Beware of streetcars named desire
april 24, 2000. San Franciscoís politicians know how to manipulate
our hearts and minds to get the vote they want. Thatís
what soft money is all about, and the power of public
relations. Itís black magic ó using the magic of
images and sound to create a certain outcome.
Take, for example, the new F line. It reminds us of the
best our city can be, and we love it. The problem is that
the historic streetcar line is not modern urban mass
transportation. How many locals go to the Wharf to shop or
dine? Many think that these old cars are designed for
tourists to come the other way.
The F line connection to Fisherman's Wharf has the
potential to destroy a community, another little part of
this city. Some would call it a transformation, but let me
give you just a few facts. Sixteen million tourists come
to San Francisco each year. Almost 9 million people take
the Cable Car system to Fisherman's Wharf each year on 27
cable cars. The new F line connection from the Upper
Market area to the direct center of Fisherman's Wharf has
almost 40 old streetcars and is now destroying the Upper
Market district by transforming it into a major tourist
zone. Millions of tourists will come into the center of a
basically residential neighborhood. Already evictions are
up, rents are soaring through the roof, local shops are
selling out, and residents are moving away.
Many locals made up their minds a long time ago that
the F line was good for the community, by default. These
old streetcars seemed like a vast improvement on the
surface. But there has been no meaningful community
dialogue about the potential impact of the districtís
direct connection to a major tourist zone, and this lack
of critical dialogue has made up their minds for them. Now
that it is happening and the neighborhood is snapping into
place for a different demographic group ó i.e., the
tourist dollar ó many do not like the way itís going.
Many think that chainstores like Pottery Barn and Banana
Republic want to come into this area now because of the F
line tourists to come. Corporate entities put themselves
in the path of growth for the potential billions of
dollars they will make. If growth doesn't happen
naturally, hey, why not build an old streetcar line to
entice the tourists onto the cars to go for a ride.
Fisherman's Wharf is the second most visited tourist
destination on the west coast after Disneyland, and the
Upper Market district is now coming into the orbit of this
most major destination. Fisherman's Wharf ó which up to
now has been an isolated tourist zone ó is spreading its
wings into the neighborhoods. Its expansion has the
ability to affect all the residential districts that
connect with Market Street in ways we cannot see as yet.
We canít see
Itís sad really, that a city with such beauty has
such a sordid history of political wheeling and dealing.
We are in effect being led down the path of more, toward a
world that is less a dream and more a nightmare for us and
this city we call home.
PS. And don't forget the coming of the G
line, which will pass through Ninth and Irving on its
way from the N Judah to Golden Gate Park. The proposed
line has the potential to "transform" the Sunset
district as well. Time to move to Fresno?
PPS. Visit the Save
the Castro website.
Toby Wiggin, Castro Neighborhood Council