As of this past Saturday, August 29th, ambassadors in bright blue shirts are now working to help tourists and ease angst for neighbors on the popular "Crooked Street" stretch of Lombard, between Hyde and Leavenworth.
District 2 Supervisor Scott Farrell helped secure $110,000 in city funding to run the ambassadors program; the Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District (CBD) was awarded a grant from the city through a competitive process. Ambassador services are provided by a contractor, Block by Block, which operates similar programs nationwide, including for the Wharf's CBD and the Union Square Business Improvement District. Ambassadors are employees of Block by Block, not the city.
Though last week's shooting of a Thai tourist on Lombard near the Crooked Street brought renewed attention to the area, the ambassador program had already "been in the works for months," said Troy Campbell, executive director of the Fisherman's Wharf CBD. "The supervisor’s office has been working with the neighborhood for a long time."
In the Wharf, ambassadors have "become an integral part of the work we do in keeping the neighborhood clean, safe and welcoming," said Campbell. They were added to Lombard to help work with the hundreds to thousands of tourists that congregate in the area daily.
Ambassador Tona Brown.
Neighbors know that tourists flock to the Crooked Street, and "they’re very compassionate about that," Campbell said. "They want the ambassadors to be friendly; to welcome them to the city."
But they also have concerns, including "people crawling on people’s houses, blocking driveways, blocking streets, blocking the cable car and just making the are the Wild West, with no sort of oversight or management to help the residents there who are dealing with an extremely popular passive tourist attraction." (By passive, Campbell means that the street is not an organized, managed destination, such as the Exploratorium or Pier 39.)
The ambassadors' duties include greeting tourists, educating them about the new "Park Smart" initiative (which aims to curb the recent rise in vehicle break-ins by reminding tourists not to leave anything in their vehicles), giving directions, helping control crowds, keeping people on sidewalks and keeping people off of private property, Campbell said. They'll also "be a crime deterrent in the neighborhood, some extra eyes and ears and working closely with SFPD."
On Monday night, ambassador Tona Brown was at work taking photos for tourists and chatting with them, but also urging people to stay out of the street for safety. "I love it," she said. "I interact with people from all over the place."
The program will run through November 1st, recommencing during peak tourist season, from May 1st–June 30th, 2016. Two ambassadors will be on duty Mondays through Thursdays, three on Fridays and Sundays, and four on Saturdays.
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