San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo by Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz via Wikimedia Commons

Last month, my husband and I visited a city brimming with history, character, and charm.

We strolled through a montage of neighborhoods, taking in the sights of a thriving urban landscape defined by colorful Victorian homes, manicured public parks, and bustling shops and restaurants.

Sidewalks were smooth and litter-free. Trash cans emptied. Public restrooms were clean and operational.

Electric buses skimmed along well-maintained city streets. Pedestrians, dog-walkers and parents, pushing baby strollers, navigated sidewalks as bicyclists and skateboarders whizzed by.

Tree-lined neighborhood streets offered shade and relief from the unseasonably warm autumn weather. Colorful flowers peeked out through stretches of curbside landscaping, pockets of an urban oasis cultivated by a public-private urban forestry partnership.

Our adventure was not completely idyllic; we encountered several unsheltered persons during our evening in the downtown theatre district—a tragic but familiar sight in most big cities. And, we noticed a stand of trash cans tipped over on a downtown street, as we made our way back to our rented flat.

But these aren’t the memories we relived during our flight home to San Diego.

Where is this city, you ask?

Molly Bowman-Styles

It’s San Francisco. A city governed by elected officials who believe preserving neighborhood character and quality of life requires effective, accountable regulatory oversight of disruptive private industry actors, such as vacation rentals, E-scooters and bikes, smoke shops, and marijuana outlets. A city whose leaders have come under unwarranted partisan attacks by President Trump.

A city I am delighted to have experienced.

No city is perfect. But San Francisco is striving. Its elected leaders have developed a road map for aging California cities:

Regulate the profit-driven industries that are fracturing neighborhoods and undermining public health and safety. Plow the revenue derived from common-sense regulations into much-needed investments in decaying civic infrastructure: repairing sidewalks, repaving streets, removing weeds from public by-ways and medians, planting trees, and beautifying urban landscapes.

San Diego has much to learn from our friends to the north. Our fine weather alone won’t ensure our city lives up to its motto as “America’s Finest City.”

It’s time to tune out partisan propaganda and tune in to what we can accomplish together.

Let’s open our eyes and roll up our sleeves. We have work to do.

A second-generation San Diegan, Molly Bowman-Styles is the President of Windansea Communications.

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