate reported earlier this year on a study that found that the Bay Area had the fifth-worst traffic congestion in the world.
Too many cars, congestion, and traffic top the list for Kimi Hosoume, who has lived in Berkeley since 1974. Evelyn Herrera doesn’t like the Bay Area traffic either, but she said there was “no comparison” to the traffic snarls of her hometown, Los Angeles.
Edi Pfeiffer got to the root of the problem: “I love all the people, but then there’s the traffic.” She said she had to leave the house ever earlier on the weekends just to get a parking spot near her favorite hiking trails.
“Too many rats in a box” is the way Peter Tjeerdsma described the traffic, adding: “I give myself an extra half hour to get anywhere, and I need it.”
Sue Getreuer took a historical perspective. She said that before the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, “there were times of day when you knew it would be OK” to hop on the Bay Area freeways. She blamed the current gridlock on the loss of highway exits that resulted when portions of the freeways collapsed in the quake and were never replaced.
The homelessness crisis is close to home.
- Beck Diefenbach/Reuters
Judy Timmel, who has lived in the Bay Area for 34 years, said that “the worst thing is the housing crisis and homelessness.”
Barry Harris said it “seems like the worst of the 1930s.” He sees it as a graphic example of income disparity “when we have armies of homeless people” next to people making loads of money.
Shagufa Qureshi said that while she said she didn’t have much beef with the Bay Area, “I think this country should do something for the homeless people.”
Fran Ternus grew up in California and has lived in the Bay Area for 50 years. “It’s heartbreaking,” she said of the shantytowns that dot Bay Area neighborhoods.
Then there’s gentrification, cost of living, and all the rest.
- Ronnie Chua/Shutterstock
Mannie (who didn’t want to give his last name) wondered, “Is this going to be a place people live for a couple years in their 20s?” He said he hoped not, but he’s worried that there is too much focus on the needs of “some of the next generation of people who don’t have a feel for the history of the place.”
“All the new people that have come to the Bay Area make me a little mad,” Onynx Johnson said. “There’s no common courtesy.” He added that the changing culture meant that Berkeley “doesn’t feel like my home, even though I live here.”
Israel Zion, a recent transplant from Miami, said he was blown away by the cost of living. “Everything is more expensive,” he said. “Gas is $2 more a gallon.”
Sean Weinstock didn’t mince words about the cost of living in the Bay Area. “It’s f—ing expensive,” he said. “It’s expensive to rent a place. It’s expensive to buy a place. It’s expensive to buy a car.” Among his list of things that cost more here: food, gas, public transit, bridge tolls, and parking tickets.
Mahal Bryant’s assessment of the Bay Area was that “it’s so relaxed it feels stagnant,” where things close up early and there aren’t enough events for young people. “You have to have friends if you live here,” he said, or you won’t have anywhere to hang out. Zion and Johnson, his friends, agreed.
“It isn’t easy to get around in a city that otherwise has great infrastructure,” Jacqueline Ho said. She said she tries to use San Francisco’s public transit but is often frustrated by delays, overcrowding, and too few trains.
Linda (who didn’t want to give her last name) said she generally liked local transit but saw room for improvement in the East Bay’s AC Transit bus system, whose schedule, she said, is just a suggestion.
The building boom has led to constant construction noise pollution that bothers Hilary Goldman. “Sense of serenity – I don’t think it exists anymore,” she said.
Sachiko Nemoto’s Bay Area nightmare is the dirty streets. “I watch where I’m stepping,” she said, just to avoid the human effluvia.
Richard (who didn’t want to give his last name) put the weather on his list of the best things about the Bay Area and on his list of the worst things. He said he loved the cool ocean air in Berkeley but that there are “times when you want it to be sunny and warmer.”
Mina Harris has lived here all her life, so she said it was hard for her to think of anything she didn’t like about the Bay Area.
RM (who didn’t want to give her full name) said she regretted only one thing: that her adopted home of San Francisco is so far from her family on the East Coast. Nothing to be done about that.