San Francisco is an odd place to celebrate the 4

th
of July. People come to San Francisco
to get as far away from America as you can without actually leaving. Not to celebrate our
independence. San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality, Paul Kantner,
Jefferson Airplane’s frontman once said.

But that reality – or the lack thereof – is changing. Every year, people gather to watch
fireworks light up San Francisco’s waterfront from Treasure Island, a man-made island
just east of the city. Every year, that crowd changes.

In the 1990s, when I was growing up, I craned my neck over towering figures of
Kantner’s generation to watch the pyrotechnic mayhem. Washed up beatnik poets and
Vietnam draft resistors like my dad gathered with San Franciscans from Mexico, China,
and El Salvador to watch the show.

Now, the crowd at Treasure Island is different. Kantner would not recognize the software
developers, engineers, and the crush of Google, Apple, and Facebook employees that
have become a fixture of San Francisco.

Much of that change is positive. San Francisco lies at the heart of a tech renaissance – it’s
where we’re 3D printing living organisms, pioneering private space flight and
engineering driverless cars.

But with every Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, and Medici that washes up on our shores,
something else is lost. Art galleries on Market Street are getting evicted by software
firms. Poor families priced out of the Mission, Tenderloin, and Sunset districts are saying
goodbye to the city they love. That gives our politics a nasty color: San Franciscans are
fighting over turf, from city bus stops where tech companies pick up workers to the bars,
where owners want to ban patrons wearing Google Glass.

Sure, much of that change is inevitable. Cities are evolving organisms, and if America’s
founding fathers taught us anything, it’s that if you want to make an omelette, you’ve got
to break some eggs.

Evolution hurts, but it won’t bring San Francisco any closer to reality. And even on
Independence Day, that’s something worth celebrating.