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Remembering Playland at the Beach

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History is often best marked by the buildings and landmarks left behind.  These edifices act as scars, reminding us that our time is short and that there were people here before us, just as there will be after us.  It’s the buildings remaining once an era has passed, that allow us access what that era might have been like.  Buildings are our time machines, our magical portals into history.

Unfortunately real estate developers have no great love for history or time travel or even beautiful buildings for that matter.  What they care for most is money.  The  regal and beautiful old Penn Station was torn down to build New York’s Madison Square Garden.  Blocks upon blocks of the Victorian splendor in San Francisco’s Western Addition was demolished to build the Fillmore Center.  And Playland at the Beach was razed so that condos could be built.  It’s always condos with these fucking guys.

Playland at the Beach was San Francisco’s 10 acre seaside amusement park that ran from the late 1800’s to 1972.  It’s considered by most to be one of San Francisco’s lost treasures.  Tomorrow night the Balboa Theatre is screening Remembering Playland at the Beach, a full length doc by Tom Wyrsch about the the long gone landmark.  This is your chance to see yet another movie about something amazing that ceased to exist before you were born.  Ain’t that a bitch?

Remembering Playland at the Beach
The Balboa Theatre
3630 Balboa St. btw 37th and 38th Aves.
[Outer Richmond]
Tuesday 3/16
Buy Tickets HERE.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.


  1. RJT
    March 17, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Playland was not “razed so that condos could be built”. It was removed around 1972 because it was outdated, unsafe and not making any money because people stopped going there. An article written in the Chronicle by Herb Caen on 9/4/72 described how awful things had become there. The land stayed empty for almost a decade until a developer finally built some housing on it. Even then, they had to auction the units off for cheap, so big money was not the outcome.
    People have fond memories of Playland, but everything comes to the end, and blaming someone by saying “It’s always condos with these fucking guys” is just inaccurate. Lots of people seem to believe that the condos took away Playland, so I just want to clear that fiction up. There’s enough inaccurate history spread by “fucking guys” out there.

  2. RJT
    March 17, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Wrong… I have nothing to do with building, developing,or real estate. I just want the history passed on correctly. Not bitter, but yes, defensive of the true story.

    The Whitney family owned the surrounding property and ran Playland until it wasn’t worth it anymore.

    Quoting an interview:
    Notes on the Oral History of George K. Whitney, Jr.
    by John A. Martini
    September 6, 2002

    “..Mr. Whitney claims that he negotiated for five years with the NPS (National Park Service) before agreeing to a sale price on the eve of condemnation proceedings. He remembers the sale price as $6,500,000.
    …Mr. Whitney states he left the Bay Area “and never looked back.” He spent the last twenty years traveling extensively and sailing, and eventually retired to Friday Harbor, Washington…”

    The guy who paid that $6.5 million never even built there. His development dreams never came true.

    The land was later sold to a builder who was eventually sued for doing a poor construction job. No big cash return for him either.

    You wanted “magic portals into history”, but you got rusty rides, stale popcorn and failed ventures.
    Go see the film.

    • Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap
      March 17, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      RJT – Well done! If your research is valid, and it seems that it is, then good work.

      I was busting your balls about being a developer and I dig that you’re into history being properly portrayed. But the fact remains that wonderful bits of our history are destroyed in the name of corporate interest all the time. They are trying to do it to Coney Island as we speak.

      Playland may not have fit that bill exactly, but I do think that San Francisco would be richer place if Playland was still around. It would have been wonderful if the park service had stepped in, taken over and renovated it.

  3. Jack Cook
    March 27, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Is the document film Remembering Playland at the Beach available to buy?

  4. Theresa Howell
    May 23, 2010 at 1:31 am

    You can buy the video from Playland-not-at-the-beach in El Cerrito. For more info.(510)592-3002. Richard Tuck is the Man. It’s a hands on museum with pictures and artifacts from Playland, Sutros baths and other parks around the country. The video is still being played at the Balboa theater at noon (every day I think). You can ask Richard when you call him.