Broke-Ass City: How Long Until San Francisco Becomes San Jose North? 

If you stroll down Valencia Street on any given weekend day you’ll see a variety of different vendors selling their wares on the street. From cowboy boots to T-shirts, from records to vintage tchotchkes, there are all kinds of things to browse and buy.

Hell, a few months ago, I bought the most amazing and ridiculous dayglow psychedelic mu-mu you could ever imagine. It was a total score and has made a wonderful addition to my costume box.

Whether or not you’ve ever actually bought anything from these vendors, their existence is a part of Valencia’s allure. It allows the street to feel more like an open-air market and less like a mall. So it was a surprise to me when I ran into my buddy Amos Goldbaum on Sunday selling his apparel near Dolores Park instead of at his usual spot next to Rhea’s Deli.

“Yeah, they’ve started cracking down on street vendors,” he told me while a few passers-by checked out his hoodies. “They’ve even been giving out tickets.”

There’s a good chance you’ve seen Amos’ work whether on someone or on the street. His shirts and hoodies are generally dark colored fabric with famous San Francisco landmarks like Candlestick Park, or beautiful cityscapes, outlined in bright colors. His work is so popular that it’s getting hard to ride Muni without seeing someone wearing it.

“And it’s not like the cops want to do this,” he went on to tell me. “Every time one tells me to pack up and move, they apologize for having to do it.”

This can only mean that there are people actually calling the police and reporting the vendors. Some of them think it has to with all the upscale new businesses that have opened on Valencia, while others say it’s a few kooky old-timers. Regardless, this is the San Francisco we are now living in. First they chased out the naked people from the Castro. Next were the chess players on Market Street.

Now it’s the street vendors on Valencia.

I’m not saying that these are the things that make this San Francisco, but it does feel like these little bits of flair and character are rapidly being pushed away by a handful of people worried about their property value.

And street vending isn’t the only thing being cracked down on. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Dolores Park being a temporary autonomous zone and our cherished public space. And I predicted that, since the city spent so much money on improvements, they would be cracking down on the drinking and the smoking and the merriment that goes along with an afternoon in the park.

It would be a kind of shaking out of the riff-raff. Well apparently that has already begun.

I was told by some friends that last weekend, park rangers moved through Dolores ticketing people for open alcohol containers while the surrounding crowd of revelers booed and jeered.

What is going on in our fair city? What has happened to the permissiveness that has helped make San Francisco such and open and interesting place. How far will city officials bend to appease the loud whining of a small minority of wealthy people? I guess what I’m really asking is how long until we just become San Jose North?

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in The San Francisco Examiner.
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