San Francisco Values

There has been a debate going on in Nevada County as to whether we should embrace so-called “San Francisco values.” But The City itself has been going through a huge transformation in recent years, and begs the question: which San Francisco do we want to identify with?

(Okay, you’ll have to use the link in comments…)

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32 Responses to San Francisco Values

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      As one who has been to well over 100 Grateful Dead shows, and with a grandfather who was a native of what he called ‘Frisco, I may have more San Francisco Values than the ones touting them the most loudly around here, and I bow to Earl’s SF ‘tooning history.

      Carmen Miranda Rights and the Nun of The Above have a lineage straight through to the Merry Pranksters and beyond.

      • Chris Peterson says:

        Well, that certainly changed in the next generation, Greg, because my Mom, who graduated from Mission High went to her grave correcting anyone who called it Frisco. It was disrespectful to her, for some reason. (No disrespect to your grandfather, either. Different time.)

        That being said, I wish my Dad had written down all the corner-store Italian Deli markets, where you could pick up warm, paper wrapped foccacia on the way home. I hope they never go away.

        And my Dad used to take me to see YA Tittle throw the alley-oop pass to RC Owens at Kezar Stadium, so there’s plenty of The City here to go around. I’d been to every major sports venue in The City by the time I was eight. Fun times with Pops.

        • Greg Goodknight says:

          The campaign against ‘Frisco dates, iirc, from Herb Caen’s decision it should go, but it never fully displaced the term that was once known worldwide… In great Fritz Lange film, “M”, one of the German mobsters, in a strategy meeting to find the child murderer (one of Peter Lorre’s finest roles) because the police pressure was ruining business, refers to another mobster as the ‘best man from Berlin to Frisco’; it’s funny to see Frisco translated to San Francisco in the subtitles.

          My stepson living in “the city” (a label that strikes me as bloody pretentious) tells me that ‘Frisco has had something of a resurgence. and you might not want to scold these guys for being disrespectful:

          • Chris Peterson says:

            My mother never read the Chronicle, but if you say Caen’s where she got it from, who am I to argue. (Are you sure you’re not channeling Pelline?)
            And rest assured; had I known that you found “the city” so pretentious, I never would have started calling it that as a kid.
            Please, tell me more: I haven’t much time left to correct my life’s mistakes.
            (You’re crackin’ me up, dude.)

            I really have to stop trying to converse with you, Greg. It took me over a year of good behavior to get out of communication purgatory on Bob’s blog, and I ain’t goin’ back.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            “Don’t Call It Frisco”, Herb Caen, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1953. Apparently Emperor Norton also issued an edict, but he didn’t sell as many books.

            Has nothing to do with you, Chris; the pretension of calling one particular city “the city” struck me the first time I heard it decades ago, and that wasn’t from my Lowell High graduate grandfather.

  1. Old Bay Area joke that might be new to some of your readers:

    Question: How many people does it take to change a light bulb?

    Answer: Four, if they are UC students. One to change the bulb and three to discuss its significance. None, if they are Stanford students. They expect the world to revolve around them.

    There isn’t much in my life that I regret, but I do wish we had bought by mother-in-law’s house in St. Francis Woods when we had the chance in 1970.

  2. fish says:

    So….in reading the Talbott piece I’m struck by how much it relates to the ongoing brush war in your “Western County” to coin a phrase, between “new arrivals” who show up to wallow in the quaint but immediately want to “Disneyfie” the place and turn it politically into the place they just fled! As opposed to the “good old boys” who “ain’t havin any of that”.

    The roles are reversed but the gist of the argument is the same.

    Here’s the cold reality today. There is a raging war in San Francisco between long-time residents of the city and the new elites. A younger Ed Lee, when he was a Chinatown activist, would have called this a “Class War” – because that’s what it is. A war between the 1% and the 99% over the future of San Francisco’s precious turf.

    My own neighborhood – Bernal Heights — has become a frontline in this class war. Not long ago, Bernal Heights was a funky mix of blue-collar workers, lesbian starter-families, counterculture artists, community organizers and Latina grandmothers. But Bernal Heights had the misfortune of being blessed with affordable housing, verdant backyards and parks – and being conveniently located next to the hipster-infused Mission, and even worse, to Highway 101 – the Google bus route to Silicon Valley. Suddenly, this unusually mixed San Francisco neighborhood was transformed into what one real estate web site recently crowned the hottest zip code in the country. Now, if you stand at the corner of Precita and Alabama – the main checkpoint for the neighborhood — instead of seeing battered Subaru Outbacks and Hondas, you see a steady stream of new-model Teslas, BMWs and Uber limousines. A rapid, seamless flow of gleaming, luxurious metal that never slows down – not even for the children and dogs who come spilling into the street from the nearby park. These Silicon Valley movers and shakers can’t afford to slow down – time is money.

    In the old days, the neighborhood’s celebrities were people like Terry Zwigoff — the independent filmmaker who made “Ghost World” and ”Bad Santa” — and underground cartoonists like Robert Crumb and Spain Rodriguez, creators of the most cutting-edge comics in America. These luminaries often retouched the neighborhood in their own inimitable style, building new turrets on their odd castles or painting murals of busty action heroes on their walls. But they didn’t tear down the whole place and start over. The new hot-shots are different, however. They’re knocking down the neighborhood’s ramshackle houses right and left — and replacing them with cold, futuristic mega-mansions. With every new slate-gray exterior that pops up, there goes the warm and oddball neighborhood.

    San Francisco Values indeed!

  3. Barry Pruett says:

    Great article. Thanks Bob. I will take Nevada County values…whatever the hell they are.

    • Ken Jones says:

      Barry I would suggest Nevada County values don’t include nasty protests based on insinuation and politics directed at a duly elected citizen of Nevada County.

    • Barry Pruett says:

      Mr. Jones. To be sure, being charged with possession of childporn is not an insinuation. It is a criminal charge based upon concrete evidence. Further, the city has finite time with which to deal with issues. The work of the city needs to be focused on the constituents and not a side show related to an elected official using is government computer (and billing the taxpayer for mileage) to view illicit pictures of very young minors. I am sorry that the guy you supported was charged with three counts of childporn. I would posit that childporn is not a Nevada County value.

      • Ken Jones says:

        Barry you are mistaken. I did not state my support for Terry Lamphier. I support the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. And the side show you mentioned was those holding the “Not OK Terry”signs. Again, not what I feel demonstrates Nevada County values. Obviously you differ in that opinion.

        • Barry Pruett says:

          As I have said before, due process is a fundamental right and a bedrock of a government based upon the natural rights of man. Such right shall never be infringed. That said, due process and the public trust required of our representatives are different issues. Terry is justly and rightly being afforded the due process required by the Constitution. People not wanting their representatives (who reflect upon our community at large) to be accused childporn defendants is a different issue and has absolutely nothing to do with due process.

  4. Steve Frisch says:

    I will beg your indulgence for a moment and reflect on the changing nature of my second city, San Francisco.

    I first visited San Francisco in 1978 and was struck by the rich and diverse differences reelected in the cities neighborhoods, people, and often competing sub-cultures. David Talbot, author of this article, wrote an entire book on the changing nature of the City between 1950-1990 titled Season of the Witch, which is worth and indulgent read.

    I went back to Chicago, the original second city, and planned my exodus, arriving in San Francisco in mid May 1979. I had the good luck to roll into the city on the afternoon of May 21st to be greeted by the White Night riots and its aftermath.

    Reading Talbot’s book, and being a student of history and lover of urban planning and development, I believe there is a direct analogy between the rise of New York City and its development, and San Francisco (even though LA would beg to differ).

    New York was a city that rose on trade with Europe, becoming a commerce, banking, manufacturing, immigration, and cultural center, and over a period of roughly 100 years was transformed by the rising wealth of the industrial revolution. San Francisco and its environs, the center of the technological revolution, is running a parallel course, on a foundation of both trade and transfer of ideas between Asia and west.

    I recently had two conversations with long time friends who have liven in San Francisco as long as I have known them. Both are double income no kids families, both make in excess of $250,000 per year, both have stayed in San Francisco largely because of the cultural assets, and both are now moving to other locales.

    New York City, and particularly Manhattan, transformed itself in the 100-150 years of the industrial revolution; neighborhoods that were immigrant and manufacturing centers became first small mansions for the guided age, then lofts and pied-a-terre, and finally high rise luxury housing, just as the region south of market, in China Basin and soon India Basin will in this century. My friends are your memories will be crowded out as history pushes forward, no one will remember Luxor, and a new place will rise.

    Cities have a life, and harsh as it is, as wealth rises, people migrate, and cities like Oakland become Brooklyn. Try finding an apartment in Oakland these days. This displacement is not just in the City, it is regional and it will accelerate. Los Angeles recently passed zoning ordinances that will make most of the city center of LA even ore denied than Manhattan.

    I would make the case by the way that young rich rising classes, whether trading tulip bulbs in Amsterdam, railroad stocks on Wall Street, or sharing economy assets on Howard Street, have always been young, rich entitled, assholes; it is in the nature.

    Call them beau, gallants, dandies, yankee doodles, or swells, they all are, according to Baudelaire, “These beings have no other status, but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons, of satisfying their passions, of feeling and thinking …. Dandyism is a form of Romanticism. Contrary to what many thoughtless people seem to believe, dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of mind.”

    There is no such thing as San Francisco values, or Nevada County values [I should say western because eastern Nevada County is closer to San Francisco and generally does not try to put its ideas into neat packets of values comparable to other places] or any geographically focused set of values, there are human values, and as humans we have always been vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

    Talbot stikes a cord because he touches a place we all know, but in reality, this is the oldest story ever told.

    • rlcrabb says:

      I agree, Steve. My friends in other urban settings across the nation have much the same complaint, although it seems like SF and NYC are on steroids. As a native of Nevada County, I have seen many changes over my six decades. You can’t stop it, and even trying to direct it in one direction or another is difficult when you have a hundred different opinions on which path to follow. ( The Dorsey Drive property is a prime example.)
      So where will the next bohemian islands appear, once the creative class is pushed out of the bay area?

      • Steve Frisch says:

        I’m not sure where the next Bohemian Island occurs, all I know is I strongly prefer the Bohemian Island to the abode of the Bonfire of the Vanities.

        I was in Chicago last month. On the near north side, the “River North” neighborhood was once down and out lower North Clark Street. There was a once an underground strip of punk clubs, with the above ground landmark O’Banion’s serving as the beacon. This was the site of many an outwardly dark looking but inwardly wild warehouse party punk dance scene, not the land of lofts, crate and barrel and Goose Island Brewing.

        The real underground punk, and the first place I used my fake ID, was Le Mere Vipere, a dirty, loud, perennially stained pit of iniquity, which was a former gay bar repurposed as the first real punk dance club in the good old USA. The cops burned it down because the owner would not pay kick backs and the scene moved to Oz, O’Banion’s and of course back into the warehouses.

        We all love what once was. If I could drink, and dance, and smoke, and do a few other things like I did when I was 18 I sure would be a happy man. Instead I read history, cook, like martini’s, and love a great woman….life is just fucking grand at every stage, don’t you know!

  5. Barry Pruett says:

    “Life is just fucking grand at every stage…” Dude. Where is the “like” button like Facebook! Love that thought!

  6. While JPR–Juvinall, Pelline and Rebane–keep grinding their axes, you get Frisch and Pruett to compliment each other.

    Peace, brother:

    • Barry Pruett says:

      Common misconception. I like talking to Steve. We have some good arguments. I respect him. He has a very good grasp on a variety of topics. That makes for great (and often educational) conversations.

  7. Steven Frisch says:

    FYI–a fun little list of nicknames–I may start calling SF “The Golden City” just to bug people 🙂

    • rlcrabb says:

      I’d never heard of the Golden City before, although the last lyric in my song “Empire Mine” is “I hear San Francisco’s a pretty nice town, and they’re getting rich from the gold that we found. Someday I’ll go there and leave this behind, if I don’t die first in the Empire Mine.”
      When The City threatened to outlaw the removal of foreskins, I christened it “Sans Circumcisco.” Maybe now that it’s overrun with techies I should call it “San Cyborgcisco.”

  8. The City (capitalized) was used by the San Francisco Examiner for many years when it was the “Monarch of the Dailies” to refer to, well, the city.

    The San Francisco Warriors used it on their jerseys for a couple of years before they moved to Oakland and became the Golden State Warriors. (I assume they’ll become the San Francisco Warriors again when they move into their new arena in the city-by-the-bay.)

    As long as we’re on the issue of San Francisco “values,” I see Mr. Bubba got a chuckle when I wrote in the my column today, “Northern California doesn’t include San Francisco anymore. Until we moved here, I was under the impression that it did.”

    Not one to pass up an opportunity, he then took a gratuitous shot at Barry Pruett for apparently preferring Nevada County values over the San Francisco variety.

    Alas, that observation occurred to me after I became a regular reader of Mr. Bubba’s favorite area newspaper, The Sacramento Bee. The self-appointed cheerleader for the River City, The Bee apparently believes Sac suffers from an inferiority complex because it’s in the shadow of San Francisco, even though the shadow is 90 miles long.

    But Sacramento looks like the big boy in the north if you ignore everything on the other side of Vallejo. Thus, we are treated to numerous stories proclaiming Sacramento to be the Northern California leader in various business, economic and other categories.

    No wonder people do so poorly in geography tests.

    • Chris Peterson says:

      Sac is to The City, what Salem is to the Rose City, and Olympia is to the Emerald City; just a nondescript political hub, with no particular cultural or physical beauty.

      It reminds me a lot of Grass Valley and Nevada City back in the day, when NC decided to enhance their cultural and historical roots, while GV opted for the grow-any-which-way-you-can model of Marysville and Yuba City. Only of late has GV caught on to the “Old Town” section format, which even Sac, and a myriad of other towns across America, beat them to by 30 years.

      One thing’s for sure; I couldn’t be happier that neither NC nor GV became the state capitol, as was considered back then. What an ugly fate that would have been.

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      “This is The City: Los Angeles, California”

      One difference between the two cities is that folks in LA rarely think about SF, unless it’s to steal the water SF stole from Yosemite.

  9. This battle appears to have run its course, but you can bet there’s another one on the horizon.

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