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October 01, 2007

Netroots Nation* '08: The Case For Making it a San Francisco Treat

By Deborah Newell Tornello
aka litbrit

Photo by Itinerant.

Why San Francisco?  So many reasons, but so little time before the decision gets made, given that 2008 will be an extraordinarily busy, thrilling, and jam-packed year for progressive bloggers, journalists, and politicians alike.  And since, it would seem, the selection process is still rumbling along quietly, I'm going to be bold (and yes, a bit biased) and nominate the beautiful and incomparably appropriate City by the Bay for Most Favored Host for Yearly Kos*, now known as Netroots Nation.

Read on, my pretties and handsomes, and I will convince you.

You're undoubtedly familiar with the fact that San Franciscans are an intellectual, culturally diverse, and enormously progressive populace, one that enjoys wildly thriving business, arts, and LGBT communities. Thumbs up to SF for meeting all those criteria, definitely.

So  how about its main convention facilities?

Seems to me the location, location, location requirement is fulfilled and then some: the Moscone Center is an award-winning convention complex that's perfectly located within the perfect metropolis. Unlike many other U.S. cities, where convention centers are situated in outlying areas that are disappointingly and inconveniently far removed from their vibrant and feature-filled nuclei, San Francisco built its main such facility, The Moscone Center, within walking distance of more than 20,000 hotel rooms--rooms to suit every budget and style. There are countless amazing restaurants, coffee shops, and bars nearby, too.

Plus, the Moscone Center is green.  And union-friendly:

The intent of sustainable programs is to promote and support operational and business practices which lessen adverse environmental impact, benefit the local community and make economic sense. The success achieved at the Moscone Center is due to the close collaboration of numerous players including SMG staff, the City and County of San Francisco, show management, general and exhibitor appointed contractors, attendees, exhibitors, the Public Utilities Commission, and the ten labor unions represented at the Moscone Center. All sustainability programs are an extension of their efforts.

Then there is Greens, the venerable vegetarian restaurant, friendly to all who appreciate delicious food; indeed, the menu, the local wines offered, and the view of the Golden Gate bridge mean happily distracted carnivores will never miss the meat. (Yes, you might have to ride one of those famous and thoroughly enjoyable cable cars to get there, you poor thing.)

Not that San Francisco is lacking for meat markets, mind you--an important criterion to keep in mind when choosing a city, ye High Priests of the Orange Order. Nightclubs and restaurants and bars, oh my!

That gorgeous San Francisco summertime climate is also something to think dream about, my friends. If you're like me, which is to say, someone who doesn't exactly enjoy being stuck in traffic while a surly cab-driver grumbles that no, there isn't any air-conditioning in this sauna-on-wheels and too bad about your nice outfit getting soaking wet even as you bake to a crisp, you'll love this: in August, high temperatures hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and lows are in the mid-50's.

Come on, how perfect is that?  You can walk everywhere wearing suits, as opposed to (literally) sweat-suits.

And when you're not busy conventioning, you'll be able to choose from a range of diversions unmatched in breadth and depth by any other American city: ArtSportsTheatreOpera.  Design centers.  Haight-Ashbury, which for some of us is a walk down (hazy) memory lane. Live music to suit every taste.   Parks and botanic gardens.  World-class people-watching from an infinite number of outdoor cafes, and sights to see from every hilltop.  Chinatown and dim sum. And of course, shopping--at one-of-a kind (and endlessly fascinating) boutiques and ateliers, as well as at larger stores that invariably turn out to be the jewel in their respective national chains, from Old Navy and the Gap (both of which are flagships) to Neiman Marcus and Barneys.

Further, keep these two companies in mind: Ghirardelli Square and the Scharffen Berger factory.  (A city with everything going for it and they've got chocolate.  It's almost too much.)

You can get from most major U.S. cities to San Francisco (or nearby Oakland) via one of any number of the usual suspects airlines, too.

And finally, on a personal note, by next summer this Florida resident will be a U.S. citizen longing for a parallel home-away-from-home, a splendid, richly-storied, and foggy old American city in which to leave her heart.

I think I've covered all the main arguments; do add your own in comments, and by all means let the folks at Kos World know what you think.

Until next year, then--I'll be the one with flowers in her hair.

October 1, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

I second the motion. What's the point of being San Francisco liberals if you don't occassionally get to go to San Francisco.

Not to knock the "City of the Big Shoulders, Hog Butcher to the World" and all that Sandburgian stuff, but once the Great Orange Hoedown is held in the City by the Bay, I predict a clamor for permanent status.

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Oct 1, 2007 9:23:14 AM

San Francisco is great, and I would really like to go someday, but my vote is for New Orleans, baby! No offense, but we have conventions down to a science!

Posted by: alli | Oct 1, 2007 9:43:38 AM

One reason NOT to: Cost. SF is not by any means a cheap city, either as a conference planner or attendee.

Go downmarket to maintain affordability.

Posted by: fiat lux | Oct 1, 2007 10:42:31 AM

Plus, if you make in late September, you can visit the Folsom Street Fair that makes wingnuts' heads explode.

Posted by: Sock Puppet of the Great Satan | Oct 1, 2007 10:51:02 AM

Tell that to my Amex bill, fiat. Nearly $700 for three nights in a tiny room at the overflow Chicago Hyatt (once taxes, internet fees, and one substandard room-service meal were added in), plus a small fortune in cash outlays for hot, smelly cabs in order to get from said overflow Hyatt to the convention center on the outskirts of town. And it was much too hot to walk more than a few blocks, unless you did so in the pre-dawn hours.

San Francisco has plenty of affordable hotel rooms for those willing to look (as low as $80 a night), plus I'm sure a block deal could be worked out. You can walk everywhere and there is abundant public transportation. You can skip the pricey 5-star restaurants and still have a delicious 5-star meal at countless ethnic eateries all over the city.

I speak from experience, by the way, not just wishful thinking.

Downmarket in August translates to stifling heat, trapped-within-the-complex boredom, and, quite frankly, false economy. I'd much rather go down Market Street.

Posted by: litbrit | Oct 1, 2007 10:59:16 AM

Litbrit,

I concur -- you never need a cab in SF, there are great bargain restaurants, and at one time you could stay somewhere like the Sir Francis Drake, which kind of defined faded elegance in a great location, for not much money. (I am not sure if that is still true.) But it's not a city in which you can't get deals (I'm entering the double negative Olympics.)

Also, remember to look at flights to Oakland to get there. Just as close as the SF airport and usually cheaper.

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Oct 1, 2007 11:30:54 AM

"you never need a cab in SF"

!! Corrected your typo to: "You can never find a frickin' cab in SF, 'cos the city supes lack the balls to issue more permits"

Posted by: Sock Puppet of the Great Satan | Oct 1, 2007 11:40:36 AM

at one time you could stay somewhere like the Sir Francis Drake, which kind of defined faded elegance in a great location, for not much money.

I stayed there about eighteen months ago for a conference and I think it was in the $125/night range. It seems like the toughest part would be finding affordable meeting spaces in the city, though, lodging prices aside. However, if they keep Ykos/NN in August I can't think of too many places I'd rather be than the Bay Area, weather-wise.

Posted by: latts | Oct 1, 2007 12:42:23 PM

librit you make your case most convincingly. I lived there for ten years and frankly, I can't imagine actually having to convince someone to come to the city. It's perhaps the most beautiful city on this continent (and yes, there are several other contenders but...).

That said, it is expensive. It is a popular convention city and August is the peak of the tourist season.

I still think SF is the perfect place. If nothing else, it makes wingnut commentaries about the convention so much more simple.

Posted by: russell | Oct 1, 2007 1:32:01 PM

litbrit, I don't argue that there are $80 a night hotel rooms available in SF in the off-season, especially if you don't mind staying in the Tenderloin or out by the airport. But I happen to live here, and I've also been on the conference planning side here. It's not going to be significantly cheaper than Chicago.

Posted by: lux | Oct 1, 2007 1:54:15 PM

It's not going to be significantly cheaper than Chicago.

Significantly nicer, though. By orders of magnitude. Sorry, but as lovely a city Chicago is in the fall, it was anything but in August. And its convention center was miles--literally--from civilization and anything other than corporate/chain restaurants.

Why do liberals want to flagellate themselves so? :-)

Bear in mind that for many of us who have children and/or our own businesses, that couple of days we take off for Yearly Kos represents our only vacation. I know it was my only "holiday" in over two years. Forgive me for wanting it to be somewhere lovely, somewhere I'd actually go in August, convention or not.

Posted by: litbrit | Oct 1, 2007 2:36:00 PM

You've got to drive for miles to find something in the Motel 6 range that isn't dangerous; specifically across the Bay or at least Daly City.

And, since the Democratic Party is more of an international party and doesn't restrict itself to looking to U.S. citizens for votes or representing solely U.S. interests, can I suggest some much cheaper, more exciting, and more appropriate places? Havana is real nice in September, as is Chiapas during that time. And, don't forget Rangoon.

Posted by: TLB | Oct 1, 2007 2:51:08 PM

TLB's irritation

It would be hard to avoid something like a keynote address from Pelosi. A political event with such clout in her own backyard would require her attentions. Regardless of what the netroots think of Madame Speaker, that can only be a good thing.

Also, as a resident of San Francisco, may I suggest an sponsor-a-blogger apartment donation program? I would be happy to vacate my downtown flat for the duration of the conference so that a blogger or two could save the hotel fee. This being the most wired & liberal of cities, I know I'm not alone. Attendance is what? 1500-ish? We could put a significant dent in that (say 500), particularly if one were to include the BARTable portions of Berkeley and Oakland. San Francisco itself is geographically small. Our Drinking Liberally chapters are robust. We do political activism well in this corner of the country. This wouldn't be a difficult program to get rolling.

Posted by: Sangfroid826 | Oct 1, 2007 3:11:10 PM

I meant to include that the irritation of the TLBs of the world would, of course, be icing of the cake.

Posted by: Sangfroid826 | Oct 1, 2007 3:13:21 PM

TLB, your familiarity with Motel 6 is touching, but if you befriended a few liberals, they might let you in on some affordable inside places like the small hotels I normally stay at when in SF.

Havana is actually an amazing old city, but Cuba, like all relatively primitive and unspoiled Caribbean islands, is a better place to visit in the early part of the year (cooler air, less chance of being caught in a hurricane). And oh my goodness, the lobster diving is unparalleled. Like nothing on Earth.

You wouldn't know about this unless you were fluent in Spanish and had an "international" passport, though. Quel dommage.

Posted by: litbrit | Oct 1, 2007 3:14:20 PM

Sangfroid826: Brilliant thinking. Thank you. I hope some Kossacks are reading this.

Posted by: litbrit | Oct 1, 2007 3:18:00 PM

Way OT..but fascinated by the photo on the kiosk.

To achieve that posture - 'relaxed' hand reversed under chin -
she has to almost do contortion.
So this beautiful woman is enhanced by a physical configuration
which is utterly inutile and thus rendering her her 'helpless', vulnerable and....
ever more attractive.

I am reminded of sleeves slipped down over palms....
rendering the holder...helpless and possibly vulnerable
and ever more attractive.

Funny that. Sorry couldn't help it.
A really nice photo tho.

Posted by: has_te | Oct 1, 2007 3:46:39 PM

"You're undoubtedly familiar with the fact that San Franciscans are an intellectual, culturally diverse, and enormously progressive populace, one that enjoys wildly thriving business, arts, and LGBT communities. Thumbs up to SF for meeting all those criteria, definitely."

I live in San Francisco and grew up in it's burbs, and gawd, this town just loves itself to death. And manages to pat itself on the back pretty much continuously.

Sorry to reveal the reality: It's not a progressive place. Far from it. It's a highly class-driven society with essentially a failed economy for over 70 years. Silicon Valley is largely due to Stanford's pressuring the US government to blow giant piles of money for over 40 years in what became Silicon Valley (defense contractors were the major employers by far in Silicon Valley until the early 1990s). That had little to do with San Francisco itself - San Francisco's economy was always based upon the port, and the port's decline began just after 1900. (That's why the Beats moved here - the local economy was lousy, and the rents were cheap). Without Silicon Valley (which was really completely coicedental), this town's only economic lifeline would be tourism.

It's a highly class-riven place: we just don't like to admit it to ourselves here. We want to believe that we're egalitarian, but our mayor is a lazy do-nothing blue-blooded courtier to the Getty family (whom nobody even bothers running against even though he hasn't done anything for at least 3 years - and he even admits he has been high or drunk for most of his term!), our US Senator (Feinstein) is an old-money dame married to a venture capitalist who primarily made his dough from defense contracting, the city is run by a political machine, the only newspaper is run by the Hearsts (yes, those Hearsts) and only does wine reporting and high-end restaurant reviews well, we have something like six society magazines, Don Fisher effectively runs the place, our murder rate's going through the roof and no one even notices because the victims are all African-American..........

Posted by: burritoboy | Oct 1, 2007 5:10:43 PM

Burritoboy, there's a place where millions of likeminded people share your opinion of our fair city. In this place, they do not "love themselves to death" (at least not in the municipal sense).

Its rents are cheap. Its economy is not in decline. Its political leaders have a more plebian pedigree.

It's about 400 miles south. It's called "Los Angeles". You may find it more to your liking.

Posted by: Sangfroid826 | Oct 1, 2007 6:05:15 PM

{hangs head} That'll show me to try to match wits with liberals!

As a bit of an olive branch, let me suggest a minor variation on Sangfroid826's idea. Liberal bloggers could bring tents and set up temporary housing on traffic islands on Montgomery Street and the like. And, as temporary citizens of SF, they could also get some cash payments and even points for those so inclined.

Posted by: TLB | Oct 1, 2007 6:33:48 PM

burritoboy, if you're going to start ruling out potential Kos convention cities based on the ethics of its politicians and (some of) its wealthy, good luck finding anywhere suitable. You'll have to strike every Florida city--small and large--off the list, for one thing. Off comes New Orleans. Say bye-bye to a whole slew of other towns as hosts-to-be. And good God, what on Earth were we doing in Chicago?

I won't argue with your description of politicians and ruling classes--you live there and I don't.

But I will say that I know your city well, and I also know a few of the so-called wealthy class you decry, people who happen to be the most authentically philanthropic, progressive, and politically active (in a quiet, under-the-radar way) individuals I've ever had the good fortune to know. I refer to authors, artists, architects and musicians you won't see in those magazines you mention.

Compared to every other city of its size, sir, SF deserves to pat itself on the back about its liberal and, in my observation, remarkably generous, remarkably intellectual populace. There are more far residents than there are politicians, and coloring them all as poseurs, using the same cynical paintstrokes for government and governed alike, is exactly what we don't want other nations to do when contemplating America, the Country: lump us in with our unfortunate, unworthy ruler and his enablers.

Posted by: litbrit | Oct 1, 2007 7:05:28 PM

My union clients in San Francisco would attest to it being a place in which at least some mebers of the working class can make a pretty damn good living, better I would suggest than certain sweltering cities in right to work states not known for their good government bona fides.

Posted by: Klein's tiny left nut | Oct 1, 2007 7:58:01 PM

"Compared to every other city of its size, sir, SF deserves to pat itself on the back about its liberal and, in my observation, remarkably generous, remarkably intellectual populace. There are more far residents than there are politicians, and coloring them all as poseurs"

San Francisco is precisely the problem: it's citizens are (nearly unanimously, at least on the surface) theoretically "liberal" in the US context. But what does that actually mean? To some extent, we should be getting proofs of what a liberal politics looks like. If we're right about liberalism, then San Francisco should have remarkably good politics, economics and so on.

When the reality is that San Francisco's politics are focused on twee irrelevant nonsense (which they are), with nobody willing to challenge a unified establishment that openly announces that it intends to do literally nothing, it shows us that either our version of liberalism isn't coherent enough (everybody calls themselves liberals, but that doesn't really mean much) or that our ideas are, at the minimum, off-kilter.

And San Francisco's economics, at the minimum, are extremely problematic: a bar-belled economy (with extremely high inequality levels), boom/bust cycles with massive layoffs for much of the cycle, highly class-riden hierarchies, an inability to develope successful economic plans for over 70 years, and so on.

Yeah, the weather's great and the restaurants are wonderful. Don't mistake that for a substantively different politics under the surface.

Posted by: burritoboy | Oct 2, 2007 4:49:37 AM

"But I will say that I know your city well, and I also know a few of the so-called wealthy class you decry, people who happen to be the most authentically philanthropic, progressive, and politically active (in a quiet, under-the-radar way) individuals I've ever had the good fortune to know. I refer to authors, artists, architects and musicians you won't see in those magazines you mention."

You don't know the city really that well, because, while San Francisco prefers to put on a happy face of artists and charitable liberal entrepreneurs/venture capitalists, what the place is really about is taking place in not so amusing or fun locations like Fremont, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Richmond and so on where things happen rather less......... artistically. Rather like time traveling to a medieval king's palace and asserting that everybody lived back then lived like the king.

"My union clients in San Francisco would attest to it being a place in which at least some mebers of the working class can make a pretty damn good living, better I would suggest than certain sweltering cities in right to work states not known for their good government bona fides."

Ah, so, the engineers finally got to unionize? Oh, wait, no, they didn't. What unionized working class are you talking about, besides the construction trades and the public employees (yes, the firefighters make over 100,000 a year here - is that a victory for the working class)? There are no factories in San Francisco (ok, there's a gravel plant somewhere). The port is dead. Tourism-related unionization isn't particularly much more supported anymore here than anywhere else.

Posted by: burritoboy | Oct 2, 2007 5:09:13 AM

What burritoboy said. I love to live in San Francisco, but the politics are stuck back in the 1970s at best, and fixated on trivia and stopping development. No wonder MoveOn is a Silicon Valley phenomenon and Daily Kos is an East Bay thing.

I recently got a flyer to support a bill to the board of supervisors to stop development of three lots *right next to* the 101 freeway, because supposedly it's really, really important environmentally. Personally, I'd think it better environmentally to develop the land so that there are less people commuting to the Bay Area from the Central Valley. About the only thing that SF could have done to remedy the inequality in wealth (largely due to housing price inflation) would have been to build, build, build, up, up, up. As it is, the price and dispersion of real estate means that not only have you little hope of buying if you already own, but if you're in say, Glen Park or the Excelsior, you've no hope of moving up to Noe Valley or the Castro: so there's less and less turnover of what where starter homes.

I'm less critical of the jobs situation: there's no particular reason to site a factory in SF (and, given the bitching and moaning re. the Ball Park and the UCSF's new research campus, no chance of one being ever built), and Oakland Port in terms of expansion and rail links is a better option. I do think that SF missed a great opportunity to be the hub of biotech that South San Francisco became: hopefully the new UCSF campus will provide another opportunity.


Posted by: Sock puppet of the Great Satan | Oct 2, 2007 12:34:46 PM

"I'm less critical of the jobs situation: there's no particular reason to site a factory in SF (and, given the bitching and moaning re. the Ball Park and the UCSF's new research campus, no chance of one being ever built), and Oakland Port in terms of expansion and rail links is a better option."

The problem with San Francisco being envisioned as solely a white-collar center - basically, seeing San Francisco as the place where the professional services firms that work for Silicon Valley companies locate their staffs - is manifold, though:

1. professional services firms (lawyers, bankers, consultants, etc.) tend to boom/bust even more volatilly than do the industries they work for. Considering that SF's professional services' firms already are tied to a very volatile industry, this makes SF's economy extremely volatile.

2. professional services firms don't offer a wide range of opportunities to all segments of society. In a manufacturing firm, you can be an executive, a professional, a skilled worker, an unskilled worker and so on. So, pretty much everyone could at least theoretically find some comparatively appropriate position at a large manufacturer, regardless of education, class, experience, etc.

Professional services firms tend to be either very highly trained and experienced professionals with handfuls of receptionists and admins. The professional jobs are very good ones, but that sort of structure doesn't offer any job opportunities to a lot, if not a majority, of society (try getting at job at McKinsey without a degree from an elite university). Which is why the African-American population of San Francisco is comparatively quite poor, and has been diminishing in numbers rapidly. There are simply relatively few job opportunities for that community here - not too many African-Americans from the SF public housing projects getting EE degrees from MIT or Stanford.

Posted by: burritoboy | Oct 2, 2007 1:48:49 PM

burritoboy,

Yes they are in the building trades and do rather well.

And, yes, I guess I consider firefighters and cops and nurses being paid well as a victory for the working class.

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Oct 2, 2007 3:55:00 PM

"Yes they are in the building trades and do rather well.

And, yes, I guess I consider firefighters and cops and nurses being paid well as a victory for the working class."

Again, that's why initial impressions can be highly deceptive. The question is whether San Francisco respects working class workers as a whole, not in special highly-politically charged situations. The best way to respect the working class is to develope some sort of role for them in this post-industrial, post-port San Francisco that goes beyond receptionist or cop or waiter. Or, if that's impossible, at least acknowledge that our post-industrial doesn't work for everybody.


Posted by: burritoboy | Oct 2, 2007 4:43:10 PM

The question is whether San Francisco respects working class workers as a whole, not in special highly-politically charged situations.

So I guess our highest-in-the-nation $9.14 minimum wage is just post-industrial window dressing, huh?

Posted by: Sangfroid826 | Oct 2, 2007 7:38:48 PM

Wait a minute--$9.14 is your minimum wage?

Why the hell are normal, working class and middle class people flocking to Florida? Surely I'm not the first to say it: In almost every respect, we suck, unless you're really, really, really rich.

And you don't want to have a convention here in August. Not unless it's Black-tie Surfer Baggies & Bikinis, held on Daytona Beach, with regular breaks for those who'd like to head to the track and learn how to really drive.

Posted by: litbrit | Oct 2, 2007 10:01:38 PM

"So I guess our highest-in-the-nation $9.14 minimum wage is just post-industrial window dressing, huh?"

If you want to try living here on $9.14 a hour........... ahem. This is an area where the nearest cheap housing is in Hayward (25+ miles away) - where cheap might mean $800/month for a studio apartment. Again, ask the African-American community why it's leaving here at a rapid rate.

I, of course, support the living wage ordinance. But it doesn't square the circle of the overall inequality of the city - which is certainly a typical story for any other American city. That's the point - it isn't as different as it wants to believe.

Posted by: burritoboy | Oct 3, 2007 1:06:47 AM

Oh, stop. This kind of hyperbole doesn't even fly with locals.

We actually invented Craigslist for exactly this issue.

Check the site for housing in SF under $500 a month before you make these wild claims.

$800? Hayward? Please.

Posted by: Sangfroid826 | Oct 3, 2007 1:52:53 PM


"The problem with San Francisco being envisioned as solely a white-collar center - basically, seeing San Francisco as the place where the professional services firms that work for Silicon Valley companies locate their staffs - is manifold, though"

I thought most of the white-collar services to the tech firms were in San Jose itself or Palo Alto. Certainly the IP lawyers are.

Also, there are at least 8 different industries in the Bay Area that are on different cycles: chip toolmakers like Applied Materials and Novellus; chipmakers like AMD; computer companies like HP and Apple: software companies like McAfee; business enterprise software companies like Oracle; biotech firms like Genentech or Chiron; instrumentation companies like Agilent and Applied Biosystems or Biorad; energy companies like Chevron or Valero. These are all on cycles that are not all in phase with each other.
And you have three world-class research universities (five if you include UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis), three national labs, and three world-class commercial R&D centers (SRI, Xerox Parc and IBM Almaden). Seed magazine called the SF Bay Area the second greatest R&D city in the world, after Cambridge, UK.

The idea we're one cycle away from a total bust is ludicrous.

"The best way to respect the working class is to develope some sort of role for them in this post-industrial, post-port San Francisco that goes beyond receptionist or cop or waiter."

I'm unclear what that role of the city politics are in this, aside from not screwing up potential deals. There's some underutilized land in Dogpatch and Bayshore that could go to manufacturing: I'd say that SF could look to the partnership that Berkeley has with Bayer's biotech operations as a model.

2-3 decades ago, there was a substantial chemical and metalworking (there even was a steel mill) in the Bay Area: there isn't now, just the oil refineries. Similarly, there was a substantial military footprint: there isn't now, save Hamilton AFB. These provided substantial skilled labor jobs: there's no prospect of them returning.

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