Visit SF for the beautiful … Richmond district? 

click to enlarge A newly formed relationship between a group of merchants and property owners in the Richmond and the San Francisco Travel Association is seeking to draw more tourists to Richmond district points of interest like the Legion of Honor museum. - NATHANIEL DOWNES/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Nathaniel Downes/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • A newly formed relationship between a group of merchants and property owners in the Richmond and the San Francisco Travel Association is seeking to draw more tourists to Richmond district points of interest like the Legion of Honor museum.

Honeymooners Simon and Laedy Salomon posed for a photo at Union Square under the glow of a warm Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco.

"We're sightseeing, we're going on tours," Simon Salomon, 34, said as he ticked off well-known attractions -- Alcatraz, Pier 39 -- the couple planned to see this week during the Chicagoans' first visit to San Francisco.

Absent from the Salomons' list, however, was anything in the Richmond -- the northwest corner of The City that's quietly brimming with tourist possibilities but doesn't see nearly the amount of visitors as other neighborhoods. Simon Salomon said he had never heard of it -- and he's not alone.

A 2010 survey for the San Francisco Travel Association found that just 17.6 percent of tourists visit the Richmond or Sunset, compared to 65.2 percent who head to Union Square, 56 percent to Fisherman's Wharf and 38.4 percent to Chinatown.

However, a newly formed relationship between a group of merchants and property owners in the Richmond and the San Francisco Travel Association could change that.

"We need to bring people to our neighborhood," said David Heller, president of the Greater Geary Boulevard Merchants and Property Owners Association. Last month, the group received a two-year grant from the Travel Association to help promote tourism in the neighborhood.

The Neighborhood Partners Program -- which awarded nine other grants to businesses or organizations in The City for 2014 to 2016 -- will add shops, restaurants and other places in the Richmond to its online and print publications, and provide networking and mentoring opportunities for merchants.

"There are a lot of neighborhoods in San Francisco that visitors typically don't go to, but we think they should," said Laurie Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the Travel Association.

Stringing lights in trees along stretches of Geary Boulevard, hanging around 100 banners to promote shops and destinations in the Richmond, and beautifying storefronts are other ways the neighborhood is hoping to attract more visitors, according to Heller.

Common destinations in the Richmond include Lands End, the Cliff House and Ocean Beach. Heller also emphasized the neighborhood's ethnic diversity, architecture and unique food options, where diners can find anything from authentic Moroccan cuisine to Chinese or Italian food.

"We have some incredible places that can be visited," Heller said. The key, he added, will be "informing and educating tourists about our neighborhood and letting them know ... there will be plenty for them to see and do."

The extra emphasis on the neighborhood could be a boon to businesses struggling to stay afloat. Heller said he hopes the partnership with the travel association will boost the local economy, as some mom-and-pop shops suffered due to a surge of big-box stores and online shopping.

"This last year, we had over 95 empty stores not able to rent," Heller said.

Ray Holland, president of the Planning Association for the Richmond that works with residents and merchants in the neighborhood, said an increase in tourists will benefit the area even if not everyone in the neighborhood supports more tourism.

"There's going to be mixed feelings" on bringing in more tourists, Holland said. "There will be people who resent it and people who want it."

Daneen Akers might fall into the naysayer camp. The 10-year Richmond resident said she has no problem with tourists sightseeing in the neighborhood, but her upstairs neighbor began renting out a bedroom to tourists two months ago and she and her family have been repeatedly disrupted by noise.

"There are late-night arrivals, early-morning departures," Akers said. "The challenge with tourists coming and going nightly is that you can't get used to a rhythm."

Still, many agree that sharing hidden gems in the Richmond with visitors will have a positive effect.

"The Richmond district is a fantastic place for families, and I also think it's a good place for visitors," said Chris Wright, who lives in the Richmond and also works with the neighborhood planning association. "There's a lot to offer."

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Bio:
Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for Patch.com, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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