P.San Francisco receptions can be fun. For many, the city is a misunderstandingensible cluster of tourist attractions. For others, it’s a maze of possibilities – personal, spiritual, professional, or any other path that we want to grow. And when you meet people from all over the world who have experienced these 48 hills, you quickly realize that everyone has a different San Francisco on their mind, much like a group of people who read the same book and run away with different interpretations.
My San Francisco is on the corner of 36th Avenue and Balboa Street, in the middle of the village of Balboa. Here one often has the feeling that they are hiding from the demands of life. In a city notorious for its gentrification and transformation, having a coffee from the Simple Pleasures Cafe is a medicinal trait with longtime locals gathering in the parklet and delving deep into the details of local politics.
Two blocks south takes you straight to Golden Gate Park, where memorial benches surround Spreckels Lake. About a block to the west is the Bison paddock, where you can almost certainly hear someone enthusiastically declaring, “I didn’t know Bison lived here!”
Amy Heimzerling and Michael Levin dine al fresco at Cassava on Balboa Street on October 7, 2020. Photo: Scott Strazzante / The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
Two blocks west of 36th and Balboa is home to a number of local institutions. The oldest is the Balboa Theater, founded in 1926. Neighborhood cinemas have always been at a disadvantage when competing with the larger, well-known theaters. With Covid offsetting the movie theater experience in the worst possible way, I am very proud to see the resilience of the Balboa Theater over the past year. In addition to the goods for sale, they have started showing movies outdoors and selling take-away food and beverages. On Sundays, local jazz musicians perform under the marquee and outside the audience.
Election Inspector Hannah Jones under the marquee of the Balboa Theater (labeled “Black Lives Matter”) while working at the polling station on November 3, 2020. Photo: Lea Suzuki / The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
The resilience of our local cinema equates to the compassion of neighborhood loyalty. The community supported the Balboa Theater during its struggles, and we see it in many shops in Balboa Village as well. Almost a year ago, neither of us knew exactly how long the pandemic would last and what challenges would come. In April 2020, four Asian-owned facilities were targeted and broken into. Hateful graffiti also appeared.
As hurtful and racist as these attacks were, I was impressed with how quickly the community and these competing restaurants and cafes came together and stood united. Overnight shopkeepers helped each other open their windows, artists offered to paint over the boards, and parishioners organized and donated funds to keep our local economy going.
I owe this community to keep my trust in humanity healthy. This is a neighborhood that takes care of one another. And while our local community cherishes our old traditions, we’ve also seen a warm welcome for new small businesses. And as someone who considers this corner of San Francisco their home, I encourage you to support our local businesses, make friends, and enjoy the temporality of our small but very diverse beach town within the big city.