Behind the scenes with ‘Barack’

Did you see the coverage of “President Obama’s” ride on the F-line?  Besides the big Chronicle story, the TV coverage got replayed all over the country; really great tourism promotion for the city, just when we need it.  The back story here is that it all sprung from the imaginative mind of our newest board member, David Perry, one of the best publicists in the city.


When David learned that his client, the Wax Museum, was getting the first “Barack Obama” on the west coast, he thought of another client, the owners of the USS Potomac, FDR’s old presidential yacht, a wonderful piece of historic preservation by Marti Burchell which she operates as a charter boat on the Bay.  Why not have “FDR” himself escort “Obama” on his yacht.  Turns out, there’s a great FDR impressionist that sails with the Potomac.  Booked.  But then how to get the presidents the rest of the way to the Wharf?  Enter Market Street Railway, David’s most recent (and pro-bono) client.  We loved the idea and helped David put together the plan with Muni’s own PR chief, Judson True, to use the open top Blackpool “boat tram” on one of its regular shuttle runs from the Ferry Building to the Wax Museum.  Done.

The whole thing came together in a great spirit of conviviality and good cheer, spurred in large measure by David’s easy-going, tongue-in-cheek approach to the event, which was, as he cheerfully acknowledged, an old-fashioned PR stunt. Perhaps seeking a break from the endless stream of bad news these days, everyone, including the reporters and photographers, loved playing along.
In today’s world, of course, there’s no chance a President would be permitted by the Secret Service to cruise The Embarcadero in an open-top vehicle, but David took no chances even with this inanimate version, providing a suitably suited “agent” to guard the inanimate Obama.
But perhaps the best part came when “Muni One,” as the presidental tram was dubbed, pulled up to its first passenger stop at the Ferry Building. The presidents and paparazzi were in back, leaving the front empty. But the would-be passengers just stood transfixed at the stop platform, reluctant to board even after being waved on board. As one out-of-town rider got on, he said to your correspondent as he paid his fare, “Only in San Francisco.”
You got that right.
By the way, we owe our readers an apology for not promoting this event in advance.  No excuses, just a screw-up.  Sorry to anyone who might have wanted to see it live. But you can still relive it by watching the great video David made for YouTube.

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17th Street Plaza: Open for Business

1053 at the opening of the Castro Plaza

Jamison Wieser photo.

Now is a good time to be living in the Castro District. Wednesday evenings we now have a farmers market and yesterday the 17th Street pedestrian plaza at the corner of Market & Castro officially opened. For now the plaza is only a 2-6 month trial with temporary fixtures, but it already seems to be popular and getting a good response.
On Saturday May 16, the neighborhood will be holding an opening celebration starting a 12:30 PM including a sidewalk sale put on by the Merchants of Upper Castro and Market. It will be a good time to hop on the F-line and check it out if you haven’t already.
More on the opening…

» Mayor Newsom Unveils SF’s First Pavement to Parks Plaza (Streetsblog)
» Castro plaza opens, three more on tap (SF Gate)
» Castro Ped Plaza Launches Amid Much Sitting, Strolling (Curbed SF)

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17th Street Pedestrian Plaza Opens Today


We recently mentioned the 17th Street plaza, which closes the last half block of 17th Street at Castro and Market where the F-Market & Wharves line turns around to create a public open space. Construction has been underway for the last few days, installing planters to and painting the street to delineate the edges, for today’s opening.
There will be a ceremony this morning at 10:00 AM with Mayor Newsom officially opening the plaza for a 2-6 trial period.

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Streetcar No. 1’s Last Run (…for awhile)


Muni’s flagship streetcar, No. 1, made its last F-line run for awhile today, operating under its own power from Geneva Car House to Metro East at Illinois and Cesar Chavez Sts., where it is being stored under cover until vendor Brookville Equipment Company picks it up in a few weeks for transport to its shops in Pennsylvania for a complete rebuilding.

The 97-year old car operated without incident, under its own power. (Wiring problems have left it operable from only one end.) En route, the car passed fellow Muni veteran No. 162 at the shuttle terminal just south of the Ferry Building, the 1914 No. 162 just having entered regular revenue service following its own rebuilding. It’s the first time the cars have passed each other on the streets of San Francisco since at least 1951, when Car No. 1 finished its first operating career.


Then it was over the Fourth Street Bridge on the T-line and down Third Street to its temporary home, where other out of service F-line cars are gradually being moved to prepare Geneva Division for construction of the canopy cover to protect No. 1 and its vintage cousins in the future.

Car No. 1 is expected to be restored and back in San Francisco late next year, ready to play a starring role in Muni’s 2012 Centennial.

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