San Francisco - Culture and Contemporary Life

Culture and Contemporary Life

Main article: Culture of San Francisco See also: San Francisco in popular culture

Although the Financial District, Union Square, and Fisherman's Wharf are well-known around the world, San Francisco is also characterized by its numerous culturally rich streetscapes featuring mixed-use neighborhoods anchored around central commercial corridors to which residents and visitors alike can walk. Because of these characteristics, San Francisco was rated "most walkable" city by the website Walkscore.com. Many neighborhoods feature a mix of businesses, restaurants and venues that cater to both the daily needs of local residents while also serving many visitors and tourists. Some neighborhoods are dotted with boutiques, cafes and nightlife such as Union Street in Cow Hollow, 24th Street in Noe Valley, Valencia Street in the Mission, and Irving Street in the Inner Sunset. This approach especially has influenced the continuing South of Market neighborhood redevelopment with businesses and neighborhood services rising alongside high-rise residences.

Since the 1990s, the demand for skilled information technology workers from local startups and nearby Silicon Valley has attracted white-collar workers from all over the world and created a high standard of living in San Francisco. Many neighborhoods that were once blue-collar, middle, and lower class have been gentrifying, as many of the city's traditional business and industrial districts have experienced a renaissance driven by the redevelopment of the Embarcadero, including the neighborhoods South Beach and Mission Bay. The city's property values and household income have risen to among the highest in the nation, creating a large and upscale restaurant, retail, and entertainment scene. According to a 2008 quality of life survey of global cities, San Francisco has the second highest quality of living of any U.S. city. However, due to the exceptionally high cost of living, many of the city's middle and lower-class families have been leaving the city for the outer suburbs of the Bay Area, or for California's Central Valley.

The international character that San Francisco has enjoyed since its founding is continued today by large numbers of immigrants from Asia and Latin America. With 39% of its residents born overseas, San Francisco has numerous neighborhoods filled with businesses and civic institutions catering to new arrivals. In particular, the arrival of many ethnic Chinese, which accelerated beginning in the 1970s, has complemented the long-established community historically based in Chinatown throughout the city and has transformed the annual Chinese New Year Parade into the largest event of its kind outside China.

With the arrival of the "beat" writers and artists of the 1950s and societal changes culminating in the Summer of Love in the Haight-Ashbury district during the 1960s, San Francisco became an center of liberal activism, with Democrats and Greens dominating city politics. San Francisco has not voted more than 20% for a Republican presidential or senatorial candidate since 1988. In 2007, the city expanded its Medicaid and other indigent medical programs into the "Healthy San Francisco" program, which subsidizes certain medical services for eligible residents.

San Francisco has long had an LGBT-friendly history. It was home to the first lesbian-rights organization in the United States, Daughters of Bilitis; the first openly gay person to run for public office in the U.S., José Sarria; the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the U.S., Harvey Milk; the first openly lesbian judge appointed in the U.S., Mary C. Morgan; and the first transgender police commissioner, Theresa Sparks. The city's large gay population has created and sustained a politically and culturally active community over many decades, developing a powerful presence in San Francisco's civic life. One of the most popular destinations for gay tourists internationally, the city hosts San Francisco Pride, one of the largest and oldest pride parades.

Public nudity is legal so long as the individual is not sexually aroused or engaged in lewd conduct.

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