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Left Coast Girl

[whitespace] Our Fair City

By Jenn Shreve

Last-minute holiday shopping madness is not the only thing making downtown San Francisco unbearable these days. The clinky-clank banging of metal on metal at any number of construction sites is cause for mental anguish that no wailing, greed-poisoned children could seek to equal.

There are several hotels rising plank-by-plank to take their place on the city skyline. There's the Children's Center--with carousel--that's sprouted on top of the Moscone Convention Center. And one mustn't forget Sony's megahuge 15-screen-plus 3D Imax movie theater, which will house various additional enclosed entertainments for the masses.

These are just the obvious developments. There are overpriced lofts and luxury apartments, stadiums and restaurants coming into being right this second as well.

Noise aside, new "attractions" aren't necessarily bad. Cities change if they're wise. One can only hope that they do so wisely. Alas, according to an article in the February 1998 issue of Architecture magazine, long-term thinking was not in the blueprints for this recent slew of projects. The author, Cathy Lang Ho, argues that while development is essential to the health of the city, the public price tag for these grande projects will be large. The article is worth a trip to the Main Library to check out.

The Main Library, by the way, was one of those big construction numbers that was worth the taxes spent. Sure, there was some initial fuss about it being too big and too fancy and apparently without the endless shelves of musty tomes needed to set off the sensory alerts in the brain that let you know you are indeed in a library. But on my handful of visits, I found many stacks of books, as well as friendly librarians and an extensive collection of pornography--er, periodicals, available upon request. In other words, something for everyone.

And though the downtown construction and the streets crawling with clueless shoppers and their squalling offspring are pretty much as unbearable as a library without books, Macy's little facelift is a pretty sight to behold--like Union Square's own gargantuan capitalist peepshow. And I had the chance to drop in on Sephora, the Paris-imported cosmetics store. Men who aren't drag queens should probably avoid the place, but for everyone else, it's makeup heaven with its neat little rows of lipsticks, eye shadows and ever-useful face glitter--and a nice little addition to our consumerist culture.

If a trip to the library or Macy's doesn't leave you with an overall sense of civic pride, an aerial view of the city will. I recently took one of those seaplane tours, breaking my personal a priori maxim: 'Never ride in anything smaller than a 747.' I managed to shut out the Paula Jones lookalike (pre-nose job), who was (I'm not making this up) heehawing as we took off while planting slobbery kisses on her red, puffy significant other, and enjoyed some amazing views.

Soaring over the Marin headlands, across the Golden Gate Bridge, past the reptilian skeleton of our future stadium, above downtown, where construction eyesores are reduced to benign, birdlike cranes, and back to swarming Fisherman's Wharf, it becomes clear that in the long run, all is well with our fair city.

Something bothering you? Want to bitch? Email Jenn.

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From the December 21, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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