Berkeley, as I wrote about it, doesn’t exist anymore. Berkeley has become more ordinary, more like other cities. For instance, Jill Smith living in a converted porch was a sign of the times. You could live in a converted porch knowing that you had options. You could always move. Money was looser than. I could work half time and pay the bills with a part time salary which gave me time to write. That wouldn’t be possible, today.

Susan Dunlap

A city’s culture is made up of its historical landscape, current socio-economic trends, and the people who live there. Berkeley in the 1980’s was a liberal post in a time of conservative politics (Reagan years). It was also a time of change in Berkeley. Yuppies were moving in. The 60’s mantra of love and peace was changing to one of conspicuous consumption nationwide, as reflected in the popular tv shows of that time: Dynasty, Dallas, PI Magnum. Big hair, bright bling and brighter makeup was in. Chain stores were replacing small stores. California cuisine became a popular and pricier trend. But, Berkeley still had its free thinkers, it’s students, its artists, and its university.

When I asked Susan about students then versus students now she pointed out that they were more serious. Because of the high cost of housing, they couldn’t afford the freedom to pursue art. “The focus in Berkeley has shifted from arty to more tech oriented. Students are more serious.”

Berkeley has changed. As Susan pointed out, the rise in technology has pushed up housing costs from San Francisco to its surrounding areas. Real estate speculation has also risen sharply, and gentrification is pushing out average wage earners from the housing market in the north bay as well as the east bay.

I asked if Berkeley still had vestiges of the personality it was known for and her answer gave me hope:

People still come to Berkeley drawn by its reputation. There is a sense of individual freedom, left over from its arty sensibilities, it’s history of demonstrations, and partly from being a college town. In the summer there is an influx of students from other countries and its good to hear all the different languages in the street.

Susan Dunlap

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