reimagining relationships
Home   Store   Free GIS   Education   Free Shapefiles   Census   Weather   Energy   Climate Change   News   Maps   TOPO   Aerial   GPS   Learn GIS

DOWNLOAD SHAPEFILES: Canada FSA Postal - Zip Code - U.S. Waterbodies & Wetlands - Geographic Names - School Districts - Indian Federal Lands
Zip Code/Demographics - Climate Change - U.S. Streams, Rivers & Waterways - Tornadoes - Nuclear Facilities - Dams & Risk - 2013 Toxic Release Inventory TRI

Back to <-- DotComs and the Information Revolution

Preserving a Literary Landmark in a City on Fast Forward
Fair Use Statement

Source: International Herald Tribune

Tuesday, September 5, 2000

Preserving a Literary Landmark in a City on Fast Forward

Where the Beat Goes On / San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore

By Rene Sanchez Washington Post Service

SAN FRANCISCO - The old poet looks from the window of his crammed bookstore and sees little of this city's feisty counterculture on the streets anymore. ''It's getting to be the farthest thing from Bohemia,'' Lawrence Ferlinghetti reflects.

For nearly 50 years, his creaking corner shop, City Lights, has been an ideal place to take San Francisco's peculiar pulse. It was a hub for Jack Kerouac and the restless rebels called the Beats. It became a proving ground for free speech by selling radical works. And it has always been a refuge for leftists, anarchists, free spirits and literary outcasts, all howling against the establishment.

But the soul of this city is changing.

So much, in fact, that preservationists struggling to protect a way of life as much as a building are giving Mr. Ferlinghetti's bookstore a new distinction. It will be among the first spots in San Francisco deemed an endangered landmark purely for cultural value, not architectural merit (because it has none).

The campaign to help City Lights and other historic sites endure is one sign of a growing backlash against the gold rush transforming San Francisco into an expensive playground for Internet fortune-seekers settling here and in nearby Silicon Valley.

There was a time when locals could take their rollicking culture and its musty treasures for granted. Now many fear it won't be long before all that is left of the city's character is fog and hills. Some say San Francisco is being ''dot-conned.''

This autumn, two measures will be on the city ballot to prevent dot-coms and other businesses from swarming into neighborhoods and to preserve space for arts and community groups. One law would even ban new offices in a few working-class neighborhoods besieged by development and gentrification.

A local paper has started a column called ''Surreal Estate,'' which exposes and heckles lavish deals that Internet entrepreneurs are making for housing and work space in the city. Last month, a troupe of dancers refused to leave their studio in protest against the high cost of getting a new lease and to denounce ''the clear-cutting of San Francisco community and culture.'' They were removed by police.

But the list of victims of the Internet invasion just gets longer.

Earlier this year, a local bar tried to embrace the new spirit taking hold in San Francisco by offering discounted drinks to anyone working for a dot-com company. The promotion sparked a fury: What about nurses, teachers or police officers who make much less money? Alas, the debate soon ended - because Internet entrepreneurs bought and closed the place.

In a few weeks, hundreds of local bands will be ousted from a warehouse that a generation of musicians used as a ramshackle rehearsal studio. The site was sold to an out-of-town development company. Dozens of community groups already have fled to cheaper leases across the Bay in Oakland, and dozens more are bracing for eviction next year when leases expire.

All the clamor is prompting - or forcing - some technology firms to try to assist those groups by setting aside space for them, offering rent discounts or creating funds to keep them operating.

''The old San Francisco is under attack to the point where it's really disappearing,'' said Nancy Peters, one of the owners of City Lights. ''Rents everywhere are being tripled. It could have happened to us.''

After decades of paying rent, Mr. Ferlinghetti and Ms. Peters bought the bookstore last year. Opened in 1953, it is squeezed into an oddly slanted, triangular building built in 1907 in the bustling North Beach neighborhood. The unanimous decision this summer by the city's Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board to protect the store put it at less risk.

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors still must approve City Lights' landmark status, but Tim Kelley, vice president of the board, said the vote was a formality. ''This decision has broad appeal,'' he said. ''There's a lot of anxiety in the city. People want us to help keep places like this around.''


AND Ferlinghetti, 81, is not about to quit. Still striking a rebel's pose in jeans and wearing a tiny earring, he tends to the busy shop as much as ever. A Beat icon, he is also San Francisco's first Poet Laureate.

It has been a long, strange trip. Mr. Ferlinghetti, a native New Yorker, was studying in Paris after service in World War II when he came across a Harper's magazine article describing San Francisco's new ''culture of sex and anarchy.'' Soon he was back in the United States, crossing the country by train, curious to spend time at San Francisco cafes in feverish debates about morality and literature. He had no plans to stay, but he never left.

Mr. Ferlinghetti began selling books on a whim. He and a friend needed cash to pay for a magazine they were creating. The magazine lasted only a few issues, but the bookstore prospered.

At the time there were few others like it in the country. It sold only paperbacks. It stayed open past midnight and encouraged customers to linger by putting stools in the aisles. It celebrated works outside the mainstream and staged readings. Drifters used the store as their mailing address.

''There were so many transients coming to San Francisco back then. It was as if the whole country was tilting west,'' he said. ''Mothers would call us up and say, 'Have you seen my son?'''

Mr. Kerouac and his gang made it a home from the start. Then, in 1957, the bookstore won fame by selling a sexually graphic poem by Allen Ginsburg to an undercover police officer. Mr. Ferlinghetti was vindicated in a trial that set a precedent for protecting literary speech.

The bookstore's mission has not changed. Some of its walls are still lined with sections devoted to works on imperialism, class warfare, muckraking and surrealism.

Although many customers revere the bookstore as a shrine, some concede that its time as a defining emblem of the city is passing. After all, San Francisco has not always been an eccentric liberal haven. Someday there may be nostalgic cries for its Internet era as well.

Mr. Ferlinghetti finds no solace in the new mood. A culture that was once high-minded and distinct, he says, is becoming shallow and homogenized.

Just up the block, sidewalk cafes crackle with the young breed of dreamers who talk on cell phones about stock options and the limitless possibilities of the Web.

All the more reason to stay, Mr. Ferlinghetti says. Yes, and he makes the vow in the words of a poet: ''This will be a rock in the tide.''

Didn't find what you are looking for? We've been online since 1996 and have created 1000's of pages. Search below and you may find just what you are looking for.

Michael R. Meuser
Data Research & GIS Specialist is an independent firm specializing in GIS project development and data research. We created the first U.S. based interactive toxic chemical facility maps on the internet in 1996 and we have been online ever since. Learn more about us and our services.

Have a project in mind? If you have data, GIS project or custom shapefile needs contact Mike.

Contact Us

Report Broken Links

Subscribe for Updates

Follow on Facebook
News & Updates

Find: Maps, Shapefiles, GIS Software & More

MapCruzin Blog for updates, questions and answers
Blog Updates

More Blog Updates


Google Earth Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Maps
Lester Brown's Plan B 3.0
State GIS Shapefiles, Maps & Resources
GIS Shapefiles & Maps
GIS Programs, Tools & Resources
Free World Country & Regional Maps
GIS / GPS Careers and Job Positions
Disease Outbreak Maps
Extreme Weather & Disaster Maps
Free World Maps from the CIA Factbook
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ANWR Maps
Oil and Gas Maps
Africanized Honey Bees
Renewable Energy Potential Maps of the United States
Terrorism Maps
War Maps
Google Maps
Weather Maps
GPS Resources
Historical Maps of the World
Google Earth
Library of Congress American Memory Map Downloads
Toxic Chemical Pollution Maps
Climate Change Maps
Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Maps
Census Shapefiles
World Maps


Environmental Justice
Data Sources
Greenwash & JunkScience
Statistical Resources
Wireless Dangers
Surviving Climate Change
Global Right-To-Know
Creating Living Economies
Books of Note
Toxic Klamath River
Federal Lands Maps
TRI Analysis
TRI Webmaps
EnviroRisk Map Network
Community-Based Research
Right-To-Know or Left to Wonder?
Chemical Industry Archives
21st Century Warfare
National Parks and Public Lands
Trade Secrets/Toxic Deception
GIS Books
Our Projects
Other Projects
1999 Archive Environews
Environmental Books
Environmental Links
Redwood Coast Information
Recycle, Salvage, Reuse

Shapefile Store
Free GIS Software
Free Map Downloads
Free Shapefiles
Free Remote Sensing
Free Topo Maps
Free GIS Tutorial
Free GPS

About MapCruzin - Cookies, Privacy, Fair Use and Disclaimer - Advertise on

Copyright © 1996 - 2019 Michael Meuser, All Rights Reserved
MapCruzin is a Pop-Up Free Website -- Best Viewed With ANY Browser