We moved into our new office on 11th Street in May 2018 and although the “new car smell” may have faded, we are still enamored and eager to share it with visitors and clients. The studio has grown with the addition of Ryan Braunstein, Shiz Kobara, and Tyler Toy, a very talented triad who have infused the team with their energy and enthusiasm.
We asked the San Francisco team to share some thoughts on what that they find thought-provoking, inspiring and uniquely Bay Area. Hopefully, our musings will help you appreciate what makes San Francisco one of the best cities in the world and one of our favorite places to call home.
Small big city made of neighborhoods
As a native (born and raised) of San Francisco, I am continually amazed to see that even in the 21st century San Francisco is still defined by neighborhoods. I grew up from four to college age in the Richmond district. Made up then of a mix of Russian, Polish, Japanese, Chinese, Jewish, African-American, Filipino, and Italian, it is bordered by Golden Gate Park, Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. It was, and still is, a quiet middle-class area with theaters, shops, restaurants, hardware stores, boutiques, and the famous corner grocery stores.
Every neighborhood has its character and can be thought of as a colorful patchwork that makes up what is San Francisco. Here’s a few of the more colorful neighborhoods that add to the variety and energy of San Francisco:
North Beach – Also referred to Little Italy, it’s bordered by Broadway, Columbus and Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s the heart if San Francisco with bars, Italian restaurants, bars and the infamous Broadway Street. In its heyday, the bars and restaurants were open into the wee hours serving tourists and locals. Broadway was at its full glory with strip clubs, dance clubs, and amazing restaurants. Today the energy is a bit muted.
Chinatown – From San Francisco’s earliest days, Chinatown served as a haven for Chinese immigrants who helped build the railroads in the 1800s and came for job opportunities. As San Francisco grew, Chinatown provided an important environment to help newcomers get their start in this country. Today, it still thrives as a vibrant tourist section while still serving the local Chinese community as a place to remember their roots. This neighborhood of restaurants, souvenir shops, bars, lounges, and herb shops is the most densely populated area of Chinese ethnicity outside China
Mission – The Mission has always been a neighborhood that has held onto its strong Latin roots. Many people don’t realize that the Mission has the best weather in the city. It can be 40 degrees and foggy in the Richmond and Sunset districts and the Mission will feel like a nice summer day enjoying 72 degree weather every day. With its deep Latin roots, some of the tastiest restaurants and most fun bars can be found in the Mission. With its nice weather, there is much street action all day long and late into the night. Each street in the Mission has its own personality. You can find eclectic shops and restaurants on Mission and upscale restaurants one block west on Valencia, with residential houses one more block west on Guerrero.
Haight – Considered the epicenter of the beginning of the hippie movement, this quiet neighborhood was transformed into a haven for the counter culture that began rebelling against war, repression, and all things orderly or prescribed. The Summer of Love in 1968 erupted in the Haight-Ashbury as it was called. Here the Hell’s Angels made their headquarters just two doors down from where Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead practiced and hung out. This lifestyle spread to other cities, but not so much to other parts of San Francisco at that time as each neighborhood had its strong roots. Today, it’s a reminder of a colorful past and its eclectic variety of shops attract tourists and locals for unique counter-culture items.
Ever since I got my new puppy Bailey (she’s an adorable little beagle puppy), I’ve found myself noticing what seems to be an insane number of dogs in the city.
At first, I wasn’t sure if this was similar to that feeling when you realize how hungry you are and suddenly it seems like everything around you is revolving around food. Signs, ads, commercials, children stuffing their faces with ice cream, airplanes skywriting, “Don’t you wish you were eating right now?!” It seems that I meet a new dog every single time I take Bailey for her normal walk. If you’re like me, you may have heard people in San Francisco say, “There’s more dogs in SF than there are kids!” Of course, I never believed this seemingly outlandish statement. I mean, come on. There are lots of kids in the city. And the ones you don’t see are probably just cooped up in schools or incubators coming up with the Bay Area’s next big tech startup.
I never really thought about it much until I noticed that my puppy likes one thing more than other dogs (and food, which is likely more important to my pup than life itself). The one thing that really gets her little tail wagging is little kids. As soon as she sees a small child, or even a stroller, Bailey turns into an Iditarod sled dog and gets that kind of “I’m a mom lifting this semi-truck off my child to save them” adrenaline strength. My interest finally piqued, I decided to do a bit of research. This led me to learn that, you guessed it, there really are more dogs than kids! According to a quick internet search, in 2016 there was an estimated 115,000 children under the age of 18 and 135,000 dogs. Not even close! This really blew my mind, but at the same time, who doesn’t love all those little pooches? With that being said, get out there and pet some dogs!
Casey Barbarino, Mechanical Engineer
Something in the air?
Last year saw its share of good things and bad things in the San Francisco Bay area. One of the bad things were the incidences of fire that have ravaged both Northern and Southern California. We saw the air quality drop to dangerous levels here in San Francisco, a full 140 miles from the epicenter of the Camp Fire, which burned the whole city of Paradise, a community of over 30,000.
Many causes for the extreme nature of the fire have been debated, from climate change to forest management, however, the initial spark seems to have come from power lines in the area. Air quality is something we take for granted in San Francisco. Typically, the winds blow from the west over the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a clean, cool breeze that consistently renews the air revealing, at times, the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
The Camp Fire led to two weeks of poor air quality that is typical of the less-regulated economic engines of faraway places like Delhi, India and Shenzhen, China. One must appreciate the struggles of the populations in these areas. While we had to put up with it for two weeks, some people live their entire lives in air quality that is considered hazardous. In this case, it looks like industrialization may be the root cause of both air quality issues on opposite sides of the planet, yet from differing mechanisms. As we continue to develop the products that will shape our futures, we need to remain conscious of the fact that we are also shaping the futures of generations to come.
When people talk about the risks of self-driving cars, they are usually concerned about the possibility of getting hit by one. The complexity and unpredictable nature of the roads make the idea of writing algorithms to account for every possible scenario incredibly daunting. But I recently discovered a shortcoming of their algorithms when I ran into one myself…while running across the street. I had been crossing the street and paused slightly to allow a self-driving car to pass, a common sight in downtown SF these days. I looked back to check if there were any other cars coming, timing my trajectory perfectly to sneak behind the car is it drove by.
But unbeknownst to me, some sensor picked up my presence causing the car to jam on its brakes, causing me to smack right into the rear of the car. A bit rattled, but completely unharmed, I continued to cross the street as I processed what had just occurred. It was clear that not only are self-driving cars going to have to understand how humans operate, but we will have to build our intuitions around the limitations of how these cars are going to behave as well.
Wrap it up
If you live in East Bay, the Bay Bridge stands as a magnificent gateway to the city, but during rush hour it becomes a cattle gate restricting traffic to crawl – minutes turn to into hours and a 20-minute drive can easily turn into a two-hour ordeal. I have found many creative ways to commute into the city. I have driven my car, taken the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), hopped on the bus, and even occasionally rode in a stranger’s car at the Casual Car Pool Pick-up (where a dollar gets you over the bridge and into the city). The bus was my go-to, and I loved to catch the 6:04. Crossing over the water on the Bay Bridge and seeing the city emerge through the early morning light is a great reward for an early riser. For the last three years, I have been watching the skyline slowly transform with the addition of the SalesForce Tower. Dwarfing the Transamerica pyramid, at 61 floors /1,070 ft (326 m) high, it is a towering symbol of the power and wealth of tech. At night, the top is illuminated with streaming images of hurried pedestrians or crashing waves, evocative of the rhythms of the city.
My commute into the city was followed by a long walk (1.7 miles to be precise) through the heart of San Francisco. I passed through the Financial District, where bank branches have been replaced by apps and fintech is transforming the very notion of how we interact with our money. I watched the e-scooters come and go last year (most were shipped to the hinterlands of the Midwest), but bikes remain a constant. The sidewalks are clogged with pedestrians glued to the glowing screen in their hands, a flurry of metropolitan fireflies. I preferred to keep my phone in my pocket and drink in the city.
The startup storefronts come and go, but the weed shops have flourished. I passed by the Target at the Metreon and checked out the latest Open House upgrade (a VR shopping experience). Entering SOMA, I crossed 6th Street, the diciest part of my walk, where the elderly, addicted and homeless own the street. I witnessed a random act of kindness as a hipster helped an elderly woman cross the street, holding back the tide of Ubers and delivery vans until she was safely across. The streets are cleaner now, freshly washed. The new mayor, London Breed, has kept her promise. At 11th Street, I would dart across the street carefully to avoid the line of self-driving cars back from their early-morning drives, queued up to enter the nondescript garage across the street. I entered the office, hopeful that our mouse is not stirring and started the first of my many cups of coffee.
When you live and work in San Francisco, it is easy to forget about how incredibly inspiring the city is. You can easily overlook the diversity you encounter every day, the technology we take for granted, and the history that shaped the land and people. Indian settlement, Spanish Mission, Gold Rush boom town, Beat Generation mecca and dot.com epicenter, San Francisco has a long and storied past, but one thing is for certain, no matter if it’s shipping, banking, art or tech, this city will always be on the cutting edge. It is at a true melting pot and that wonderful stew is where innovation happens. I write this sitting in Cincinnati (watching the freezing rain on the windows) and wishing/hoping I can get back soon; my heart will always be in San Francisco.
Eva Lutz, former General Manager of our San Francisco office
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