The City of Great Places

Belden Street
Belden Street

So, here we are in San Francisco, in the heart of the land of fruits and nuts. We’re  planning to do a lot of the usual tourista things — take the boat to Alcatraz, bike to Sausalito, visit the Exploratorium — but your roving correspondent also will be applying a keen eye to the human settlements patterns of one of the United States’ most remarkable urban experiments.

San Francisco and nearby Silicon Valley comprise the most economically productive region in the U.S. (with the possible exception of Manhattan, although I regard the New York financial industry as a monstrous parasite that, due to Quantitative Easing, prospers at the expense of the rest of the country). San Francisco and San Jose (and environs in between) also happen to have the most expensive real estate prices (outside, perhaps, Manhattan) and the greatest income inequality in the country. Yet there is a remarkable divergence between Frisco and Silicon Valley. San Francisco hews to the Smart Growth ideals of higher density, mixed-use, walkable and transit-oriented human settlement patterns while Silicon Valley epitomizes sprawl. San Francisco is a tourist destination; Silicon Valley is not. I don’t know what all that adds up to but it is my framework for writing whatever I write about.

First observations: Arriving Saturday evening fatigued from a long trip, the Bacon farrow (farrow? Look it up.) checked into its hotel and set out to grab a meal before hitting the sack. There is a delightful little street near our hotel — Belden Street on the edge of Chinatown (see photo above). It really isn’t even a street, it’s more of an alleyway, too narrow for cars, that is lined with seven or eight restaurants. There is nothing exceptional about the street; it’s just one small example of the place-making that inspires love of this city. The alleyway is a visual surprise in that is represents a departure from the dominant street grid. Cozy and intimate in its human scale, it is a delight to stroll through.

Multiply Belden Street hundreds of times across the region and you get a place where people love to live and are fiercely loyal to.

— JAB 

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11 responses to “The City of Great Places”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Don’t ever call it “frisco “

    1. Haven’t heard that one in years.

    2. Why not? Did I violate some law?

    1. Jeez, I’ve even been pronouncing San Francisco wrong. What a rookie!

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    “Arriving Saturday evening fatigued from a long trip …”

    Did you walk to California?

    Oh Jimmy, I am going to have to take you on one of my six day jaunts to Australia or India and back. I just got back from Australia last night after spending six days down under. I’d write about all the cool things in Australia but I have to get into work this morning. I called my boss to tell her I was fatigued but it seems she doesn’t care.

    Given that it’s Tuesday I hope you have enjoyed enough lemonades at Union Square to get past the fatigue of a five hour flight on Saturday.

    Now … be a man and represent the Old Dominion properly. Put on a “Sic Semper Tyrannis” tee shirt and head down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Charter a boat for a morning of shark fishing. When you get back to the dock go directly to Lou’s Pier 47 and drink beer by the pitcher while listening to live, old style blues. Make a quick side trip over to Mitchell Brother’s O’farrell Theater. Tell them you’re interested in seeing either Sky or Mistress Leather. Take lots of cash. Head back to the hotel to clean up. Put on a clean Sic Semper Tyrannis tee shirt and head into Chinatown. Offer to fight the bar tender in a karate match for free beer. Even if you lose you’ll have earned his respect. Order the conch. Drink Anchor Steam. Use lots of the red oily hot sauce.

    Alternately, the Giants are playing the Dodgers today. Head over to AT&T Park decked out in Dodgers gear. Make derogatory statements about Willie Mays. Wear a Nancy Pelosi mask. Have some fun.

    Time to shake things up Jimbo. Do Richmond proud!

    1. Dude, I’m not a bigwig executive like you! I also don’t fly first class. Try stowing your computer bag under the seat in front of you and flying five hours with your knees practically in your chest!

      First two days, we’ve taken a bike ride to Sausalito and ridden the ferry back to SF, taken the ferry to Alcatraz, walked through Chinatown, walked up and down Fisherman’s Wharf and hiked so many hills I feel like a billy goat. Today, it’s off to Sunnyvale for an interview. Not sure what else we’ll do — probably visit Stanford and oogle the Google corporate campus.

      If we can figure out how to ditch Laura (encourage her to go shopping), I’ll definitely take my 15-year-old son to see Sky and Mistress Leather.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        My new company has a strict coach class only policy. Fortunately, I have about a bazillion air miles so I get upgraded to business.

        You really should eat in Chinatown, not just walk through it. The food is unbelievable and the conch is great. If you are one of those odd ducks who doesn’t like Chinese food – at least go to North Beach and eat Italian. Lou’s Pier 47 is also an honest to goodness recommendation.

        1. We had dinner one night at House of Nanking…. which our taxi driver had recommended. The food was OK, but we had a great conversation with the people sitting next to us, a father and son. The son was starting up a new company, and the father (who hailed from Connecticut originally) had flown in from Rome where he was financing a slew of tech start-ups. (Not surprisingly, he says it’s longer and harder to get a business off the ground in Italy than the U.S. At least we still do some things right.)

  3. good lord!

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Has anyone noticed that any tim Jim Bacon travels somewhere and blogs about it, he seems to be taping a “Kick Me” sign on his back?

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