John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas wrote this most famous song about San Francisco and it was heard for the first time at the Monterey Pop Festival back in 1967.  Scott McKenzie sang it.
“If you’re going to San Francisco,
be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…
If you’re going to San Francisco,
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there.”

Bob Weir, of the Grateful Dead, describes the time of the Summer of Love like this:

“Haight Ashbury was a ghetto of bohemians who wanted to do anything—and we did but I don’t think it has happened since. Yes there was LSD. But Haight Ashbury was not about drugs. It was about exploration, finding new ways of expression, being aware of one’s existence.”


These were the reasons people, in droves and droves, flocked to our city way back then and, now, to this very day.  It makes sense why people who participate in counterculture would want to find their way to the place it all began-way back when.

What doesn’t make sense is why the people of the Cole Valley Improvement Association came here.  In studying their website and their version of the hippie movement, the summer of love and the idea of finding “new ways of expression”, don’t mean much to them.  In fact, they find that whole idea detrimental to their desires: raising home values, cleaning the streets of people who appear poor, and eliminating services that serve those who are underprivileged.

You don’t have to take my word for it, either.  Pasted below is an excerpt from their website denoting their values for all to see.  Often, to articulate what those values are, they abase those who are in their way and not like-minded.  My analysis of their raison d’etre concludes that antagonism of others has been a way to unite people in their group.  Would you join a group that was formed solely to antagonize people they disagreed with?  Is that in the spirit of San Francisco?

I know that’s not why I came here-I just wonder about them.

It’s significant to note that the average cost of renting a single family home in SF is now about $3500/month.  Buying one is usually a million dollar proposition.  I’m not seeing the empirical evidence that the public services and the poor people and the drugs are any competition for that.

In my opinion, the CVIA is lucky to live in a place where people like them continue to be included by people like us.  If we were forced to play by their rules, it hardly seems the same courtesy would be returned.  But, now, as always, we welcome the CVIA to our family, and we remain willing to work with them to improve and resolve the issues of this neighborhood.  Our door is open.  Will they walk through it?

So far-no dice.  They would rather exclude people than find a way to share a neighborhood with them.

I get it.  Inclusion is hard and it takes practice.  Exclusion has always been an easy tool, often practiced, and accessible to all carnations of humanity.  I think that’s why the Summer of Love happened in the first place.

Which will you choose?

The article below appears on the Cole Valley Improvement Association website.
 A Brief History of Cole Valley Improvement Association
The Cole Valley improvement Association evolved from a neighborhood SAFE block group that started on Cole Street in 1987. The SAFE group members quickly found that they had common interests beyond Cole Street as the neighborhood was experiencing increasing frequency of drug sales and camping in the Panhandle and the Stanyan Street entrance to the park (Alvord Lake). The droves of young people wanting to relive the Summer of Love brought, and continue to bring, special problems such as sidewalk obstruction, sleeping in doorways and more drug trade. At the same time, as an increasing number of old flats were being converted into social services-following the path set by the nine venues of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics-there were fewer families with vested interests in the neighborhood.
CVIA took a very public and forceful position in January of 1988 when Mayor Art Agnos, in violation of a city ordinance, permitted individuals to sleep in vehicles parked on the streets bordering the Panhandle and Kezar Stadium. The mayor’s decision resulted in an influx of car campers. With no public toilets, driveways became the solution. As we met with members of the Board of Supervisors, pushed for television coverage of the issue and organized a letter writing and telephone campaign–we succeeded in convincing the mayor that this was a bad idea and he retreated. As a result, scores of Haight families joined CVIA, expanding our membership far beyond Cole Valley.

Although we are a resident group and are active members of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods (we supplied a president for two years, 1995-97), we never forget how important a healthy commercial district is. In the seventies, Haight Street was a dead zone of boarded-up buildings. Banks red-lined the neighborhood and it was difficult for home buyers to secure a loan. It was a long road back and we no longer frown on businesses that are not “neighborhood serving,” realizing that times have changed. So, although we do not want an influx of chain stores, we do want to support our merchants in keeping shoppers coming to the greater Haight. Having said that, one of our greatest dangers is that we will become an entertainment venue and those kinds of expansions in operating permits-both in restaurants and bars-we watch very closely.