The San Francisco Syndrome

To me, the fresh thought about redevelopment in today’s column was about overkill. Overdesign. Building redevelopment projects so classy they strike ordinary Stocktonians as unaffordable.

The source of this idea — which I paraphrased in the column — is Shawn “Dealman” Mileham, the broker who put together the sale of Paragary’s restaurant. Mileham said the upscale feel of Paragary’s actually hurt the success it should have enjoyed, given all the people passing by outside on Janet Leigh Plaza.

But, “As you look inside, families, they’re going to say, “Gawd, we cant afford it!” Mileham said.

This could explain why Randy Paragary’s price cuts didn’t increase business. You had to read the menu to see them. Passersby never got that far. They just looked inside and judged the cost by the decor, which was too fancy.

“They missed the sweet spot,” Mileham’s said of the decor.

It’s as if San Francisco hovers in the back of every leaders’ mind. Whatever redevelopment builds is built at least in part to satisfy Bay Area visitors. The San Francisco Syndrome–unconsciously internalizing Bay Area standards — skews redevelopment projects upmarket. The experience with Paragary’s shows it turns locals off. Not all, but enough to cause political headaches and business failures.

There’s an implicit rejection of Stockton in such policy, as if leaders are ashamed to create something an ordinary Stocktonian can enjoy for its Stocktonness. 

The irony is the Delta’s unpretentious character is what draws Bay Area boaters. If Paragary’s new owner hits the sweet spot, he’ll not only boost the restaurant but help to save the city’s overdesigned marina from itself.

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