Suburban wannabes vs. the Party Party people
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A fairy tale: Once upon a time there was a stone-hearted ogre named Capt. Dennis Martel of the San Francisco Police Department's Southern Station. The Ogre Martel — either through manic moodiness, misguided morality, or perpetual constipation owing to the enchanted stick up his ass — was determined not to let people party like it was 1999. Thus he began terrorizing the nearby Clubbers of SoMa, a benign race of ravers, burners, and freaks who desired nothing more than peace, unity, respect, and free bottled water near the dance floor.
The ogre was relentless. Soon, after-hours party permits were being pulled, club owners fined for "attracting loiterers," and gentle electronica fans in bunny suits hauled downtown for daring to reek of reefer. SF's premillennial party scene was in grave danger of becoming extinct, until a brave group of party people banded together and formed the San Francisco Late Night Coalition. These fair Knights of the Twirl-Around Table dedicated themselves to political action, local petitioning, and raising community awareness about the harmlessness of all-night dancing. Slowly but surely, they won over the hearts and votes of the townspeople, making clubbing safe again for all and banishing the evil Ogre Martel to parking lot duty at the airport. The end.
Well, not quite. Once again, good-natured fun in the Bay seems to be under attack. Only this time the threat comes not from one rogue cop and his wonky "cleanup" attempts, but from several nervous Nellies among the citizenry. As Amanda Witherell details in this issue, many of the city's most revered street fairs, festivals, and outdoor events are now threatened by, among other things, higher fees, lack of alcohol sales permits, and sudden, oddball "concerns." And the story doesn't stop there. The Pac Heights ski jump, amplified music in public spaces, and car-free Saturdays in Golden Gate Park have all recently been nixed by our supposedly green-minded go-go-boy mayor and his minions, under pressure from crotchety party poopers. Well-established clubs like the DNA Lounge, the Eagle Tavern, and — irony of ironies — the Hush Hush Lounge have had to dance madly and expensively around sound complaints. A popular wet-jockstrap contest in the Tenderloin was raided last month by cops, not because of the (whoops) accidental nudity and simulated sex, but because it was ... too loud. Huzzacuzzawha?
While money and politics are certainly involved, the one common denominator in all this anti-fun is the squeaky wheel, the neighborhood killjoy who screams "not in my backyard!" These irksome drudges, the NIMBYs, are strangling San Francisco's native spirit of communal cheer and outrageousness. Big business and corrupt political interests hinge their arguments for more money and less mirth on the whining of one or two finger waggers, despite overwhelming community support for the events being targeted. As often occurs in life, a single complaint carries far more weight than a hundred commendations. A few whack cranks bust the bash.
At this point one wants to shriek, "Move back to Mountain View, spoilsports!" And that's exactly the message of the San Francisco Party Party, the latest grassroots effort to combat what Party Party leader Ted Strawser calls "the rampant suburbanization of the most gloriously hedonistic city on earth." NIMBYs are hard to spot; they come in every class and color and don't always sport the telltale Hummers and French manicures of the previous generation of wet blankets (although they do often smell like diapers). The changing demographics of the city suggest that many new residents, mostly condo owners, commute to out-of-town jobs — in San Jose, say — and may be trying to transform San Francisco into a bedroom community.
"I don't know who these quasi prohibitionists think they are, but they don't belong here, that's for sure," Strawser says. "Street culture and community gatherings are the reason San Francisco exists. We live our happy lives on the sidewalks and in the bars. And it's bad enough we have to quit drinking at 2 a.m. Now we have to be quiet, too?"
The San Francisco Bike Coalition, the newly formed Outdoor Events Coalition, and the still-active Late Night Coalition are out in fabulous force to combat the NIMBYs. But, realizing the diffuseness of the problem, the Party Party is taking a less directly political, more Web-savvy approach to fighting San Francisco's gradual laming, using its site as a viral locus for disgruntled partyers, a portal linking directly to organizations combating NIMBYs, and a guide to local fun stuff happening each week. "We're a bunch of partyers, what can I say?" Strawser says. "We're doing our best to shed light on all this insane NIMBY stuff, but we also love to go out drinking. And that's a commitment many folks can relate to."
Let's hope we can win the fight again this time (tipsy or no). San Francisco is a progressive city, dedicated to the power of microgovernment and the ability to have your voice heard in your community. If you don't like what's happening next door, you should be able to do something about it. But it’s also a city of constant reinvention and liveliness, exploration and celebration. That's the reason we all struggle so much to stay here. That's what shapes our soul.
If some people can't handle it — well, the less the merrier, maybe. SFBG