Dystopia is a word that has made its way into the national lexicon over the last few years, with the threat of nuclear war, natural disasters and mass shootings on the rise. Even the City of San Francisco has begun to consider the hypotheticals, surveying residents about the future they’d prefer to envision. In typical Bay Area form, the scenarios run from easily conceivable to 1984-level discomfort.

ConnectSF, a committee of several organizations including SFMTA, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Planning Department, created the poll. Below, we’ve broken down three scenarios depicting how the future of San Francisco could unfold.

Scenario 1

Photo: Christopher Neugebauer/Flickr

In Scenario 1, the free market has run rampant and wealth disparity is (somehow) even more pronounced. Previously public services are now led by private companies. Because of this, city officials have slowly given over control of the city to corporations. Only those who work for those corporations live in comfort, and this is because the corporations know to provide separate services such as shuttles and housing. It’s the scenario closest to the present day.

In the questionnaire section, the answers feel leading, especially for the bluest city inside of the bluest state. Would you find less ethnic diversity and a complete lack of middle class acceptable in 50 years? Government control has been strangled, so environmental controls are nil. Is that acceptable?

Scenario 2

Photo: Alfredo Mendez/Flickr

Scenario 2 is when the City and businesses pull themselves up by their bootstraps and work together in harmony. Because of this, environmental issues are addressed, citizens are engaged and economic equity is stable. YIMBYism has aided in bridging the gap between wealth disparity and density is high. San Francisco is heralded for its “economic opportunity.”

Again, the questionnaire is leading towards this scenario being superior. Do you find it acceptable or unacceptable that public transportation is more reliable and efficient? Is it unacceptable that taxes go towards low-income residents’ access to housing, services and amenities?

Scenario 3

Photo: Giuseppe Milo/Flickr

In this one, all hell breaks loose. For whatever reason, a major economic collapse occurred and neighborhoods are separate from each other, practically self-governing. In fact, it’s difficult to run businesses in one neighborhood if you live in another. The middle-class steps up while many move away as there are fewer economic opportunities.

Ultimately, the questionnaire reads less like an unbiased search for opinion and more like an exercise in reminding citizens of what it will take to create the San Francisco they’d like to grow old in.

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