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See 32 years of Bay Area development in four seconds

But don’t blink

Kumiko Shafer

In 2013, Google took its people-watching hobby to the next level by compiling several decades worth of satellite imagery of every place on earth into a larger-than-life searchable time lapse sequence.

But, being Google, they weren’t satisfied just with that, and last week they updated the entire planet’s yearbook photos to include everything up to the present day, on top of kicking the image quality as high as it can go.

The result locally is that you can watch 32 years pass in San Francisco and the East Bay in about four seconds. If you can bear the existential ramifications of it all, of course.

The change most visible from space is, of course, the emergence of the Bay Bridge’s new eastern span and the gradual dissolution of the old one (still ongoing).

But zoom in for a closer look at any spot on the map and you can see the city growing taller and tenser as milliseconds (and years) fly by, or watch the shape of the waterfront change, or see Ocean Beach ebb and flow.

On the other hand, comparing the Bay Area to things like the vanishing of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan, the emergence of Dubai’s coastal zones, or the absolute explosion of Beijing’s infrastructure and San Francisco can appear downright steady and placid.

It’s all in the eye of the orbital beholder.