The sad thing is that the recent graduate of the Academy of Art University can no longer afford to stay in her adopted hometown. San Francisco was long a city that attracted artistic types like Diamond, but they now seemingly have no place at the table.
A 2015 survey conducted by the San Francisco Arts Commission evidenced the loss. There were 600 respondents, with over 70 percent of artists claiming they had been or were being displaced from their workplace or home … or both. Even for the other 30 percent, their futures were uncertain.
Raised in the Central Valley’s Turlock, Diamond is the granddaughter of immigrants who hailed from Mexico. Turlock’s wide-open spaces and plethora of rich agricultural fields juxtapose San Francisco’s 49 square miles packing in 865,000 folks, most lucky if they can grow a few plants on a balcony.
As a kid, Diamond dabbled in all sorts of artistic forms. Singing in the choir. Crafting with her mother. Then there were numerous school plays where she could showcase her talent.
On school field trips two hours away in San Francisco, Diamond got to see theater on a grand scale. This was the genesis of a love of visual arts, which translated to studying filmmaking at the Academy of Art University.
Diamond was enamored of the city once she arrived. “I really liked the weather — always nice and cool,” she explains. “It was so easy to get around. I loved being in a vibrant city.”
For the first two years of school, Diamond rented from the Academy of Art University itself, being paired off with roommates. Always industrious, Diamond became a resident assistant for the second half of her post-secondary education, which meant free rent and the opportunity to fly solo.
Ready to graduate with her Bachelor’s degree last May, Diamond started researching housing options. She had diligently squirreled away money during her senior year, knowing the San Francisco apartment-rental market was hard to crack, especially when you add in first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit.
Diamond’s search began, seemingly in vain. Emails weren’t answered; phone calls were rarely returned.
Most of what Diamond discovered were places for $1,400-1,500, usually with a couple of roommates. A few places were cheaper, but were often just a living room turned into a makeshift bedroom.
“The experience was overwhelming, especially when you have student loan debt in addition to a high monthly rent. I couldn’t make it work,” states Diamond.
The amazing thing is that Diamond wasn’t looking in San Francisco’s hip neighborhoods — the neighborhoods a 20-something artist longs to be, like the Mission, SoMa or North Beach. No, she was looking in the fog-laden Sunset District and even across the Bay in Oakland. Still no luck.
So Diamond has given two-week’s notice at her job and is packing her bags this weekend for the move back to her parents’ house in Turlock, where she’ll get a job and save additional funds. While the family will welcome their daughter with open arms, the independence San Francisco provided will be gone. Same for Diamond’s system of support, from professors who may have connections to jobs in San Francisco to beloved classmates to work with on art projects.
When asked about her long-term plans, Diamond is unclear.
“Maybe I’ll move to L.A. I could work at a film company. I would love to make short films and music videos. I could watch others in their craft and learn even more about film production firsthand.“
San Francisco’s loss would be L.A.’s gain.