Lots of people in San Francisco seem to have some pretty fierce neighborhood pride — people in Potrero might scoff at the Richmond (“all that fog!” they exclaim), while the Mission hipsters mock the Marina and vice versa. So it’s no surprise that dozens of San Francisco neighborhoods have their own neighborhood associations.
Neighborhood associations are about more than claiming bragging rights to the coolest, best, most restaurant-saturated, or most dog- or kid-friendly patch of San Francisco. Some of them are quite politically powerful — the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, for example, had a large hand in killing the proposed condo tower at 555 Washington St. (Former president of the Board of Supervisors Aaron Peskin is a member of this group and his wife, Nancy Shanahan, is an officer.) Others — like ISPN (Inner Sunset Park Neighbors) — host a street fair, establish a farmer’s market in the neighborhood, and set up a discount program with local merchants and restaurants. (Full disclosure: I’m on the board of ISPN so I know a little more about this group than the others.)
There are as many reasons to join your neighborhood association as their are associations themselves. First and foremost, these groups are a great way to get to know your neighbors. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan remind us all that when a natural disaster occurs, neighbors are sometimes the only source of help.
If you’re jonesing to get involved in politics in San Francisco, your neighborhood group might be a good place to start. Some are more politically active than others, so attend your group’s meetings and be sure to bring up any local issues that you’d like for your group to consider tackling. Which leads me to…
Neighborhood associations are also the best place to start if you have an idea for improving the area. Whether it’s planting more street trees, instituting traffic-calming measures, undergrounding utility lines or any other idea that you dream up, start with your group.
No clue if you have one or how to find it? Check out this uber-list of members of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods — an association of associations.