July 23, 2003


I knew it was time to get this going when I read the Talk of the Point posting, "Milk in bottles returning to Santa Fe Market." Yes, this is vital information -- and by the way, at the Richmond Market, in Mo's absence, the beef jerkey display has moved to the right of the counter -- but I think I can bring a different sensibility to my Point Richmond blog.

There are important questions about Point Richmond, and I don't mean "how did that statue end up on the corner of Richmond and Washington?"

Point Richmond has an interesting, and long, history. It has been the last train stop before the ferry to San Francisco, an important hub for maritime activities, a focus for World War II efforts, a fading neighborhood peopled with hippies and bikers, one of the last small, quiet neighborhoods in the Bay Area, and lately, the battleground for small skirmishes about "urbanization."

On the surface, Point Richmond is bucolic and charming, almost goofily so. Residents turned out in droves to wave signs to (successfully) protest planned removal of the wigwags -- the old-fashioned train crossing signals that provide distinctive charm to one end of Richmond Street -- and residents have held hands and prayed during anti-war demonstrations. Once a year, at the "Turkey Shoot" on Thanksgiving morning, a ragtag band of locals haggle-marches from the front of the Plunge (the lovely old "Natatorium," now shuttered due to serious structural damage) to The Spot -- the local dive-cum-late-nite-mom-and-pop -- where if he remembers to get up, the poet laureate regales the community with our own ode to the Point, and everyone downs a quick toot of Wild Turkey. The owners of the Santa Fe Market proudly display any newspaper article with even a passing mention of a Point resident. Not too long ago, at one of the nice jazz music series held at the Baltic, residents spontaneously called back in unison -- "woo, woo!" -- when the train creaked by.

But there are signs of growing pains. At Neighborhood Council meetings, residents have begun complaining about the "commercialization" and "urbanization" of the Point. After a Starbucks opened in what passes for "downtown," one small business folded and another was sold, with its future in doubt. Architects have had plans approved for massive McMansions squeezed onto improbably tiny plots. Yuppies in gas-slurping monstrosities have had ugly, public shouting matches over parking spaces or right of way. Along with other gape-mouthed residents, I recently watched a soccer mom in an SUV, parked in the fire department's own fire zone, sassing back at a firefighter, secure in her BoBo privilege.

As a city girl -- raised in the heart of San Francisco, and aged in some of the best cities in the world -- I'm not sure it's the "urbanization" of Point Richmond we have to worry about. I'm more concerned about what appears to be a coarsening -- the chill, sharp grasp of avarice and I-got-mine-Jack. Perhaps some of this is inevitable; perhaps some of this is even, in our bad economy, and given Richmond's chronically weak tax base, desirable. But whatever we do now will have indelible impact on the future. We can be the Point Richmond of parks and pools and community, or we can pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

That's where this blog comes in. You can't stop progress, said someone forgettable. But you can write about what you see and hear. That's what I'll do.

Posted by kgs at 11:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack