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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

D10's International Reputation

I came across this while doing my morning check of news and blogs about D10. It's from the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald, about travel to the US, and in particular San Francisco. The reporter writes,
Among places likely to be visited by a tourist, the Tenderloin is the only part of San Francisco that might be an issue in terms of personal security but, overall, Fog City is not dangerous for travelers.The only suburbs to strictly avoid are Bayview and Visitacion Valley but these are well off the tourist track.
I realize this is just one foreign reporter's take, and sure, we're not touristy in the sense that Fisherman's Wharf or Coit Tower are, but to "strictly avoid" us!?!  At first it I took offense to it, but then it got me thinking...

I recall during the supervisor election last fall, one question arising at a forum regarding the development of tourism destinations in D10 to attract visitors and to help improve our local economy. The candidate who answered mentioned creating historic walking tours to honor our district's place in the history of the city and this country.  The awesome folks at Bayview Footprints are already forging ahead with that, along with students at SF State University, asset-mapping the Bayview to create self-guided historic Walking Tours to showcase the great things in Bayview, from our parks and open-spaces, to our places of worship, and everything in between.  This will be great for locals and for history buffs, but what about the tourists who come from all parts of the country to visit San Francisco?  Do they only want to see the Golden Gate Bridge, the seals at Fisherman's Wharf, and to walk up Coit Tower?  While I wouldn't characterize our neighborhoods as places to "strictly avoid", maybe he's right that they're aren't the typical tourist destinations in our local midst,and so a tourist may not find much for their photo album that they think says "I visited San Francisco".

The development of the Central Waterfront will help immensely in making part of our district more of a tourist destination, but can you think of other tourist sites that we have in D10, and in Visitacion Valley and Bayview in particular, that are either already here or that should be developed and promoted so as to change the perception that our neighborhoods are places to "strictly avoid"?  49ers Stadium is a tourist attraction in our own backyard - at least for now it is.  We may be off the beaten path, but we have the city's best weather, longest shoreline - potentially giving us the best access in the city to water-sports - the second-largest park in the city, spectacular views of the Bay from the hills within our district, long and diverse histories, and the most places of worship per capita. We also tend to have the friendliest people I've met in this entire city living right here in our Southeastern district.  But with all that, we apparently aren't getting the message of how great our home is out to the world, and lifting our district up off people's "strictly avoid" list and onto their "not to be missed" list.  But do we want to?

Many of our great amenities are geared more toward the locals who live here than they are to tourists - at least tourists in the traditional sense of the word.  The Visitacion Valley Greenway, Heron's Head Park, McLaren Park, and the like are all great local resources, but are they (or should they even be) looked upon as tourist attractions?  I feel like we live in this hidden gem, where we all know how great it is (and may even take it for granted), but all the great things we have here are geared towards us, the locals, and aren't the cheap plasticky toursity things that people go to Ghirrardeli Square and the tourist places to get when they visit San Francisco. 

I'm conflicted - on the one hand, I'd love for the revenue that tourism brings to a place to come directly to the people of the Bayview and Visitacion Valley.  On the other, do we really want to have the traditional tourism-type venues in our backyard to bring those dollars in? 

What do you think?  If you want to discuss this, or if you have a favorite destination within D10 that you feel doesn't get the credit it deserves, I'd be happy to host a discussion in the comments for you to crow about it and to get people talking.

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