Homesickness is a Permanent State of Being for San Francisco Natives

Homesickness is inevitable for many college students. Trips to one’s hometown can be a grounding experience filled with warmth and stability, a reminder of the streets and communities that participated in the shaping of who you are today.

But what happens to those who return to their hometowns only to discover that the streets and communities that helped craft their sense of identity have vanished? As a San Francisco native who has mournfully observed urban gentrification dismantle the culture of my city, homesickness has become a permanent state of being.

Visiting my family, I ride on the BART from UC Berkeley to San Francisco and begin to revisit memories of what my city used to be. The train doors slide shut and I close my eyes. My grandmother and I walk down 3rd Street in the BayView district and smell soul food as we see Black residents laugh, adults playing dominos and youth riding their bicycles and scooters. Samoans and Tongans walk through the streets in their bright cultural attire as they head to church, holding the hands of their youngest family members. Hopping onto a Muni Bus, my grandmother and I head to Mission Street’s Goodwill. Looking out the window, the streets are adorned by colorful murals crafted by people of color; murals that display pride for San Francisco’s ethnic diversity and take honor in Black and Latino heritage. The smell of Salvadorian pupusas made with chorizo and frijoles overcomes me, and the thought of the hardworking hands of my fellow Latinx people humbles me.

As the BART enters San Francisco and approaches Balboa Park, these memories quickly vanish: I am reminded that my city is no longer home. A city that once embraced its inclusivity of communities of color, working class people and immigrants has evicted such residents, trading them for luxurious condominiums, lavish restaurants, and Silicon Valley tech workers loaded with capital.

Constructing their own transportation systems and offices within San Francisco, an influx of workers from prominent tech companies have been a leading catalyst in soaring rent prices. With one bedroom apartments averaging at $3,800 (as reported in Wikipedia), historically poor and immigrant neighborhoods such as the BayView and Mission have undergone painful shifts. According to a report by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, Mission’s Latino population is expected to fall from 60% in 2000 to 31% in 2025 (as reported by KQED News). The current Latino population is 48%. A loss of Latino residents can be drawn back to rent drive caused by new tech residents whose annual incomes exceed $150,000 (KQED News).

Stepping out of Balboa Park station, I begin to walk through Ocean Avenue in the direction of my house. Whole Foods, trendy coffee shops, and grandeur apartment complexes surround me, a message that my city was put up for sale. Beeps Burger, a surviving locally-owned burger shop, brings a faint smile to my face. As a San Francisco native, I will never really return to my home. I will only ever visit home in my memories.