Clouds Over North Beach's Broadway Are Clearing

“It takes a village,” was the frequent refrain at a community meeting at Broadway Studios. The group gathered to develop a strategy to bring Broadway back. Call me crazy but after years of decline I think it’s happening. Maybe the transformation of Big Al’s sex shop into a food market is a harbinger of things to come. Instead of blow up sheep and sex toys you can now get a bologna and cheese sandwich!

Broadway from Columbus to Montgomery is an iconic corridor that helped make North Beach famous. Carol Doda was the first to go topless at the Condor (check out the original sign). We still talk about Enrico Balducci and his restaurant many years after the death of both. Tourists and locals jammed the drag queen shows upstairs at Finocchio’s. Balducci’s Hungry i was a national showcase for young singers, musicians and comedians that boosted many careers.

The 10 year slide may finally be over. The Broadway meeting brought together club owners and their group Voice of Broadway and a number of North Beach organizations. Representatives from North Beach Neighbors, Telegraph Hill Dwellers, North Beach Coalition, the North Beach Merchants Association and an aide to Supervisor Chiu all participated. On the agenda was a presentation from San Francisco SAFE on creating a Community Watch. The idea was well received. If adopted the North Beach Community Watch will be an umbrella organization to develop a revitalization strategy, keep all of the individual groups connected, coordinated and in constant communication.

Many said the weekend violence and outrageous drunken behavior is caused by carloads of people drinking and cruising Broadway. They congregate in dimly lit, unsupervised parking lots in the early morning hours and trouble brews. One resident said looking out his window to Broadway on a Saturday night is like watching a Cop’s episode. Club owners said this crowd doesn’t even patronize their establishments. This behavior must end for Broadway to survive.

There are  dance places, nightclubs, pizzerias and restaurants to enjoy on Broadway. The Beat Museum is a must visit. The Enrico’s space is now the Basque restaurant Txoko garnering rave reviews. The owners of Broadway Studios have ambitious plans for the street level retail space. Everyone wants Broadway back before America’s Cup. There’s money to be made!

To be honest I wasn’t a Broadway fan. I didn’t include Broadway on my walking tours, just talked about it from afar. Broadway is now a stop on my North Beach tour and I’m staying involved with the efforts to tame and revitalize the Broadway Corridor. The Village is on the march to reclaim Broadway as its own. I think my neighbors united will win.