San Francisco has undergone dramatic changes since the poets and writers of the Beat Generation settled in the Bay Area as artists back in the 1950s. By today's standards, the talented generation that left an important cultural legacy in the Golden Gate City would face homelessness, struggling with substance abuse, poverty, and lacking a space of their own for writing.
According to a National Low Income Housing Coalition report, San Francisco residents renting a one bedroom apartment need a six-figure salary( $116,920) to afford it.
Is it any wonder that many creative people are leaving or have left San Francisco for good?
As the city grows more expensive, artists and those who add cultural richness to a place are pretty much forced out. This at the cost of diversity. Life in San Francisco is for those who make a lot of money to afford the living costs. However, what made San Francisco a world-renowned city is not its current status as a hub for tech millionaires, but the city's culture and progressive mentality. Culture is intrinsic to the soul of the the city.
San Francisco has been a hotbed of counterculture movements, such as the Beat Generation, the hippie movement, and the LGBTQ+ rights movement, all of which have had a profound impact on the culture and society of the whole country.
The city's progressive mentality has also been a defining characteristic of San Francisco. It has a history of being at the forefront of social and political change, from the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s to its current stance as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants. This mindset has helped make San Francisco a beacon of hope and inspiration for those who seek to challenge the status quo and fight for social justice.
Let's consider the "Beat Generation" authors as an example; they shaped American culture in the post-World War II era, and their influence continues to resonate in the city they once called home.
They were a group of friends who eventually created an anti-conformist movement. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Herbert Huncke, and William S. Burroughs met at Columbia University in New York City and eventually moved to San Francisco where new members Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (one of the founders City Lights Bookstore), Philip Whalen, Lew Welch, and Michael McClure, joined them.
The most famous literary works by the Beat generation include Howl (1956) by Allen Ginsberg, Naked Lunch (1959) by William S. Burroughs’s, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) . Howl and Naked Lunch became the focus of obscenity trials which eventually "helped liberalize what could legally be published", says Kirsty Bisset and David S Wills in Beatdoom.
City Lights Bookstore is now a San Francisco literary landmark, it was the first bookstore in the country to sell only paperback books, and it has important counterculture works from the 1950s and 1960s. The writers and poets of our generation can still meet and held events at City Lights.
That was then, a time when writers and poets could afford living in the Bay Area. Currently many with artistic skills have been priced out of their homes, which will only help create a homogenised culture of people on big salaries. The cost of living in the city is one of the highest in the United States, and the skyrocketing real estate prices have made it challenging for many people, and particularly so artists, to find affordable housing.
Artists are often part of the creative communities that give San Francisco its cultural vibrancy and have played a significant role in shaping the city's identity. The Golden Gate artistic charm is definitely not what it was all those generations ago. Cities like San Francisco cannot be just playgrounds for the rich, the city needs affordable housing and affordable rents or the charm will be forever gone from the Bay Area.