Heading East: Artists in flux - Page 2

One art collective joins a wave of San Franciscans who are moving to the East Bay

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Part of the Flux Foundation crew in its American Steel workspace.
PHOT BY CATIE MAGEE

Hobbs' roommate, Rebecca Frisch, lost her apartment in Hayes Valley last year and decided to seek some specific things that she felt her soul seeking. "I wanted more light and space and a garden. I had a long wish list and nearly all of it came true," she said. "I cast my net as far north as Petaluma and even Sebastapol. It's really about a home and setting that felt good and suited my wish list."

The space they found was spacious and airy, almost suburban but in a neighborhood that is lively and being steadily populated with other groups of their friends who have also been moving from San Francisco, gathered into three nearby homes.

"It was a great space with this huge yard. It's got sun all day long, fruit trees everywhere, and we now have an art fireplace. You don't find that in San Francisco," Hobbs said.

As much as Hobbs and Frisch have been pleased with East Bay living, they each felt finally pressured to leave San Francisco, which makes them wonder what the future holds for the city.

"It's made me sad because it's apparent there's no room for quirky, creative individuals. It's only for the super rich," Frisch said. "I feel horrible for families and people with fewer options that I have. I wondered if I would mourn the city I loved, and it's been just the opposite. I really love it here."

There have been a few challenges and tradeoffs to living in the East Bay, Hobbs said, including a lack of late-night food offerings and after hours clubs. "With anything, there will be a balance between positives and convenience," she said.

Not everyone from Flux is flowing east — that balance tips in different ways for different people at different times. Monica Barney recently moved to San Francisco from Oakland and she's enjoying the more dense urban living.

"I got sick of living in the East Bay," she said. "I didn't like that you have to drive everywhere. It changes the tone of the neighborhood when you can get around without a car."

Yet for most of the couple hundred artsy people in the Flux Foundation's orbit, the East Bay is drawing more and more people. Jonny Poynton moved to West Oakland three years ago after living in San Francisco for nine. He appreciates the sense of community he's found in Oakland, and he doesn't feel like he's given up much to attain it.

"One of the things I like about West Oakland is how close it is to the city," he said.

Flux's latest transplant is Jason DeCook, who works in the building trades and moved from San Francisco to just down the street from Poynton on April 7.

"I moved because of the usual reasons that most have, larger space for the same rent, but also the sunshine and proximity. I've been hella reluctant to do this for the past few years but thought about it a couple of times. Now the issue has been forced with all the art this year," DeCook said.

In addition to working on art at American Steel, DeCook says he's excited to have a yard and storage areas to work on his own projects.

"I'm a blue collar, hands-on kind of guy and it's easy for me to feel connected to a lot of the people that live around me or are beginning to visit the area. It's exciting to be in a place that has been ignored for so long by money, because a group of us can come up with a project or I can on my own and get to doing it with little red tape and it will be appreciated by the neighbors for making the place a little bit better," DeCook said.

In many ways, he thinks that West Oakland and other East Bay pockets are on a similar trajectory as many of San Francisco's coolest neighborhoods decades ago, many of which are now getting too expensive for the artists to live.