Heart of the City Archives

Some things should change; others, such as cops and donuts, should remain as always









A wish list for ther "new San Francisco"
by Hank Donat

In last week's run-off, San Franciscans elected the youngest mayor in over a hundred years and the first African America district attorney in California history. With less than a month to ponder what's in store for the city when Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris take office, some have already heralded a "new San Francisco."

Except for some serious and familiar problems such as homelessness, the high cost of living, and corruption in government, I was fairly satisfied with the old San Francisco. But since a new day is indeed dawning, here's a wish list for the new San Francisco.

For starters, let's make Matt Gonzalez poet laureate of the new San Francisco. I've read some of Gonzalez' poetry and it's not bad. The poet laureate's position wouldn't require too much of Gonzalez, who's already busy as president of the Board of Supervisors. Besides, it's a nice consolation for runner-up Gonzalez, particularly since the title "vice mayor" is spoken for.

I'd like the new San Francisco to put an end to most "not in service" Muni busses. Drivers at the end of their shifts ought to take passengers as far along the line as they can, even if the drivers' final destination is the garage or the "car barn" as we used say in one of the older new San Franciscos.

If a city is to be called new it ought to erect more modern architecture than we have.

Maybe D.A. Harris can prosecute rude people as well as criminals in the new city. The ill-mannered do just as much as the homeless to sully the city's reputation among tourists and locals alike. We're never panhandled as often as we're interrupted. How about an ordinance against aggressive cutting in line in the new San Francisco?

In the new San Francisco, all candidates for office would be required to know the difference between It's-It and It's Tops. (The answer: about 900 calories.) If that's too old hat, we'll make Dr. Atkins' low-carb plan the official city diet. (Exceptions apply for sour dough bread and General Tso's chicken.)

The Octagon House Museum on Laguna Street would have more and better hours in the new San Francisco. The Octagon House is not only a museum of Colonial furniture, but it also houses an incredible exhibit of documents signed by 54 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Currently, it's open from noon to 3 p.m. on the second Sunday and the second and fourth Thursdays of every month except January. It's closed on holidays.

The Conservatory of Music's "Sing-it-Yourself Messiah" is a fantastic tradition that celebrated its 25th year last week. In the new city, Handel's masterpiece would be easier to follow, perhaps with lyrics projected over the stage and even a bouncing ball.

Of course there are things that are eternally San Franciscan and should stay the same no matter who the mayor or D.A. are. These are the things we'd write home about if we didn't think it would sound so corny. Foghorns, happy hour at the Tonga Room, Original Joe's in the Tenderloin, cable cars, and the rainbow across the bay over Angel Island the other day all come to mind.

When the city turns over a new leaf certain things can be better but no different. We'll build new bridges, off-ramps, and tunnels and have all the same traffic headaches we've always had.

New Supervisors will come in with lots of fanfare, touting esprit de corps and civility just long enough to sharpen their claws.

And yet if ever there are days to be optimistic, these are the days.

Police chief Alex Fagan says he'd like to be a part of the new San Francisco, the Newsom administration, at least for a while.

For many it's a case of new city, same city. Harris' politics are very similar to those of outgoing D.A. Terrence Hallinan. She's not planning to push the death penalty or go after certain minor drug crimes.

Like the rest of the country, San Francisco is nearly evenly divided. Newsom's margin of victory was 3%, not a mandate. Whether Newsom has the chops to foster civic unity is a burning question in the new San Francisco.

For those who are wary of the legacy of Mayor Willie Brown, Newsom succeeding Brown as mayor of San Francisco represents the biggest change the city has seen since Ha's restaurant on Van Ness Avenue changed its name to Ho's.

As political discussions dissolve I am reminded of a friend in Noe Valley who always chalks matters up to the same gentle conclusion. "We'll find out together," she says, "if you stick around to see how it turns out."

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