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It’s Always Sunny In North Beach: North Beach Festival Weekend Is Here

The Nation's First Street Fair Returns To The Streets Of North Beach

Time does rush past. And as you can tell by the proliferation of t-shirts and sundresses on our sidewalks, Summer has just about arrived. Festival season is fully underway at this point, and this weekend it’s time for the granddaddy: North Beach Festival, set for this Saturday and Sunday, June 16-17.

Ours is America’s very first outdoor festival, and this will be North Beach Festival’s sixty-fourth year. If the last few days are any indication, the weather should be breezy and sunny, fitting conditions for what is typically North Beach’s best party.

The 64th Annual North Beach Festival

For the uninitiated, the North Beach Festival is an oversized street fair, a lively combination of the traditional and modern that draws people from all over the Bay Area. Though the events focus on the trapezoid of Columbus Avenue, Grant Avenue, and Green and Vallejo Streets, the revelry sprawls across the entire neighborhood, with 125 arts & crafts vendors, twenty gourmet food stands, live music and more. There are always those that wish to eschew the crowds, but I’ve been living here for a dozen years, and I never miss it.

A vendor grills up a batch of oysters for the crowds at a recent North Beach Festival. | Photo: Adam S., Yelp

The festival kicks off with the traditional blessing of the animals, to be held, as always, at the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi at 610 Vallejo Street. And for those of you out there with young children, as in years past there will be a kids’ chalk art area. For a few bucks, you can purchase a square of the street and let your kids get creative. We provide the chalk, you provide the kids, and we let inspiration take its path! It’s a great way to get the kids involved in the community, and into the spirit of the celebration.

Of course, there’s more than enough diversion for the adults: two stages of live entertainment, beer and wine gardens, poetry readings, and more. And as a special treat, Circus Bella, now in its eleventh year, will be returning: the single-ring circus troupe includes trapeze, rope walking, and a dazzling 9-person juggling act.

And let’s not forget, all of this takes place in North Beach– the coolest neighborhood in the city, any day of the year.

SF Rec & Park Squares Off With North Beach Over Park Closure

On a more serious note, as we reported here recently, San Francisco Recreation & Parks has been quietly planning to close Washington Square Park for a period of six months to a year. This closure is slated to begin at the end of this year. Despite the agency’s claims of outreach and the sheer scale of this proposed project, most people in the neighborhood still don’t know about this. 

The SFNBBA invited a representative from Rec & Park, Project Manager Levi Conover, to our board meeting on June 5th. Our goals: to apprise him of our opposition to this plan, and to find a way to delay the work until a more acceptable time. We told Conover of the near-constant construction we have endured in North Beach, and reminded him of the recent fire on Union Street and the ongoing vacancy problems on Columbus Avenue adjacent to the park. We also learned that the irrigation work, while important, is not exactly urgent. 

According to Conover, he met with Supervisor Aaron Peskin yesterday to address these objections, leading to “some progress.” Many in the neighborhood aren’t entirely comfortable with these assurances, and there has been talk of a filing an appeal to the park closure. 

We reached out to Rec & Park to find out exactly what their plans were. Connie Chan, the agency’s Deputy Director of Communications and Public Affairs, responded: “the Department will again reach out to the community to further discuss neighborhood impacts, and possible mitigations to the impacts before moving forward with the project construction.” To us, this sounds a lot like “details aside, this is happening.” 

We believe that Rec & Park generally means well. But they don’t live, work or own businesses here. We’ve already lost too many small businesses. This neighborhood is healthy, but it needs a break from the construction–or it may not be much longer.

For more info, feel free to reach out to us at info@sfnbba.org. To get involved, and tell Rec & Park and our Supervisor that you don’t want our park to be closed for a year, contact Levi Conover (leviconover@sf.gov) and Aaron Peskin, District 3 Supervisor (aaron.peskin@sfgov.org). And we'll see you at the Festival!

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