Monday, March 4, 2024

While strolling through my San Francisco neighborhood of Glen Park, I couldn’t help but notice the new signs popping up everywhere. These signs feature the logo “It All Starts Here” and can be found in windows of various establishments like cafes, bars, bakeries, hardware stores, and hair salons. The purpose behind these placards is part of a $4 million advertising campaign funded by the city’s business leaders. Their goal is to attract new business to San Francisco and improve the city’s tarnished image.

However, not everyone understands the meaning behind these signs. Evan Ryan, a bartender at Glen Park Station, admits to having no idea what the campaign is all about. He’s simply content with his bar being filled with 49ers fans on Monday nights. Eric Whittington, the owner of Bird and Beckett, a bookstore known for hosting live jazz shows, also questioned the campaign’s purpose. Despite having signs offered to him, he opted not to display them in order to have window space for book and music advertisements.

Curious about the campaign’s intention, I decided to dig deeper. Rich Silverstein, a resident of San Francisco for over five decades and part of the San Francisco ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, was approached by Advance SF, a pro-business group, to design this new campaign. Though his wife expressed skepticism about marketing saving the city, Silverstein agreed to take on the task. He acknowledged the city’s struggles with dirty streets, homelessness, and drug use, but wanted to emphasize San Francisco’s rich history, innovative track record, and the need to start somewhere in rebuilding the city. The street sign shape used in the campaign is a nod to the iconic Haight and Ashbury intersection.

Not all advertising executives in the city share Silverstein’s conviction. Kyle Rios-Merwin, co-founder of Born & Bred branding agency, believes the campaign should have focused on showcasing the city’s compassion and efforts to solve its problems rather than highlighting the origins of popular companies like ride-sharing apps or coffee companies. Kevin Gammon, founder of Teak branding agency, also felt that the campaign lacked heart and appeared too corporate. He believed a campaign should capture the essence of San Francisco, which he once accomplished with his team’s campaign, “Never the same. Always San Francisco.”

Back in Glen Park, Paul Park, owner of Buddies Market, displayed the sign simply because he liked its appearance, even though he didn’t fully grasp its meaning. His concerns lie more with rising rents and a declining customer base, which prompted him to reduce his store’s hours. He welcomed any form of assistance, even if it was just a window sign.

In other news, if you’re looking for a scenic outdoor adventure in Southern California, The Los Angeles Times has published a guide to fully accessible trails in the region. These trails cater to individuals with limited mobility, including those using wheelchairs, young children, older adults, and people with physical disabilities. Some notable trails mentioned include the tree-lined path to Mount Wilson Observatory and the wetland walk around Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach.

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