Bay Bridge -> Emperor Norton Bridge

SF Chronicle:

"The Honorable Gavin Newsom:

As chair of His Majesty's Bridge Committee, appointed through the intuitive intervention of that acute seer Baba Rebop, I beseech a boon. I request Your Honor to submit to the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco a resolution requesting the state Legislature to name the western span of the Bay Bridge after His Majesty, Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.

<LJ-CUT text=" --More--(39%) ">

His Majesty did predict the building of this world famous span in 1869, a time when only goats and the Central Pacific Railroad coveted Yerba Buena Island.

Such a bridge named after His Imperial Majesty would intrigue hoards of free-spending tourists to visit the Golden City by the Bay. San Francisco's nearest competitor is only the Sandwich Islands, once ruled by mere kings and queens.

His Majesty is a model of fiscal responsibility. San Franciscans accepted Bonds of the Empire at par, during a decade when U.S. government paper money and U.S. government coined silver passed among merchants at a discount.

His Majesty looked after the unfortunate of his realm, issuing proclamations to redress wrongs against African Americans, Chinese, Native Americans and all others in need of tolerance and acceptance.

His Majesty, through his humble representative, prays that you will grant this petition.

Your Obedient Servant,
Chair, His Majesty's Bridge Committee
San Francisco"

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33 Responses:

  1. granting says:

    This is what happens when you underfund public mental health.

  2. I only know of His Majesty from Gaiman's work. But friends who have been to SF tell me that there's an amazing number of insane mental odd people out and about on the streets. Any special reason for this? (I have never been and probably never will set foot on the West Coast.)

    • bdu says:

      If you were a wee bit batty and incapable of keeping a home, wouldn't you want to live someplace that only freezes over a couple of times a year?

      • True.... but someone had mentioned that the government closed down "a big institution" (my googlefu is weak) and let all the residents free; of course free being a euphemism for "run wild" in the streets. Another point of criticism for the government's lack of foresight or concern if this be true.

        It's.. unimaginable (for lack of a better word) that a government that trumpets Medicare and Social Security (and similar support for those incapable of taking care of their own) would actually do this.

        • bdu says:

          but someone had mentioned that the government closed down "a big institution"

          Sure, but that happened all over the US in the 80s. I think the not-as-deadly weather has more to do with it.

        • cr0wgrrl says:

          That was on the East Coast, if I recall correctly, although I suspect it happened all over.

        • baconmonkey says:

          thank Ronnie Raygun for that.

          • relaxing says:

            I thought it was the ACLU.

            • cr0wgrrl says:


              For the curious, there's a decent start point on Reagan's overall handling of the homeless problem here.

              Turns out Reagan did deinstitutionalize lots of homeless in CA while Governor (look about halfway down this second article), in the wake of Pres. Kennedy's proposal for federal funding for community mental health programs. Once Reagan became president, he suspended federal funding to those same programs, sending responsibility back to the states. Nice.

        • relaxing says:

          here's the deal: the mentally ill can't be kept locked up longer than 72 hours unless they are deemed dangerous. so most of them end up back on the streets where they don't take their meds.

          that's across the US. everyone else is right that the lack of harsh winters and the generally tolerant atmosphere is what draws them to the bay area.

          • jkonrath says:

            The flipside to this is that if the government could lock up the mentally ill for periods of longer than 72 hours, there's the chance that you would see a lot of "mentally ill" protestors and dissidents vanishing into government institutions for a long time. It's a damned-if-you-do|don't situation.

  3. ex_sjc says:

    I would visit the Emperor Norton Bridge. But only if his currency was still in circulation.

    • Well, the 2004 bill is falling out of ciculation. But the 2005 bill is anticipated by January First. I will be distributing them when the new bridge opens.

  4. djinnaya says:

    We've been following this in its various forms - articles, editorials, comics - for a couple of weeks. Personally, I think it is a brilliant idea. Well, maybe not the renaming of the bridge. But, the idea of resurrecting the pomp of our dear Emperor to represent our (aherm... over-budget) bridge is definitely appropriate.

    • jwz says:

      The Western span is the part proposed for renaming. The Eastern span is the over-budget boondoggle currently under construction. I don't think they're planning on replacing the Western span at all, are they?

      • djinnaya says:

        Hm... valid point. I guess that since I don't usually drive to Treasure Island, I tend to think of it as just one bridge. Still, with all the insane things that people are uniting behind, this one, at the least, has a high amusement factor, which many other causes cannot claim.

      • ioerror says:

        Because the new span has a single point of failure that can be used by an attacker with a large enough car bomb. Whoops!

        But to make matters worse, it's built ... (wait for it...) RIGHT ON A FAULT LINE!

        Good thing they are even bothering to replace the bridge that's set to fail in the next earth quake...

        The best part is of course that this was all pointed out by Berkelys number one person in the field, only to have caltrans say: "we respectfully disagree..."

        Of course they never refuted the claims that the new bridge is basically for show, more dangerous, has two major single points of failure and is entirely over budget.

        Oh and they want to raise the toll because it only benefits locals. Nevermind that it's a state project that doesn't solve the problems that it was supposed to.

        I wish I still had the sfgate article about this madness. It's amazing how dense the caltrans people are, hopefully I won't be on the bridge when it goes down.

        • terpsichoros says:

          Do you have any documentation (links) for the claim that the new bridge will be on an active fault?

          Can you explain what the "single points of failure" are?

          I'm fairly skeptical, but I've seen CalTrans engineering up close and find it plausible, if unlikely, that they've done something that stupid. But saying don't make it so.

          • jwz says:

            A Bridge Too Weak? A UC Berkeley professor believes the unique new Bay Bridge design is fatally flawed. "If only Abolhassan Astaneh were a flake he could be dismissed. But as an internationally recognized authority on the design of steel structures, the UC Berkeley engineering professor and his jeremiads against one of the most expensive public works projects in Caltrans history aren't so easily ignored."

            • terpsichoros says:

              Thank you for the pointer - I remembered reading something like that a while ago. I'd like to see Astaneh's specific critique, but I do have a lot of respect for him, and if he says there's a problem, I'm inclied to believe him.

              However, the contention that there's a live fault where the bridge tower is going is incorrect. There are faults quite close to the bridge - the location between the San Andreas and Hayward faults is why there's a bay which needs bridges.

              We probably wouldn't be having this problem if we'd gone with Astaneh's design idea.

  5. chromal says:

    Hahah, that's great! I really wish I lived somewhere where antics like this went down. Most places endorse an take on life that is far too literal (and boring). Some people just shouldn't live in San Francisco, but it's not the eccentric ones who ought to leave...

  6. moof says:

    It looks like the Robert J Chandler who wrote this is the Senior Historian at Wells-Fargo Bank, and is actually decently respected as an expert on California and the Civil War.

  7. kassil says:

    Nice to see Emperor Norton is still remembered.

  8. kraquehaus says:

    I was always wondering when our Emperor would be remembered by a renaming of a San Francisco landmark or street.

    I am all for the renaming. Absolutely.

    I think that, in an odd way (which seems approriate, don't you think?), the Emperor really embodies the zeitgeist of San Francisco.

    You know, I sort of wish that this was proposed in a non-joking manner so it would actually get considered.

    Oh yea: I'm NOT joking. :-)

  9. torgo_x says:

    Yes I require the renaming of that big bridge to Emperor Norton Bridge and also all streets to Emperor Norton Street so everyone will know how whiiiiimsical the "Bay Area" is!!!! SIGN MY GUESTBOOK!

  10. erg says:

    Christ, Google is fast; this link is in the top ten. Emperor Nortons' great grandson is down in Santa Cruz, if he still lives there and is also on LJ.

    • Actually I reside in San Jose these days. I will return to either Santa Cruz, or San Francisco when my education is complete.

      • erg says:

        Well, if you're into notoriety, looks like it's going to happen. Good to see you're well and stuff. I know what's up with you 'cause you're friends with Fenwick,(so I read your posts on and off) I just didn't want to blow your cover :)

  11. I just want to ad that it is nice to see support from the citizens of the Empire for this historic declaration. Believe me when I saw I will be following the story. Tell me more of this Bridge Committee.

    Joshua Strawberry Norton III
    Omnibenevolent Emperor of Demockery