Is SF Kid-Friendly?

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A while ago, this article came out about how kids and families are fleeing the city. “Child Population Dwindles”. I’ve always been a fan of raising kids in the city because my own experience in suburbia was boring, with a capital B. City kids got access to so many things without having to drive, they had a huge well-stocked public library, lots of diverse people, and specialists in anything they happened to be interested in, at their doorstep. Suburban kids were “safe,” but protected in a cocoon of dullness and with no access to anything. With all of the weirdos in my middle class neighborhood, I didn’t think it was “safe” at all, either.

My comments on a weekend with kids, after the jump.

I had two kids this weekend, borrowed from my sister, and these are the things I noticed about living in the city with kids. I would love if it those who are raising kids here post their insights and comments!

  • It’s really dirty everywhere. I had to remind the kids not put their hamburger and fries on the In ‘N Out table, on the steps of the Hyatt, on the bus… the list goes on.
  • They walk a lot where they’re from, but here, I walk a lot more. When they waited for the bus for 30 minutes they quickly realized the merits of walking.
  • There are a lot of little dogs in this town, more than kids, it seems. Interesting for the kids, but kind of freakish to me.
  • Restaurants and cafes don’t have kids menus. Photo to the right are italian sodas, which I thought were a good selection and very exotic. I know some parents think kids should just have whatever the parents have. Exception: Warming Hut has a great kids’ menu.
  • Drivers are extremely courteous when you have your hands full of small people. I never knew that as a single person I was in such disregard until I crossed ten streets with kids, and cars stopped each time!
  • People are really friendly when you have kids with you. Strangers talk to me places, and help out with things liek where to get ketchup, and comment on good parenting. It’s an interesting community feeling.
  • This has happened when other kids came to stay too: it’s really noisy here at night. Maybe city kids get used to it, but going to bed around 7 or 8, kids have to endure about 6 more hours of adult play time outside, and it’s hard for them to get uninterrupted sleep.

9 Comments so far

  1. Dave (unregistered) on August 15th, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

    Nice post. I’m raising 2 kids in San Francisco and I love it.

    Admittedly it can be tough at times. But I feel like my kids are being exposed to a lot of new ideas, cultures and differences.

    We ride the Muni and walk a lot, just like you. Sure sometimes it’s a little dirty, but the kids learn to negotiate the little urban obstacles.

    One of the great benefits to living in the city is food. My daughter’s palate has really grown. And I think that only could’ve happened in a place with a variety of cuisnes available. She’ll eat just about anything and has developed a taste for scallops, sushi, thai food and more. It’s great.

    Good luck with raising the kids in Sf. I think it can be done successfully. You just have to let go of some of the suburban ideals that Americans in general seem to hold so dear.


  2. zack (unregistered) on August 15th, 2006 @ 1:54 pm

    Dogs can be threat to kids, because they tend to get near them. Otherwise SF is friendly with the little ones.


  3. Nancy (unregistered) on August 15th, 2006 @ 5:22 pm

    I know two families who are raising their children in SF, and as it so often is, their biggest concern is regarding school districts. The hurdles of property ownership being what they are, moving to your desired public school district is a challenge, and opting to stay in ‘hip’ ‘hoods raises the issue of private vs. public schooling.

    Both families want to stick it out in the city, but once the kids hit age 5, the final decision might end up the education/economics one.


  4. gse (unregistered) on August 15th, 2006 @ 8:50 pm

    We’re about to have our second and we live in SF. It’s a great place for very young kids: tons of playgrounds, lots of other parents with small kids (far, far more than we knew when we lived in suburban VA!), a decent number of cool and kid-friendly restaurants, etc etc.

    I have no idea what we’ll do when these guys get a little older. Just hearing about gang stuff freaks me out; the school thing may be a big issue; our house is freaking tiny.

    People get shot a quarter-mile from our neighborhood. Houses and cars get broken into regularly. And this is a “good neighborhood”.

    I like it here and I’d hate to move back to the burbs, but I understand why people do it.


  5. Bradley Allen (unregistered) on August 16th, 2006 @ 1:42 am

    I’m a single parent with two boys (entering Kindergarten and the 2nd grade). We love living here, and know other people with children as well. We are not alone. It’s just sometimes hard to notice us in the sea of mincing, wannabe hipsters.

    Hands down, I think the greatest obstacle to living in SF is not the public schools… but the public school board itself.

    In a ham-fisted and creepy attempt at social engineering, they gutted what I consider one the foundations of community – the neighborhood school. We want a stake in our own neighborhoods. Give us a chance to make things better. Of course, this being San Francisco, all anyone has to is whisper the word ‘racism’… and there goes the neighborhood.

    Yes. There goes the neighborhood. Instead of working together to solve the hard problems, it’s so much easier to simply say “F-U” to families while feeling sanctimonious in our ironic t-shirts. Ugh.


  6. Stephanie (unregistered) on August 16th, 2006 @ 9:55 am

    I grew up in San Francisco and I loved it. Admittedly I grew up there in the 1970s when you didn’t have to be a millionaire to have a decent standard of living.

    I’d LOVE to be able to raise my son in the city but things have changed so much that any single mother who doesn’t work at Pixar will have a tough row to hoe if she wants to provide decent (and safe) educational opportunities for her child as well as giving them access to all of the great advantages city life has to offer—and heaven forfend—spend any time with them at all.
    Sigh…if I’d only married Robin Williams…but I didn’t, so we have had to leave what was our family’s home for at six generations and move to the midwest where my son has not only a decent public school, but a house with more than one room…AND I can even spring for a Latin tutor for him…all without having to work 80 hours a week at a high pressure job (and it had better be one that pays well)
    It’s ALL about the money. Raising kids in this society is expensive enough if you want to give them advantages and chances. Throw ruinous rents into the equation and it’s a house of cards just waiting to be blown to smithereens.

    That said, the history of San Francisco IS the history of our family and I feel terrible that average working class families are being pushed to the edge…or over it.


  7. KWillets (unregistered) on August 16th, 2006 @ 4:56 pm

    The city is a great place for kids. Some people will always complain about schools, etc., but I’ve seldom seen any correlation with reality.

    People do treat you differently with the kids. The only downer is getting on muni with a stroller — no ramps or anything, and the drivers make you take the kid out and fold it up for “safety”.


  8. psb (unregistered) on August 16th, 2006 @ 6:54 pm

    re: children as a driver courtesy catalyst …
    i think drivers need to give you “space” because
    the kids are more unpredictable. you’re like an
    atom with an electron cloud instead of just a
    nucleus.

    i’m big on the cynical, hard-headed atomic
    explanations.

    ok tnx.


  9. Nancy (unregistered) on August 17th, 2006 @ 3:07 pm

    Back to the topic of whether SF is kid-friendly – in terms of activities and events – I’d say definately so. Between the Exploratorium, Academy of Sciences, Yerba Buena/Zeum, GGPark, numerous neighborhood parks equipt with gyms and courts, there are a lot of options to keep kids entertained. Even things you wouldn’t think of as being kid-oriented have suitable offerings: Mission Cliffs has kid events, and many of the hands-on arts spaces set time aside for kid programs.
    BART and some of MUNI are very accessible with kids in tow, and the cable car is a treat for slightly older kids. Add in the constant energy flow that several areas of SF sustain, and you’ve got a stimulating environment that exposes and entertains young minds.



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