Coastal Commuter

The Coastal Commuter

I’m beginning to see San Francisco as a bedroom community. For someone like me who frequently works in Los Angeles, San Francisco has now become my refuge more than my day-in/day-out living situation. Compared to its SoCal sister city, San Francisco is much lovelier and quieter, and yes, more provincial — the perfect antidote to the helter-skelter work-driven Monday-through-Friday of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. Thus, I grind it out on the weekdays in Hollywood and Studio City, with an eye to weekending in the relative calm of the City by the Bay where the locals offer fine dining and genteel culture — and roll up the streets at 2 a.m. (barring the random warehouse party).

I’ve essentially been living like this for a number of years, although I do spend more extended stints at home on Russian Hill when I can. It just became the logical route to take after a point. I had been noticing that many of my San Francisco friends in the media and the entertainment field felt compelled to leave town and relocate to Los Angeles for the good of their careers. It was just expedience. And there’s not any of that city rivalry to get in the way. Most of us can and do love Los Angeles, while retaining our loyalty to San Francisco. And some seriously famous folks do the same, with getaway pieds-à-terre in North Beach, South Beach, SoMa, or Nob Hill — or larger spreads across the Golden Gate in Marin and Sonoma.

I have a friend who works in the retail business in Los Angeles. She’s sweet, funny, attractive, and stylish in her charmingly eccentric way. She’s also a veteran rock-‘n’-roll singer who got her start here, and had no recourse but to relocate to Los Angeles, long a music-business mecca. She’s not alone. Another friend is a terrific stand-up comedian who honed his craft at the Punchline, Cobb’s Comedy Club, the Other Café, and the Holy City Zoo. But he always dreamed of doing voices for cartoons. Moving to Los Angeles and auditioning for TV comedy roles, he began to get airtime, and eventually, he became one of the busiest voiceover actors in animation and is, in fact, the voice of one of the most famous cartoon characters in the world. His story is not so different from other folks I knew in the San Francisco comedy scene who went on to success as Emmy-winning writers, TV presenters, and radio and podcast hosts. The road would’ve been tougher if these people stayed in San Francisco — not that someone like comedian and political satirist Will Durst hasn’t made a good living for himself while retaining his Bay Area residence (albeit while touring the comedy club circuit and doing radio).

An actress acquaintance was reluctant to leave San Francisco a couple years ago, despite the promise of more employment if she were closer to Hollywood. Finally, she made the leap south, began auditioning and, after a short while, more parts came her way than ever before. She hasn’t regretted the move, although she comes north to get a dose of San Francisco whenever she can.

The entertainment business continues to wrestle with economic cutbacks and L.A. has been hit as hard as anywhere. But if you aspire to be an actor, musician, comedian, screenwriter, or take on any other comparable profession, Los Angeles is just a better bet than San Francisco (or most any other city in North America, including New York, which is a media capital, but much less of a production center than Los Angeles).

There are exceptions to this north-to-south flow. A pal who toiled in Los Angeles for years as a music placement supervisor for a major label (and raised a family on the west side) had her fill after some major company cutbacks. That was all she needed to get motivated to return to San Francisco if she could find a congenial gig. The relocation is still in progress, but she’s determined to get back full time to the town she calls home.

I get it. Even if I have no plans to give up on the Los Angeles merry-go-round, I can’t quit San Francisco, nor do I want to give up my resident status here. So it’s my bedroom community — the best place for me to lay my head and depressurize after hustling and scrambling in the business of show.

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Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture every week on KPFK/Pacifica Radio's "David Feldman Show," and on "Michael Snyder's Culture Blast," available online at YouTube and Digidev TV. You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster