San Francisco, Haul Up Your Golden Drawbridge
“San Francisco, open your Golden Gate. You’ll let nobody wait outside your door.” Those are the lyrics of the city’s signature song, but now somebody should call “rewrite.”
On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency voted to bar nonresidents’ cars from the crooked part of Lombard Street on Saturday and Sunday afternoons between June 21 and July 13. Last year, the agency banned tour buses from driving by the iconic Painted Ladies on Alamo Square. Thanks to well-heeled city residents who can afford to live in these world-famous properties, San Francisco is hoisting a Golden Drawbridge.
Kelly Edwards, who lives in Alamo Square’s Westerfield House, gave voice to the bar-the-gauche-out-of-towners elite by posting a sign in his window that read, “Get off your big, fat tour bus and experience San Francisco.”
There’s something incongruous about people choosing to live in the heart of an international tourism destination and then complaining that there are too many tourists.
I get it. There are good tourists, and there are bad tourists. The pull-up-the-bridge brigade welcomes trim visitors who arrive outfitted in Patagonia gear to hike up and down the Filbert Steps and sip pojitos at Vesuvio while they leaf through their Rough Guides.
The tourists who take tour buses, however, are often old and fat. They wear shorts. You take one look at them and you know they’re from some godforsaken suburb where the best watering holes offer two kinds of wine — white and red. Who cares if they’re on a tour because it’s the only way they could afford the vacation or navigate a mazelike metropolis?
In a less precious environment, civic leaders would exhort locals to appreciate that all tourists deserve a warm welcome because they have come here to partake of the glorious sights that we get to see every day. They are our guests.
Tourism, after all, is the region’s largest industry — which makes all tourists, chic or doughy, our bread and butter. (Or, this being San Francisco, our sourdough and locally pressed olive oil.)
According to the MTA, public access to Lombard Street is a “safety” issue. The goal of the trial closure, requested by Lombardians and Supervisor Mark Farrell, is to “create a safer transportation experience for everyone.”
Methinks advocates knew how self-important they appear when complaining about tourists clogging up their curvy curbsides, so they dressed up their self-serving request to keep other people’s cars off Lombard Street as a concern for others. The MTA also is considering gating the public street so only residents can use it. For safety reasons.
There was a 2011 collision on Lombard in which a driver hit a railing and hurt pedestrians. In 2012, a car decapitated a fire hydrant, and a passenger in a speeding car was injured. Farrell tells me the recent boom years have brought “utter chaos” to the crooked block, with “cars and pedestrians on the same street completely ignoring the rules of the road.” Drivers are distracted. There are, he said, “countless instances on a daily basis of people who almost get hurt.” It will only get worse.
Still, it sounds safer than Fifth and Mission. Besides, the gridlock should make it safer for clueless out-of-towners.
Then again, maybe there is a safety issue. I can hear a plaintive cry for help now. “Sloan, look. Some tacky tourists are taking selfies in front of the house and blocking the caterer’s truck. I think I’m having a panic attack.”
Email Debra J. Saunders at: [email protected].