For a city that boasts an international reputation as a fun place to be, San Francisco certainly has no shortage of local spoilsports. Whether the neighbor complaints pour in from residents, merchants or the politicians pandering to them, any new attempt to devise a creative celebration on city streets is guaranteed to trigger enraged resistance.
It happened with the extreme snowboarder competition in Pacific Heights on artificial snow and the short-lived championship bicycle races showcasing The City’s famed hills.
The latest target is Mayor Gavin Newsom’s new plan to hold two Sunday morning street festivals by making six miles of The Embarcadero a pedestrian mall from Bayview to Chinatown on Labor Day weekend and again Sept. 14. The Embarcadero would be closed to northbound vehicle traffic from
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. both Sundays and fun workout-type activities would be placed throughout the route.
There is to be roller-skating in the Bayview, kids’ bicycle classes at Mission Bay, yoga at Ferry Park and Cheryl Burke of "Dancing with the Stars" teaching classes in China Basin. Thinking back on the huge crowds that enjoyed walking across a vehicle-free Golden Gate Bridge during its 50th anniversary celebration, this four-hour Embarcadero party zone sounds like a fine time for all who come.
So who is trying to kill the fun this time? The merchants of Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are incensed about the party taking away business during the "peak season for tourism." Responding to the call, the Board of Supervisors introduced legislation to demand both an economic impact report and a supervisor vote of approval before any Embarcadero closure. These restrictions could be activated in time to halt those Bay-front festivities.
The Examiner is an unyielding advocate for local small businesses. But this particular dispute confuses us. When The Embarcadero reopens for northbound traffic at 1 p.m. those Sunday afternoons, the entire area adjacent to the Wharf and Pier 39 would be thronged with thousands of celebrants probably still ready for more fun.
On the contrary, wouldn’t the new street party actually bring in many more early-Sunday customers than might ordinarily be drawn to The Embarcadero and the Wharf? It certainly seems worth a try. Fortunately, when the two ordinances were rushed to a vote Tuesday, the supervisors instead tabled them until August. This allows the mayor’s representatives to continue their apparently productive behind-the-scenes negotiations with the objecting merchants — the sort of diplomatic outreach that Newsom’s bold proposals sometimes run into trouble for neglecting.
The City needs more street parties, not fewer. If San Francisco loses its ability to have fun, tourists might as well spend their money visiting Akron. We could all move there, too, and enjoy the cheaper housing.