SF tech leader’s involvement with 1906 quake commemoration shows industry’s evolution in city 

click to enlarge Lee Houskeeper
  • Juan Pardo/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • Lee Houskeeper speaks at a luncheon at John's Grill.
The annual tradition of commemorating the April 18, 1906, earthquake and fire is usually marked by a line of survivors at Lotta’s Fountain, the site where many left messages for missing family members in the disaster’s wake.

For the second year in a row, the few known survivors of the quake plan to pass on today’s ceremonies. But a new face will be in the crowd of dignitaries: Ron Conway.

The tech investor and Mayor Ed Lee supporter helped pay for Thursday’s pre-commemoration luncheon at John’s Grill, which Lee Houskeeper, the two-day commemoration’s orchestrator, said is a signal of tech leaders involving themselves more with The City’s traditions.

“We are also honoring Ron Conway,” said Houskeeper, noting that Conway will be an “honorary survivor” at the event. “It’s a new name and we are happy to have him. The tech people are getting more involved with traditional San Francisco.”

Lee has recently been pushing tech leaders to involve themselves more in San Francisco by donating to charities and volunteering. After Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff, Conway is perhaps the most well-known tech leader in The City. His sf.citi, a nonprofit lobbying and philanthropic group made up of tech companies, has been attempting to put a good face on tech in San Francisco since its inception in 2012.

Conway did not attend Thursday’s luncheon, but he said via email that “this is a way to honor those before us who worked their way rebuilding SF, which is the foundation we live on today.” The two days of commemorations, which include the kickoff luncheon at John’s Grill before the early morning anniversary event, were started in 1919 by a group called the South of Market Boys.

Since no survivors will be able to attend this year’s events, a black dress reportedly worn to the opera the night before the temblor will be showcased instead.

The Thursday event also included people in period costumes, period fire equipment and city dignitaries, including former Mayor Willie Brown and clothier Wilkes Bashford, who announced an effort to find and preserve historic clothing from The City’s Gilded Age.

Today’s anniversary commemoration will be held at Lotta’s Fountain at 5:11 a.m., which is when the quake struck. It will be followed by a breakfast at Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant in Union Square.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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