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Blond roots

The Marina doesn’t deserve its rep

Can you judge a neighborhood by its enemies? If you read what some people are saying online about the Marina, you can be forgiven for expecting the Marina to be a Beverly Hills-wannabe neighborhood filled with Stepford Wives.

The mildest might be SFGate, which says that the Marina District’s “apartment buildings, shops and restaurants seem to be bursting at their seams with beautiful, young and fit 20- and 30-somethings.”

Hardly sounds like hell on earth. But apparently it does sound like that to other reviewers, who complain about the abundance of blond-haired, affluent people in the neighborhood. One such critic posted on Yelp that, “If you’re straight, white, privileged, and have a chip on your shoulder … come here and find your people.”

Another Yelper wrote, “I kind of wish an earthquake would break the whole neighborhood off of the city and send it down to Beverly Hills. I think everyone would be happier. I could honestly live without the Marina or the Marina people.” Yet another writer suggested improving the Marina with the addition of bubonic plague. And they say Marina residents are arrogant?

No one could claim that Noe Valley or Castro or SOMA or any number of other neighborhoods are without hefty doses of attitude and stereotypical residents. So why single out the Marina?

There are worse things you could write about a San Francisco neighborhood than that it has trendy shops and residents. It’s not the meth capital of the Bay Area. It’s not San Francisco’s crime hotspot. But the Marina does seem to make some people very angry that it’s filled with people who are enjoying life unapologetically. Well, if people live in cool buildings alongside a world-famous body of water, surrounded by some of the best shopping, parks, and restaurants in the region, shouldn’t they take advantage of it?

A friend of mine — we’ll call her Maryanne — now lives with her boyfriend just across the border in another neighborhood, but she still escapes into the Marina as often as she can for good shopping and fun. She’s no Stepford Wife; she spends her days raising money for nonprofits, both in her full-time job and her volunteer efforts. But when she spoke with me about what she missed about living in the Marina, she said, “You can do it all there.”

Maryanne moved to the Marina more than two decades ago, and she remembers the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake. She was lucky enough to live on the side of Lombard where the damage wasn’t as severe, but “a block and a half from my apartment, there were police lines; you had to go through them to get into the neighborhood. It was like a war zone.” The amazing resurrection of the neighborhood since then is a source of pride, and I think of the neighborhood as still celebrating its rebirth, even if thousands of its inhabitants weren’t even there for the earthquake.

Maryanne thinks those newbie residents are attracted to the neighborhood for the same reasons long-term residents found it to be home. “Somehow the Marina and Cow Hollow have something to offer for all the age groups,” she said. “You can move there in your 20s, and it suits you. When you’re a young parent with kids, it suits you. When you’re older and retired, it fits. It is a great place from your wild and crazy youth to your wild and crazy retirement.”
“It fits everybody,” she said.

“Of course, they’re all blond,” she laughed, playfully tossing her own blond hair.

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