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The People's Guide: North Beach Blogged, Day 4

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The People's Guide is Curbed SF's tour o' the nabes, led by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. This week, we welcome Jackson West on board as a guest contributor; Jackson has been blogging in and about San Francisco for nearly five years, most recently gossiping about the technology industry at Valleywag. Join Jackson every day this week as he says his piece about the NB. Want to say yours, blogger? Holler!

It's getting to be that time of year again— the time of year when everyone has an opinion about the North Beach Festival. Two years ago the event was almost canceled because of concerns over alcohol and whether or not the event was "family friendly." This year, instead of "think of the children!" the anti-festival party line seems to be "think of the grass!" Yes, the fight over the fest has devolved into an actual turf war. And as if to make it perfectly clear what's at stake, fencing has surrounded the park for weeks, installed to protect newly laid sod.

I'm not really sure where the antipathy originated. North Beach puts up with thousands of tourists every day, and every weekend, thousands of drunks at varying levels of belligerence. Local merchants reportedly do quite well, with every bar and eatery packed for blocks. The only thing I can imagine is that it's in keeping with a certain level of NIMBYism that's begun to infest San Francisco city life and politics, from the Haight to the Castro, from Folsom Street to Washington Square Park.

The thing is, the park and the streets aren't just for neighbors, or exclusively San Franciscans— they're for everyone. If there's a downside to district representation, it's that it diminishes the scope of what's considered a citywide commons. The park isn't just North Beach's backyard, it's supposed to be open and accessible to anyone who happens to show up. Calling it a backyard implies a sense of ownership that's unfounded. It's as much the backyard of someone who lives in the Outer Sunset as Golden Gate Park is for residents here.

As for the fresh concerns over park greenery, I'll happily endorse closing off more streets for the fest, and wouldn't mind seeing more streets closed off in general. But shutting down the event entirely would send the wrong kind of signal to busybodies who would rather local planning run through fiercely territorial neighborhood associations than our duly chartered and elected city government.