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Friday, March 19, 2010

Flags Come Down at City Hall -- And Are Replaced By Expensive New Ones

Posted By on Fri, Mar 19, 2010 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge Bruce Porteous changes up the Lone Star flag - JOE ESKENAZI
  • Joe Eskenazi
  • Bruce Porteous changes up the Lone Star flag
City Hall officials hoping to run their ideas up the flagpole and see if anyone would salute them ran into a problem yesterday. Bruce Porteous was already atop the flag poles, removing the flags -- thus inhibiting everyone's saluting instincts.

click to enlarge The city's old Old Glory - JOE ESKENAZI
  • Joe Eskenazi
  • The city's old Old Glory
Porteous, a Rec and Park tree-top worker, dangled precariously over Civic Center Plaza in a cherry-picker truck, removing the city's 18 historic flags and replacing them with shiny new ones. This, he says, is a chore that befalls him once a year. Or sometimes more: "These things really end up looking like shit because of the wind."

That's a testament to how windy and dirty our city can get -- because, rest assured, these are not cheapo, translucent Taiwan-made flags. They're hulking, thick items, American-crafted to military specifications. And they ain't inexpensive.

click to enlarge Bruce Porteous - JOE ESKENAZI
  • Joe Eskenazi
  • Bruce Porteous
All of the city's historical flags are purchased from Stevens Family Business Items and Flags,

a San Francisco institution since 1927. Dick Stevens wouldn't tell us

exactly how much each flag cost, but he did note that a six-by-10 foot

number like those fluttering over Civic Center Plaza would likely run

"a couple hundred dollars easy." It all depends on the flag

-- and whether the buyer gets a "frequent flier discount." That is, for

flags that are flown 24/7, he'll give you a "significant" break in the


Of course, he says, it's actually cheaper to buy several flags and rotate them than fly one flag until it resembles a rag that went through a labrador retreiver's digestive system. In fact, the city government's use-it-up, throw-it-away method is probably the least economical way to go.

But, then again, Porteous' time in the cherry picker isn't free. If he was out there every other week, he might get flagged -- by the city's bean-counters.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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