Every time I visit Cape Town, South Africa I am struck by the multitude of similarities with San Francisco. Both cities are stunningly beautiful, politically liberal, have a multiethnic population and are on the cutting edge of social change. Both are geographically bound – San Francisco by water on three sides and Cape Town by the sea and an arc of the steeply rising Table Mountain. Both have good natural harbors and an island nearby which was formerly an infamous prison – Alcatraz and Robben Island respectively. Cape Town has its own Pier 39-styled shopping area called the V and A Waterfront which even has seals hauled up on its piers. Southern fur seals in this case, not California sea lions. They have the African penguin; we have the common Murre. Drive an hour or so from each place and you find fabulous wine country.

There is cold, upwelled ocean water off both cities that results in a rich marine environment with abundant fish, seals and whales right offshore. And both cities are blessed with many days of marine fog. We also share a Mediterranean-type climate – mild winters, a long growing season, and six months of drought followed by rain. Periodic fire plays a role in the local plant life in both regions. Much of the natural landscape in the Cape looks exactly like our chaparral. And speaking of vegetation there are invasive blue gum eucalyptus trees in both places and many of our favorite landscaping plants grow profusely wild in the Cape Region.

When you drive south from both cities the windy, narrow road dramatically hugs the coastline passing through attractive small commuter communities. Even the kelp beds look the same but without the otters. And finally we are 36 degrees north and Cape Town is 34 degrees south.

San Francisco already has fifteen sister cities so how about making Cape Town the next one? It is a perfect match.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.



Posted on

August 6, 2009