A new group that formed before the pandemic began but is just now getting its gears in motion is aiming to revive San Franciscans' pride in their city, after at least a decade in which the overall consensus has been that everything here is terrible.
They're called Shine On SF, and one of their first big initiatives kicks off this weekend with some whimsical Golden Trees. The idea is that 16 trees will be temporarily installed in multiple locations around the city, and residents are encouraged to visit one during specific event times and write on a golden card an answer to the question "What makes San Francisco shine?" — and the cards will all be hung from the trees. This seems a bit like the product of a corporate off-site team-building event, but the intention is heartfelt, and perhaps it will have the desired effect of encouraging positivity.
Each site will reportedly host a different "craft activity" during the events, which begin this weekend and go on through August 15 — and then the cards will be used to make one grand installation. See this weekend's events below, or check out this interactive map for other locations.
Even the sometimes dour Heather Knight at the Chronicle seemed amused by the idea, and she even came up with a few reasons we should still love SF: "It’s drop-dead gorgeous. Its weather is cool and temperate as the rest of the state bakes. Seventy-five percent of San Franciscans over 12 are fully vaccinated, among the highest rates in the world. The Giants are the best team in baseball. The dahlias in Golden Gate Park are blooming, and the carousel is spinning once more. Even the cable cars are running again..."
As the SF Business Times notes, Shine On SF is also working with the city to improve how 311 calls and requests for trash and graffiti cleanups get handled, harnessing the power of various neighborhood groups to help. Mayor London Breed announced the initiative at a Wednesday event, noting that $2 million in the new city budget has been allocated to the effort.
Coalition members include leaders of the Hotel Council, San Francisco Arts Alliance, SF Travel, Golden Gate Restaurant Association, the SF Chamber of Commerce, the Tenderloin Business Improvement District, and the American Conservatory Theater; private companies like Clorox, Dropbox and NextDoor; and it brings together representatives from city agencies as well.
"It can’t be just about one city agency or one nonprofit agency taking care of cleaning up and some of the challenges that exist here," Breed said on Wednesday. "It requires all of us to do our part."
"It shouldn’t be the job of business owners to deal with the stuff that’s going on the sidewalk,” said Simon Bertrang, executive director of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, speaking to the Business Times. “Imagine if the business owner just reports an issue to 311 and that very same day we’re there to deal with it."
He added, "For years the city is working in one silo and the community benefit districts in another, we weren’t talking to each other. Now our work, their work will go into the same system through 311."
Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of SF Travel, said in remarks on Wednesday that he sees the effort as a way to communicate to tourists that the city itself is trying, and the people here care — despite what some streets look like.
"We want San Francisco to tell a story to our visitors and residents alike about our unified commitment and enthusiasm to making our city the best it can be," D'Alessandro said.
Residents who want to volunteer for a Golden Tree event can sign up here.