San Francisco at 50

07/15/2011 02:43 pm ET | Updated Sep 14, 2011

Of course San Francisco isn't 50. Our city is either 235 years old, measured from the date of the first encampment by the Spanish in 1776 dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, or 164 years old, when the sleepy town at the tip of a peninsula known as Yerba Buena was officially renamed San Francisco. In any case, San Francisco as we know it really didn't come into existence until the pell-mell of the Gold Rush in 1849. Or, if you are a social relativist, 1967, when the Summer of Love painted its psychedelic consciousness on American culture.

So San Francisco isn't 50. But I am. Since moving here in the late 80s I've watched the City struggle with its identity, its future, and its past, sometimes all at the same time. I've worked with three mayors, worked for a future Speaker of the House, and had the privilege of being a member of the Board of Supervisors for five years. I practically have a grid of the City imprinted on my cerebellum. Now, as a U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner and owning my own consulting company, I have the entire flight schedule of United between SFO and Dulles memorized. But I can still circumnavigate from Russian to Potrero hills blindfolded. I now live in a neighborhood that was just an idea when I was sworn-in to the Board over 15 years ago.

We're a city that likes to refer itself as "the City," a pretension that I found somewhat amusing and offensive when I first came here. Now converted, I sagely advise my friends from out-of-town never to call us "Frisco" or even "San Fran" lest they be marked as rubes from Des Moine or worse, Hackensack.

San Francisco is a city of extreme contradictions. We are a city that has changed radically over the years but resists it just as stoutly whenever it can. We one of the most Internet-hip cities in America, but well-meaning groups have and continue to try to stop the deployment of wireless technology on a daily basis. We are a city of vast power and privilege, a stopover for the finance Hoovers called politicians who come by to vacuum up the endless dollars that seem to be available, yet we are a city where you are accosted by the homeless, the mentally ill, where drifters and those down-on-their-luck spontaneously appear despite or, or because of, our best efforts. Epic battles bordering on Thermopylae have been waged to keep our skyline small, yet new gleaming skyscrapers have sprung forth south of Market street in the past decade. We hate change, but we love change.

If you asked me what defines San Francisco, I couldn't. If you asked a thousand City residents they probably wouldn't agree. But I can tell you what we aren't -- we aren't boring, we aren't complacent, we aren't satisfied with the status quo, whatever the status or quo happens to be. But if pressed, I would say we are restless, inventive, we are sensualists of the mind, body, and stomach (given the preponderance of insanely great food here, the stomach receives its own designation), we are maddeningly maddening about anything and everything. We are San Franciscans. And at my half-century point, I wouldn't have it any other way.

So welcome to the San Francisco HuffPost page. I see it as a place not just for San Franciscans to gather and engage in their favorite bloodletting sport -- politics -- but a haven for Internet turistas to rest, to seek respite from their own civic squabbles or cultural wars and see how we, have perfected the Art of (civic) War. More on that in my next blog: why I want Ed Lee to remain as Mayor.