Like Regina George admonishing Gretchen Weiners’s word choice before the North Shore High Winter Talent Show, San Franciscans might not be keen on the idea of accepting a new name for Rincon Hill, South Beach, and parts of Yerba Buena. But a well-coffered grassroots campaign could do the trick.
A local effort led by the Greater Rincon Hill Community Benefit District (now called the East Cut Community Benefit District) plans to combine Rincon Hill, South Beach, and parts of the Transbay District into one neighborhood called the East Cut. The new name does sound arguably cooler. In a neighborhood filled with tech ilk wearing athleisure, a bit of edge seems desirable, if not necessary.
“The name does not, in any way, seek to remove Rincon Hill or the Transit Center from conversations about the neighborhood—both of those places are central to the neighborhood, its history and its future,” says Andrew Robinson, executive director of the East Cut group.
In fact, the name came about after several alternate names were bandied about by residents and business owners alike. Robinson adds, “The process to get to the East Cut name was thoughtful, and involved community and public board meetings, walking tours of the district, surveying of people in the neighborhood about what they called the neighborhood, and many one-on-one conversations with residents, merchants, and, yes, developers.”
Speaking of budget, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that $68,000 of the group’s annual $2.5 million budget was used to help rechristen the area, a figure the East Cut group denies.
Starting at Second Street, the East Cut would cover Rincon Hill, three blocks of the Embarcadero, and the entirety of the Transbay District from Jessie Street to the Bay Bridge entrance. The attempt will be to reimagine a new 25-block arrondissement.
And it’s a big risk.
Not all newfangled neighborhood names stick. Some neighborhood name changes happen organically, and are often based on the names of popular streets (e.g., the Castro, the Haight), while others spawn from the minds of realtors. Renaming attempts like DivCo, SoCha, SOMISSPO, Valencia Bottoms, or—most bile-inducing—the Quad mercifully never took hold.
However, the East Cut seems to be taking shape, at least on paper. Described by Robinson as "a 21st-century idea of what a neighborhood should be, mixing old and new and a variety of uses,” the East Cut already has a logo (three horizontal bars forming the letter “E”), a website, social media outlets, and even a tote bag.
“Many residents and merchants, nonprofits, and property owners wanted to find a name that would unify Rincon Hill and the Transbay Transit area while celebrating the evolution of Folsom Street into a truly livable street,” says Robinson. “The East Cut is the result of this community effort, expressly undertaken so that the neighborhood would not become marketed by real estate interest.”
But not everyone is happy about it.
“Next time you hear anyone say they live in the East Cut, just laugh at them and berate them,” says Jay Barmann of SFist. “That may work to kill this thing.”
One point of contention is that Rincon Hill, one of San Francisco’s original seven hills, is a historic name dating back to to the mid-1800s. Similar to its Russian Hill and Nob Hill brethren, the name carries an élan that the East Cut does not yet possess.
Jamie Whitaker, a longtime Rincon Hill resident, wishes that they would have just ditched the word "Hill" instead.
“Rincon is used for the historic postal annex at Steuart and Howard and a few businesses around there,” says Whitaker. “I think folks were just starting to learn Rincon Hill versus South Beach for our neck of the woods, and hope folks continue to call it such when referring to south of Folsom Street.”
Like most residents in the area, he’s just happy the staid "Transbay Neighborhood" name didn't grow legs.
“That would have been unacceptable,” says Whitaker, adding, “the East Cut is okay; we will see if it sticks or if it is like the Willie L. Brown Bridge—a name only relevant to the guy or entity who conjured up the name.”