Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

San Francisco Values

The people behind proposition 8 put out a new ad last week for some reason. In addition to the usual manipulations and outright lies they’ve employed throughout their campaign, ably deconstructed by, this ad was bookended by the phrase “San Francisco values” replete with scary music.

I’ve lived in San Francisco for 15 years, which is 15 years more than anyone connected to this ad. San Francisco changed my life. I found a career here. I was married here. I bought property here. I’m never, ever leaving. So I think I can speak to what San Francisco Values really are. Here are a few of them.

  • We value bravery. In the great westward expansion of early America, the people who made it to San Francisco were the ones who didn’t give up along the way. We only stopped here because we ran out of land.
  • We value liberty. Most San Franciscans weren’t born here. We came here because we couldn’t be who we were at home. We’ve come from all over America and beyond to be our true selves.
  • We value tolerance. If you value your own liberty, you have to allow everyone else the same privilege. More, you have to celebrate the diversity.
  • We value opportunity. San Francisco’s first boom was when gold was discovered. Its next was the web. We find new opportunities and embrace them with gusto. That’s why most of the sites you visit every day started within 100 miles of here.
  • We value reinvention. In 1906, when the city shook and then burned to the ground, we rebuilt, better and stronger. That’s why the phoenix is on our flag.
  • We value perseverance. San Francisco can be a hard place to live. It’s expensive as hell, foggy and cold in the summer, and the earth occasionally tries to swallow us. We’re here because we want to be.
  • We value love. The summer of love happened here. The Castro happened here. The first of many equal marriages happened here.
  • We value a good cup of coffee. Ritual Roasters. Four Barrel. Blue Bottle. I’d sleep more if I lived someplace else, but I’d live less.
  • We value community. I lived near LA for years and never knew my neighbors’ names. But I’ve always known my neighbors here. Once, a friend was walking our dogs, and a dozen people stopped her to ask where Derek and Heather were.
  • We value idealism. Yeah, our politicians make news. Sometimes it’s because they’re ahead of their time, sometimes it’s because they’re just odd. But to a fault, we believe in things, and that’s good. Idealists founded this country, remember?

San Francisco is far from perfect. We have a homelessness problem that is shameful. The city government has historically been full of graft, cronyism, and weirdness. San Francisco was home to both Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, and Dan White, who shot Milk dead after only 11 months on the job and then blamed it on Twinkies.

But I’m sad when San Francisco becomes political code for dangerous America-hating baddies. I believe San Franciscans embody the best American values: bravery, liberty, tolerance, and opportunity. I look around San Francisco and I see people who risked everything to move to a place where they could be free. People who decided, out a mix of idealism and insanity, that they could make a more perfect union that values life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

San Francisco values and American values are one and the same.

β€œIt takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.” – Harvey Milk, 1973

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.