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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Curious Case of SF Neighborhood Names

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2008 at 10:02 AM

Two days ago the Chronicle reported an apartment fire that damaged four buildings and set off a testy comment thread on Readers were not discussing the fate of the buildings and their residents, however, but the validity of the neighborhood name, Little Hollywood, where the fire was reported to have taken place.

The first commenter on the scene expressed exasperation thusly: "' the Little Hollywood neighborhood of San Francisco..'?? These stupid, manufactured 'neighborhood' fantasy-names are made up by some deluded real estate agent. They are meaningless. And you come across as a clueless idiot when you use them."

The writer is certainly not alone in their vexation. Complaining about the arbitrary and spontaneous nature in which San Francisco neighborhoods are established and named is practically a city past time. But several people repudiated the first post by claiming long term residency and then offering evidence for the neighborhood’s namesake, the most popular of which seemed to be that silent film stars once lived there. "Yes it is called Little Hollywood because of the actors who had vacation homes in the neighborhood. (included an actress named Mae West…ever heard of her?)" snotted one poster. The argument was put to rest for me when a Google map search turned up one Little Hollywood Community Park.

But the debate made me wonder, what other tiny "neighborhoods" in San Francisco would spark a similar spat?

Most people accept the validity of NoPa, for instance, even though it could easily be called Western Addition. To answer this question, I turned to the Arbiter of Truth, Wikipedia.

The "Neighborhoods in San Francisco, California" entry contains no fewer than 107 names, starting with Alamo Square and ending with Westwood Park. Neighborhood names that I have never heard of include Crocker-Amazon, Islaid Creek and Lone Mountain. But the one that immediately set off bullshit signals was the dubiously named Safeway Heights. As in the supermarket, Safeway.

Wikipedia defines the neighborhood of Safeway Heights as "a subset of a number of neighborhoods , including Mission Dolores, Duboce Triangle, and other unnamed portions of San Francisco, centered on the "Castro" Safeway supermarket…" Do we really need a neighborhood named after a big box supermarket chain? Is this some kind of bizarre marketing scheme? Has anyone ever actually used, or heard this neighborhood name used? --Andy Wright

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