It’s true that the national media, spurred in large part by culture-war opportunism, has unfairly painted San Francisco as a city in a death spiral. However, it’s also true that in certain quarters, gutted by the pandemic and vaporizing tech money and apathy, the most palpable vital sign is human misery. What that means for the city at large remains an unanswered question — but Elizabeth Weil’s Curbed piece, one of the few national stories written by an actual SF resident, tries to engage with it as well as one person can.

A note to my fellow San Franciscians: I’m sorry. I know. There’s always some story in the east-coast press about how our city is dying. San Franciscians hate—HATE—these pieces. You’re a stooge and a traitor for writing one. When I set out reporting, I wanted to write a debunking-the-doom piece myself. Yet to live in San Francisco right now, to watch its streets, is to realize that no one will catch you if you fall. In the first three months of 2023, 200 San Franciscans OD’ed, up 41 percent from last year.“It’s like a wasteland,” the guard said when I asked how San Francisco looked to him. “It’s like the only way to describe it. It’s like a video game — like made-up shit. Have you ever played Fallout?”

I shook my head.

“There’s this thing in the game called feral ghouls, and they’re like rotted. They’re like zombies.” There’s only so much pain a person can take before you disintegrate, grow paranoid, or turn numb. “I go home and play with my wife, and we’re like, ‘Ah, hahahaha, this is SF.’”