Though they are geographically intertwined, North Beach and Chinatown don’t often see eye-to-eye. Now, though, neighborhood leaders are joining hands — or at least, celebrating art where they join hands.
A new billboard featuring an illustration celebrating North Beach and Chinatown unity was christened in North Beach Friday. The piece was created by local artist Jeremy Fish, whose iconic “Silly Pink Bunnies” sculpture can be seen in the Lower Haight.
Thought the billboard has been up since January, the neighborhood groups who called for it, North Beach Business Association, Chinatown Community Development Center, and the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, waited until this month to celebrate it.
And celebrate they did, as Reverend Norman Fong, the head of CCDC, christened the billboard with espresso from Caffe Trieste, the beloved North Beach cafe run by Ida Zoubi. Supervisor Aaron Peskin also attended the event.
“We’re trying to incorporate the neighborhoods to work together,” Zoubi told the San Francisco Examiner. Already that has started, she said, as North Beach groups contributed funds to help Chinatown residents displaced in fires last year.
“We really got to know our neighbors,” Zoubi said. “It’s a good start.”
The billboard is at Vallejo Street next to Caffe Trieste, and will be up until June. It depicts scenery from the neighborhoods, including Telegraph Hill, and hands reaching across them to grasp one another.
Fish attended the billboard christening in a Muni jacket, showing his love for San Francisco. He crafted the illustration free of charge, he said, because as a North Beach resident himself, he believed in its message.
“I’m Italian, this neighborhood means a lot to me,” he said. He created the billboard illustration while living in Coit Tower in a deal with San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department to produce artwork of San Francisco. He said the view of those neighborhoods from above helped inform the piece — because from high above in Coit Tower, he could see the communities connect.
Acknowledging that in his 25 years living in San Francisco that Chinatown and North Beach haven’t always been united, he was excited at the prospect of seeing his art help bridge the gap between neighbors.
“There’s always been this invisible line” between the neighborhoods, he said. “I hope my illustration can help bring that invisible line down.”