Saturday, May 7, 2011

Folsoma? Folbesini?

The other day I saw a real estate ad for a condo in "Folsoma." Seems to mean this place we live, near Folsom Street, South of Market, in San Francisco.

Huh. Well, maybe that's a good thing.

Looking up "Folsoma" online, I find someone or other on Yelp saying it's our "microhood" around Folsom between Seventh and Eighth. The cheap-eats [OK, free stuff in general] writer Broke-Ass Stuart says it's a new "completely made-up neighborhood". (He's a little late in suggesting that the edging-out of leather daddies could result. Things have been more yuppie than leathery here for years now.) The Broke-Assed One attributes "Folsoma" to a local news site called The Bold Italic. Probably would've been this article about a street fair thingy last spring.

Joel (my guy) has been working on more descriptive ideas. He likes "Folsini" or "Folbesini" for "Folsom Between Sixth and Ninth." Either one follows the New York precedent for multiple-word acronym neighborhoods -- think of TriBeCa or even DUMBO. Maybe we could call this place "Folbesini." It sounds like something on the Italian Riviera. "Dahling, we took a villa at Folbesini for the season and it was simply heavenly..."

South of Market used to be, well, South of Market, South of the Slot. One neighborhood, under Market, incorrigible, with warehouses, bars and low-rent housing for all. That was before Yerba Buena (Moscone Center, etcetera) broke up the neighborhood, and the old Third Street skid row became ghettoized over on Sixth.

In the '70s and '80s, of course, Folsom Street was "Folsom Street," sometimes "The Miracle Mile," gay bathhouse central, exciting, yes, but excitingly marginal. Then came AIDS, and the "white reflux" of yuppie couples to abandoned central neighborhoods, and the loft construction boom of the '90s, and Web 1.0, and with that more names started to apply.

In the '90s, we called our neighborhood from Sixth to about Tenth "Mid-SoMa", meaning to distinguish it from the almost-Mission club district to the west and from the heavy gentrifiers way east of us between the Financial District and the CalTrain station.

During the club and loft land-use wars of the '90s down here, planning activist Jim Meko started calling these parts "Western SoMa," I guess because his focus is on allowing (or not allowing) club-type entertainment, both in the Seventh/Howard/Folsom area and also toward Eleventh Street.

Now there's a further distinction called for, to distinguish the rapidly spiffing Folsom Street corridor west of Sixth from the better-known, frequently reviled stretch of closed storefronts on Market Street.

So, yeah, why not "Folbesini"?

Today we're just back from a grocery run that took us down Folsom, and more storefronts than ever are under renovation or newly open with artsy and foodie kinds of businesses like the Vega/Blue Bottle coffee shop, where an ancillary baked goods window is starting to open more often, and the City Beer Store, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary and expanding into a neighboring space.

The SF Chronicle and its backers like to call this whole part of town "mid-Market," focusing on those Market Street vacancies, and thereby promoting the fiction that our whole neighborhood is empty space available for colonization by big entities like Twitter. That "mid-Market" label has become our local expression of the Giuliani-style contempt for existing occupants that so famously turned Times Square into Disneyland.

Giving our area a name focused on Folsom Street might help turn the conversation toward the healthy, well-established community that already exists here -- a community that in time will expand organically northward with, yes, some money, but without needing big-big-big money, nor the scorched earth that goes with it.

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