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Friday, May 2, 2014

Tourism For Locals: Hotel Royan is Lodged into S.F. History

Posted By on Fri, May 2, 2014 at 9:41 AM

The Mission's Finest. - JUAN DE ANDA/SF WEEKLY
  • Juan De Anda/SF Weekly
  • The Mission's Finest.

Hotels can aptly be described like celebrities: If you go by a first-name-only basis, then you've reached an iconic status in the popular lexicon.

Case in point: Beyonce, Madonna, Prince.

The Bellagio, the Ritz, the Palace.

In San Francisco, there are plenty of iconic hotels and they all have their place in our local history. But this week's Tourism for Locals highlights one property that has been through a sort of rise and fall, yet at one point was in popular demand and went by a one-word moniker. It was even dubbed by a famous author (keep reading) as "The Mission's Finest."

Welcome to the Hotel Royan.

Last names like DiMaggio, Zeta Acosta, and Scaggs have stayed here. - JUAN DE ANDA/SF WEEKLY
  • Juan De Anda/SF Weekly
  • Last names like DiMaggio, Zeta Acosta, and Scaggs have stayed here.

Located at the the intersection of 15th and Valencia streets, the Royan was built in 1928. The hotel used to house minor-league baseball players who competed at the nearby Seals Stadium, home of the Triple-A Seals. Baseball Hall of Fame player Joe DiMaggio, who was also famously married to Marilyn Monroe at one point, grew up in San Francisco and played for the Seals at the stadium for over three seasons: October 1932 through 1935.

But the team and stadium have both been gone nearly 60 years.

Yet, the Royan remained.

The Brown Buffalo: Oscar Zeta Acosta - WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia
  • The Brown Buffalo: Oscar Zeta Acosta

In the the '60s and '70s, it was a popular hangout for writers, musicians, and activists. One famous author who resided in the Royan was Oscar Zeta Acosta.

Zeta Acosta was a Chicano activist, attorney, and novelist. He is known for his friendship with the author Hunter S. Thompson, who depicted him as Dr. Gonzo in the novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Zeta Acosta wrote two books during his lifetime: Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo (1972) and The Revolt of the Cockroach People (1973), the later of which he finished writing in the Hotel Royan, according to the dedication page:

This book is for Leila Thigpen, Laural Gonsalves and Joan Baez.

I am indebted to Alan Rinzler, my publisher, editor and friend, for his patience and understanding of my own personal struggle as well as that of my people.

I also wish to express my appreciation to all the staff at Straight Arrow, particularly Jon Goodchild, and my social secretary, Miss Judy-Blue.

Oscar Z. Acosta

Chicano lawyer

Hotel Royan

The Mission's Finest

Frisco Bay

July 1973

Zeta Acosta disappeared in 1974 to never be found.

But the Hotel Royan remained.

But its glory days were behind it, and it began to fall into decay. The Royan became a decrepit location, known for housing drug-dealers, drug addicts, and burn-outs.

Its drab corridors and rooms became the scene of frequent overdoses. In 1999, Oscar Scaggs, the son of San Francisco music legend Boz Scaggs, died of a heroin overdose there. He died in room 209 at the age of 21 with 92 cents in his pocket.

But the Hotel Royan remained.

In the 21st century, the five-story hotel converted its 90 units into low-income housing.

Although it has been through the best and worst of times, the Hotel Royan has been a cultural archive and mainstay in San Francisco for 86 years. It is just like our city, small in size but large in character and history.

So next time you're in the area, pass by the Hotel Royan and gaze at the antiquated facade that was once the Mission's finest.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF, Juan at @JuanPDeAnda, and like us on Facebook

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About The Author

Juan De Anda

Juan De Anda

Juan De Anda is a cultural correspondent with a concentration in tourism, literature, and lifestyle and has been writing for SF Weekly since 2013. As an avid traveler, he enjoys discovering destinations abroad as well as the never-ending hidden gems of San Francisco. #DondeAndaJuanDeAnda?


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