Our Asian-American nephew is departing for Yokohama after living his entire life in the U.S. His wife, a Japanese national, and their two children have already moved. He is prepping their San Jose house for sale and wrapping up projects for work.
For his birthday dinner we took him to Gyu-Kaku
, a Japanese barbecue restaurant in San Mateo. It was a bittersweet celebration, and there was laughter and a few tears while the beer flowed and a variety of meats were grilled.
The night ended happily with promises to stay in touch and even make a serious attempt to visit each other.
The next day he reported a real downer: the catalytic converter was stolen from his Prius after he returned home. The wait for a replacement is at least three months and the cost is at least $2,000, and the schedule for his remaining months in the Bay Area has been severely disrupted.
The silver lining is that the theft of his converter reinforces the rightness of his move. Japan is a better place to raise his kids (who are fluent in both Japanese and English) and safer for the whole family.
|Alison Gerken and Amanda|
Arguile (Chron photo)
In general the majority of people who do leave the Bay Area are happy they did so. A minority have second thoughts, and a few regret the decision so much that they move back. One couple returned to San Francisco, the experience was the opposite of their rose-colored memories, and they're leaving again
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Alison Gerken and her wife, Amanda Arguile, who rejoiced when they got jobs in the veterinary field, bringing them back to San Francisco from Florida and its miserable anti-LGBTQ politics last fall after a three-year break. They missed the freedom, the weather, the beauty, the quirky small businesses and the easy road trips to the redwoods, Napa, Tahoe and Yosemite. They missed their home.
Then reality struck in the form of a swiped catalytic converter, a theft that ended up revealing a surprising amount about their new, old city. The saga that followed the crime reminded them of what’s not working in San Francisco — and convinced them to leave for good...
She was reluctant to drive the car on the neighborhood’s steep hills and ran inside to call the police non-emergency number to report the theft and file a police report online. By the time she got back to her car, it had a street sweeping ticket — one she felt sure would be dismissed if she explained what happened. It wasn’t.
Gerken had the right to further contest the parking ticket at a hearing, but figured the outcome wouldn’t change and her time was more valuable than the $87 fine. So she paid it.
Meanwhile, she learned from the local Toyota dealership that, because so many Prius owners were seeking catalytic converter replacements, the waiting list was months long. [The Chronicle reporter] called San Francisco Toyota on Tuesday morning to ask how long it would take to get a catalytic converter for a 2013 Prius, and the parts department worker who answered the phone let out a long whistle. “Five or six months,” he said...
Finally, she gave up. A few weeks ago, she had Cash for Cars haul it away in exchange for $2,400, far less than its value before the theft...Gerken received six parking tickets and has paid four of them so far.
This is the reality of living in San Francisco:
“We couldn’t wait to leave Florida,” Gerken said. “But coming back, it was this abrupt holy s—. This is bad. We kind of forgot what it was like.”
San Francisco is just as expensive as ever, they said, but the streets are far less lively. Some of their favorite small businesses have closed and are boarded up with plywood. More of their middle-income friends have been priced out, and they have co-workers commuting from as far as Santa Rosa and Oakley.
The streets seem dirtier, they said, and open-air drug dealing seems more prevalent with cops just passing by. They see bodies sprawled on the street and wonder if they should stop to make sure the person is OK. Usually, Gerken said, she keeps walking, but feels awful about it.
Catalytic-converter theft is rampant, there's next to nothing done to stem the tide, and victims like Alison Gerken pile up fines until there's no alternative but to scrap their cars.
Every individual has his breaking point, and life in the Bay Area produces more than its share.