Nathan Heller's "Private Dreams and Public Ideals in San Francisco" in the current New Yorker matches family history to the city's decline as a center of diversity and free expression.
Heller, who grew up in the beautiful city by the bay, looks at the lives of his grandparents, free-thinking progressives on one side and Reaganite Filipino immigrants on the other and how they intersected with the city's turn from liberal ideals to corporate uniformity.
Avoiding academic-technical speak, Heller with elliptical lyricism traces the city's shift to tribal exclusivity. Along with the stories of his grandparents and his interactions with them as a child, Heller focuses on changes at the Embarcadero Center's Ferry Building as a microcosm of the city. He sees the Ferry Building's expensive artisanal products as reflecting a monoculture of wealth and power, excluding the middle class.
Others have decried San Francisco's shift to high-rise office buildings, a Silicon Valley tech economy, Uber and Airbnb culture and unaffordable housing for all but the rich. Heller like a modern day Dante reveals the personal toll.