This year brings the 50th anniversary of 1967 and the “Summer of Love,” when young people from across America descended en masse upon San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to participate in what was generally agreed to be a cultural event (though the specifics were a little fuzzy). Hey, remember when the Bay Area was associated with flower children instead of rich tech dudes?
The Associated Press reports on how San Francisco is marking the anniversary—specifically, how it’s being taken as a marketing opportunity for tourism:
Hoping for another invasion of visitors — this time with tourist dollars — the city is celebrating with museum exhibits, music and film festivals, Summer of Love-inspired dance parties and lecture panels. Hotels are offering discount packages that include “psychedelic cocktails,” ″Love Bus” tours, tie-dyed tote bags and bubble wands.
The city’s travel bureau, which is coordinating the effort, calls it an “exhilarating celebration of the most iconic cultural event in San Francisco history.”
For instance, here is a snapshot from May’s “Flowers In Your Hair Day,” a joint production of the San Francisco Travel Association, United Airlines, and San Francisco International Airport. They got people dressed up as hippies to hand out flowers—courtesy of the California Cut Flower Commission—to travelers arriving on flight “1967.”
The city is also throwing a free anniversary concert in Golden Gate Park—much to the dismay, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, of the producer who submitted a proposal to throw his own event, which was rejected.
There’s a big dollop of irony in the anniversary. Sure, hippies were the stereotype about the city for decades after the Summer of Love, but in the last decade San Francisco has been essentially drowned in tech money, rendering much of the city unaffordable to all but the wealthiest. The name once conjured images of tie-dye and patchouli; now it’s primary associated in the culture with poorly dressed under-30 billionaires. The Associated Press notes:
One thing the anniversary makes clear is that what happened here in the 1960s could never happen in San Francisco today, simply because struggling artists can’t afford the city anymore. In the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, which was ground zero for the counterculture, two-bedroom apartments now rent for $5,000 a month. San Francisco remains a magnet for young people, but even those earning six-figure Silicon Valley salaries complain about the cost of living.
Though it’s a less sharp cultural break than it seems at first glance. The missing link is Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, a countercultural touchstone that would inspire founders of the modern tech business including Steve Jobs.
Anyway, as the song went, be sure to Task Rabbit some flowers for your hair, summertime will be a rationally competitive market free of your lousy analog inefficiencies there.