I asked 21 people for the worst thing about living in the Bay Area - here's what they said

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  • Traffic is the top headache for the 21 Bay Area residents I spoke to.
  • Many people also expressed dismay about the homeless. They were concerned and sad that more couldn't be 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, the answers they gave were very personal.

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.


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It’s the traffic

It’s the traffic

When asked to name the worst of the Bay Area, the most common response was a single word, spat out in frustration: “Traffic!” That’s no surprise. CBS reported earlier this year that the Bay Area has the fifth worst traffic 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 said “there’s no comparison” to the traffic snarls of her hometown of Los Angeles.

Edi Pfeiffer got to the root of the problem: “I love all the people, but then there’s the traffic.” She has 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. “I give myself an extra half hour to get anywhere, and I need it.”

Sue Getreuer took a historical perspective. “Before the [Loma Prieta] earthquake, there were times of day when you knew it would be OK” to hop on the Bay Area freeways, she said. She blamed the current gridlock on the loss of highway exits that resulted when portions of the freeway collapsed in the 1989 quake and were never replaced.

The homelessness crisis close to home

The homelessness crisis close to home

Judy Timmel, who has lived in the Bay Area for 34 years, said, “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.

While she doesn’t have much beef with the Bay Area, Shagufa Qureshi said, “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 that dot Bay Area neighborhoods.

Gentrification, cost of living, and all the rest

Gentrification, cost of living, and all the rest

Mannie (last name withheld) wondered, “Is this going to be a place people live for a couple years in their 20s?” He said he hopes 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,” said Onynx Johnson. “There’s no common courtesy.” The changing culture means that Berkeley, “doesn’t feel like my home, even though I live here,” he said.

Israel Zion, a recent transplant from Miami, is blown away by the cost of living. “Everything is more expensive,” he said. “Gas is $2 more a gallon.”

Sean Weinstock doesn’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.

“It’s so relaxed it feels stagnant.” That’s Mahal Bryant’s assessment of the Bay Area, 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. His friends, Israel Zion and Onynx Johnson, agreed.

“It isn’t easy to get around in a city that otherwise has great infrastructure,” said Jacqueline Ho. She said she tries to use San Francisco’s public transit, but is often frustrated by delays, overcrowding, and too few trains. Linda (she didn’t want to give her last name) said she generally likes local transit, but sees room for improvement in the East Bay’s AC Transit bus system, where she said the schedule is just a suggestion.

The current 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 best list and his worst. He said he loves the cool ocean air in Berkeley, but, “There’s times when you want it to be sunny and warmer.” Mina Harris has lived here all her life, so it was hard for her to think of anything she doesn’t like about the Bay Area.

RM (who didn’t want to give her name) only regrets 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.

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