The streets of San Francisco

In the 1970s there were a lot of police shows, each of which had a distinctive feature or two. Some of the shows that come to mind include:

  • Columbo: raincoat, “Just one more thing”
  • Kojak: lollipop
  • McCloud: cowboy in the city
  • CHiPs: highway patrol
  • Starsky and Hutch: car
  • Banacek: clever crimes
  • Hawaii Five-O: exotic location, “Book ’em Danno!”
  • Cannon: private detective
  • Police Woman: a lead woman!
  • Ironside: wheelchair, which was advanced for its time

I was reminded of these because there was another show with Michael Douglas (young detective) and Karl Malden (veteran) called The Streets of San Francisco. Little did I know when I was watching that show that one day I’d be walking around the streets of San Francisco myself.

San Francisco is very hilly. There are over forty hills. I imagined a time, pre-urbanisation, when there were rocky and rolling green hills. The landscape has been totally transformed. However, there are still places where you can see the rocky hills, such as Corona Heights Park and Buena Vista Park, which are two small rocky mountains, sanitised for the town dweller so that you can walk to the top. I liked walking on the hills or, for convenience, hopping on a bus, tram or trolley (old-fashioned bus).

There are fine coastal walks you can do. One walk I did, about 30km, started at Lands End, followed the coast and, after the Golden Gate Bridge, went along the Presidio Promenade. The Presidio has been transformed from a military base into a luscious green area – and now populated by the affluent. After leaving the Promenade, I went to the area around Lyon Street known as “Billionaire’s Row”.

Homelessness exists in San Francisco. I was staying downtown close to Tenderloin, where people who are homeless, addicted to drugs and mentally ill congregate. It’s initially quite shocking to see it because San Francisco is so wealthy. There are now more billionaires per capita there than anywhere else in the world.

House prices are so high that only those who’ve lived there for years or those earning a good salary (probably in Silicon Valley) can afford to live in San Francisco. Down payments for buying a house are around $300,000. Not many people have that sort of money lying about.

Many homeless people have large trolleys, wheeling their worldly possessions around. You imagine that when they first became homeless, perhaps they lost their job and couldn’t find another one quickly enough, they fully expected to return to their previous life. Instead, for some, their trolleys become smaller and smaller until they have no possessions.

I spoke to a few homeless people. One of them, ex-military, said there was little government or even state help but I’ve heard otherwise too. It’s possible the help available varies from one place to another. I did see vans providing food, with toilets and possibly showers.

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