NoPa? Really?: Who Owns Naming Rights in San Francisco?



Believe it or not, some of us still read newspapers. And so I am able to tell you that on its front page, the SF Chronicle featured an editorial piece about “renaming” of neighborhoods in San Francisco:

In their wisdom, the members of the San Francisco Association of Realtors have felt called upon to change the historic names of some of San Francisco’s neighborhoods…The Western Addition has become NoPa. It sounds like an animé cartoon character. Part of the Bayview, a lovely name, has turned into Candlestick Point. Some of Visitacion Valley takes on the unlikely moniker of Little Hollywood…South of Market, only recently truncated to SoMa, is to become Yerba Buena.


To which I reply: Um, you think people are actually going to start using those names? Just because realtors say so? And it’s on a “map”? Really?

My skepticism is especially strong because of SF’s notoriously fierce resistance to accept any names for any place, excepting the ones developed through years of use by locals. I mean, just look at the names they tried to foist on Candlestick Park:

Candlestick Park (1960-1995, 2008-present)
3Com Park at Candlestick Point (1995-2002)
San Francisco Stadium at Candlestick Point (2002-2004)
Monster Park (2004-2008)

Did anyone besides TV announcers ever call it anything but Candlestick? At least they saw reason and gave up trying to call it something else.

And just try using the word “Frisco” to anyone in the Bay Area. You’ll be lucky if you don’t dissolve under a withering glare.

Checking Wikipedia, you’ll find that there are no less than 108 different neighborhoods, all with unique and sometimes impenetrable names, within the city limits. This sort of whimsical, insular practice is typical of SF’s pride in its non-conformist image: “You don’t like the way we name things? TOO BAD. Get used to it or move to Oakland.”

Besides, why would anyone think that Yerba Buena is better than SoMa? Did they not remember that Yerba Buena is already the name of the island in the Bay? I can see confused out-of-towners looking for Yerba Buena, driving endlessly back and forth over the Bay Bridge, saying, “But the realtor said it was IN the city…”

Advice: Don’t try to come up with clever names for neighborhoods, especially in San Francisco. They won’t stick and will make you look silly for trying.

Also? “NoPa” is a stupid name. If I want nopales, I’ll go to El Señor Burrito, thanks.


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