What’s the secret to a great city?

I wish I knew.

(A real-life city) is a malleable and teeming landscape, where ever-changing populations put our buildings and spaces to their own desired use. Some sights are familiar; others come and go. The thing they all share is the ground beneath our feet.

–John King, San Francisco Chronicle

Some say this the Golden Era of the Golden city of San Francisco. Other says the soul of the city is in danger of being lost forever.

Most of us who live here, know both to be true. What we don’t know is exactly how to pull from the best of these tremendous forces of change to unlock the secret of a truly great city that embraces all of its inhabitants.  In the abstract we know what a great city looks like. But in the real life sweat and swings of San Francisco, few of us are ready to admit, we have know idea.

We wish we knew.

The slow crawl to suburbia that defined the 20th century now has swerved and turned and headed straight back into the pulse of urban life. Our cities are dramatically changing, as is the expectation of what life can be like within them. Our commitment to city life has never been greater and for all the best reasons.

So we all moved back, but to what? That remains the central issue.

We know every city has a pulse. Each evolves in its own way. Decisions and investments will chart that course for better or worse. Building a sustainable, vibrant city for the vast swath of diverse people who call it home takes intentional effort. A city’s change doesn’t just “happen” though, for many of us, it may seem that way. We have a role to play. It’s an inspiring role, one with a passionate call to help define the place we call home.

We believe in the priority of home, of putting our expertise to work in shaping cities that work for all. We all have a responsibility to the ground beneath our feet.

  • To help those in need.
  • To be a source of care for those around us, by being polite, by paying attention to others, by doing what we can to spread the energy of joy.
  • To advocate for what we believe in and push for solutions.
  • To pay it forward.

Once upon a time, people identified strongly with a sense of place. They represented their hometowns and they lived in a manner cognizant of their impact on others. Today, such things are out of step with an epidemic of focus on self.

But for a truly great city to be the type of place we take pride in calling home, it takes more than self-interest. It takes a renovation of a long-lost priority of community.

Whether this is San Francisco’s Golden Age or the season of loss remains to be seen. The answer will likely be found in a basic approach of how we live with one another.

 

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