Walking around my Glen Park neighborhood in San Francisco the other afternoon, I saw them everywhere. New signs with the “It all starts here” logo hang in most storefronts – at the corner cafe, bar, bakery, hardware store and hair salon.
The posters, with the motto depicted as two street signs crossing at an intersection, are all part of a $4 million advertising campaign funded by the city’s business leaders to try to attract new business to San Francisco and repair the city’s tarnished image.
Not everyone gets it.
“I have no idea what this is about,” said Evan Ryan, a bartender at the Glen Park station. He was just happy his bar was full Monday night as 49ers fans waited for the game before drowning in grief hours later after the team’s shocking second loss.
Eric Whittington, owner of Bird and Beckett, a bookstore that hosts live jazz shows, said the people behind the campaign brought signs, but he refused to hang them. He wanted to save valuable window space for book and music ads.
“What it means?” he asked about the motto. “I’m glad it starts here, but I don’t know what that is.”
I went to the source to find out.
Rich Silverstein of San Francisco advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners said executives Advance SF, pro-business group, approached him in January about crafting their new campaign.
“My wife said, ‘Don’t do it. Marketing can’t save a city,” recalled Silverstein, 74, who has lived in San Francisco for 53 years. “I said, ‘I know that. I don’t believe he can. But you have to start somewhere.”
He said he’s frustrated that San Francisco leaders can’t deal with dirty streets, homelessness and rampant public drug use. But Silverstein, a native New Yorker, is also madly in love with his adopted city, cycling to the Golden Gate Bridge every day to soak up the beauty.
He said the slogan “It All Begins Here” refers to the city’s fascinating history, its reputation for innovation and the fact that restoring San Francisco to its full glory has to start somewhere. He said the shape of the street sign alludes to the famous intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets.
Not every advertising manager in town is convinced. Kyle Rios-Merwin, who co-founded the branding agency Born & Bred five years ago, said most people already know that creative companies started in San Francisco and he’d like to see a focus on people’s compassion in trying to solve the city’s problems .
“Maybe the tone of the campaign could have done more to highlight how some of these issues are being addressed instead of reminding people that their favorite ride-sharing app or coffee company comes from San Francisco,” he said.
Kevin Gammon, founder of San Francisco branding agency Teak, said Silverstein’s firm was “legendary,” but he felt the new campaign was too corporate and lacked heart. He also said that he was not clear at whom he was targeting.
His company was hired a few years ago by the local visitors bureau to come up with similar campaign and landed on: “Never the same. Always San Francisco.”
“Even though it’s always changing and always different, there’s this soul that feels consistent,” Gammon explained.
Back in Glen Park, Paul Park, owner of Buddies Market, said he put up the sign because he liked the way it looked, even if he didn’t know what it meant. What he’s really worried about is rising rents and a shrinking customer base.
He recently reduced his shop’s hours because there is less foot traffic than before the pandemic.
“After 8 p.m. there is no one,” he said. “How can you survive that?”
He said any help – even in the form of a sign in the window – is welcome.
Where we travel
Today’s tip comes from Deborah Buck, who recommends visiting the Central Coast:
“My husband and I just returned from a trip to Morro Bay. It was exciting and fun and delicious considering the restaurants in the area like Galley for dinner and Blue Sky Bistro for lunch, both with outstanding views of Morro Rock. We stayed in a state park at the Inn at Morro Bay, with a golf course across the street, which my husband loved. So many wonderful trails to walk in the park and a small Natural History Museum that I always enjoy visiting.
Morro Bay is close to Avila Hot Springs, El Chorro Country Park, and the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden. The park’s Discovery Trail takes you into the hills with beautiful views of Hollister Peak and Morro Rock beyond. You can also easily drive to Cambria.”
Tell us about your favorite places in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in future editions of the newsletter.
Today we ask about love: no who you love but what you love your corner of California.
Email us a love letter to your city, neighborhood or region in California — or the Golden State as a whole — and we might share it in an upcoming newsletter. You can contact the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.
And before you go, some good news
Beyond the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles and the glamor of Hollywood studios, the heart of Southern California may lie in a network of scenic trails and stunning natural landscapes.
But many hikes, walks and trails in the region, while beautiful, are inaccessible to people with limited mobility, whether they are wheelchair users, people with physical disabilities, young children or the elderly.
A new guide released this summer Los Angeles Times outlines eight fully accessible trails all around or within an hour’s drive of LA. Check out the best accessible trails near you, including the tree-lined trail to the Mount Wilson Observatory and the wetlands walk around the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach.