In June 2003 boyziggy and I moved to San Francisco from Berzerkeley to decrease our long commute time. I can now get to work in 25 minutes door-to-door with no transfers instead of more than twice that with a BART to bus transfer, and Ziggy no longer has to take $40 cab rides home from SF at 3 a.m. to avoid waiting for the once-hourly transbay bus when he has a night call. This is a Good Thing.
I'm missing Berkeley less and less, but when I do visit there, the pangs spring back fresh and sharp. San Francisco is just too urban and crowded for my tastes. And damnit, for the $1600/month we're paying for rent, I want more space!
I don't remember how many square feet our apartment is - 800? 750? The point is that there isn't enough room to have more than a couple of people over comfortably. Ziggy's studio area is in the corner of the living room, leaving room for a sofa, papasan, coffee table, and TV. My fucking huge L-shaped desk occupies one of the bedrooms, along with a TV and VCR which I never use and some stereo equipment which is equally useless as I now play everything straight through iTunes on my Mac. So yes, I suppose we could technically share an office and free up more living room space. But our work/play habits and need for privacy are very different, and I really don't think it would work out well.
And if friends do come over, there is nowhere for them to park. We have a garage, but it costs an additional $175/month. Since we don't have a car, we would be crazy to pay that. The public transportation is great for us for traveling within the city, but not all of our visitors are willing to use it. The cable car stops right next door to us but costs $3 each way, no transfers available, if you don't have a pass. BART is not close enough to walk to easily, at least not coming from downtown which is a straight uphill walk. Street parking in our area (Nob Hill/Chinatown border) is virtually impossible; poor obadiah spent well over an hour circling when he visited last weekend (though to be fair, that was the night of the Chinese New Year parade).
Is this selfish? Hell yes! (See first paragraph.) Millions of people sleep on dirt floors or worse. The fact that I can afford to pay $1600/month for rent, entirely by myself if need be, is amazingly lucky. But I still can't help feeling that I should get more for it.
As I walked down the stairs for the third time in two hours tonight to see if my neighbor was done using the one washer and dryer shared in our 9 unit building, I couldn't help remembering my best apartment, which I shared with my ex (who still lives there). It's a modern two-bedroom in El Cerrito, close to transportation and shopping. It has a dishwasher, washer and dryer in the unit, walk-in closets, central heating, fireplace, porch, and balcony. When we moved there in '96, it cost $925. When I moved out in 2000, the landlord raised the rent to $1100 I think. I don't know what it is now.
Yes, that's El Cerrito, not San Francisco, so I have no right to complain. They don't even have rent control. We have that, plus the country's first legal (?) gay marriage, plus way better restaurants and just about everything else. We rock.
Besides, other people make much better use of space than we do. purchasemonkey has had huge parties in his two-bedroom apartment in Berkeley for years. zyxwvut and Beth had great parties in their one-bedroom apartment in Albany long before the Zuckershack, and they had to share space with two bikes and three cats. I don't even like hosting huge parties; I freaked out just trying to figure out how much food to prepare for five people on six hours' notice. I just want to be able to have a half dozen people over to watch movies without someone having to sit on the floor, or to have a few friends over for dinner without worrying if there is enough room to squeeze past the dining room table to get to the kitchen.
Buying a place is pretty much out of the question; with our savings and income, any place we could afford would likely be even smaller. In order to afford a median-priced home in the Bay Area, we'd need a household income of $124,000. That's with a 5% down payment, which on a median-value whopping $560,240 fucking house would be about $28,000. I could actually afford that down payment, but we wouldn't qualify to pay the mortgage, and besides for that price in San Francisco we'd likely get a place even smaller than this, or in a much worse neighborhood, and I don't feel comfortable being 95% in debt for a small condo with additional association fees to pay. Of course, if I could afford a 20% down payment, which I can't anytime soon, we'd "only" have to have a household income of $104,000, which we still don't meet. And if interest rates go up, then, well, forget it.
So why stay if I'm so unhappy? Well, I'm really not; this is just a rant, after all, poor poor me and all that. I love my job; I have the World's Best Boss, and I'm well aware of how fortunate I am to be able to honestly say that in today's economy. Ziggy loves being able to get to union calls and the Mime Troupe without having to cross the Bay every time. We just need to take the time to figure out how to arrange our space better. I'm tired of living like a dorm resident anyway; after the wedding is paid for, I think we should buckle down and budget for real, matching furniture. Room decorations have always been just about my lowest priority, but I do appreciate good decor in other people's homes. If we're going to stay in this place indefinitely, we may as well make the most out of it.