10 Reasons Why San Francisco And Wellington Should Be Sister Cities
While sisters around America were celebrating National Sister's Day earlier this week with family, or making long distance phone calls, I want to draw attention to a sibling match not yet made, but one that makes total sense.
There’s an ongoing campaign gathering momentum here in New Zealand, to make San Francisco and Wellington sister cities. The Wellington San Francisco Society has poured a lot of energy into promoting the idea over the past year, identifying and working on specific projects that will benefit both cities. A formalised sister city relationship would pave the way for better flows of trade, talent and investment between the two cities, better disaster resilience planning, arts and study exchanges, and fellowship programmes.
For those of us who are familiar with both cities, it’s no secret that the two two share a lot in common. Like any siblings, these would-be sisters share a great deal of similar characteristics, features and quirks.
Here are ten reasons why San Francisco and Wellington should be sister cities.
1. Booming Tech Sectors
Wellington is known as the tech capital of New Zealand, and the sector has been experiencing a boom over the past few years. But unlike catching a train or bus out to Silicon Valley with the hordes, you can often walk or bike to work through swaths of native bush.
One of the earlier companies to get aboard was TradeMe, New Zealand’s answer to eBay. Founded by Sam Morgan in 1999, the company grew at an astronomical rate and was sold to Fairfax media for $750 million in 2006.
Incubators, accelerators, peer networks and co-working spaces like The BizDojo, Creative HQ, Lightning Lab and Enspiral are humming along, with the Wellington City Council-funded Collider programme being an overarching umbrella connecting the city’s diverse tech sectors. The city is also host to Open Source Open Society — one of the world’s best conferences on all things “open”, coming up in just a couple of weeks on 22–23 August. (Check out the videos from last year).
2. Beautiful Harbour And Waterfront Areas
The vibrant Wellington waterfront is buzzing with life anytime of day. Like Fisherman’s Wharf, the Wellington waterfront is dotted with bars, cafes, eateries and galleries, but with a distinctly less tacky touristy feel. The reverse of San Francisco’s waterfront, Wellington city curves around hugging the shores of the harbour, so it’s a nice bonus that the shortest route across the central city often takes you via the waterfront. This makes it a vibrant pedestrian zone for commuters and tourists alike.
Being the southernmost city in the North Island, the city is the launching pad from which to take the three hour ferry ride to the South Island. If three hours on a boat is a bit too much, you can take the Dominion Post Ferry across to Eastbourne. This suburb is like a smaller version of Sausalito, with a tree lined parade, great cafes and a beach that is best walked at sunset.
3. Distinct Downtown Communities
Walking through both San Francisco and Wellington, you’ll notice the two cities have very distinct inner city communities or districts, each with their own unique characteristics. In Wellington, the attraction of being able to feel like you’re in a different city just by crossing a road, is compounded by the fact that you can walk anywhere within the central city area. It’s compact, with lots of pedestrian-friendly zones, and a 45 minute walk across town through several different districts will likely take you more like an hour because you’ll bump into at least three people you know.
Venturing a little outside the city centre, Newtown is filled with incredible ethnic eateries and fruit stalls. Courtenay Place becomes a nightclub zone after 10pm, not dissimilar to North Beach on a Saturday night. For the nine to fivers, Lambton Quay and the Terrace is Wellington’s answer to Union Square and the Financial District.
4. Incredible Food And Drink
Wellington is renowned for its cafe culture, and is known for some of the best coffee in the world.
Being a seaside city, like San Francisco, there is amazing seafood to be found. Crab Shack and Dockside are both top class, with many other fine establishments within walking distance if you care for an after dinner tipple.
And while Wellington can’t quite rival the Mission’s spread of choice for taco shops, La Boca Loca in Miramar is incredible, serving up fresh, organic, ethical Mexican food and killer margaritas. Downtown, Viva Mexico is a hidden gem for those who can find it (Hint: Leftbank).
5. World-Class Film And Creative Industries
While the Bay Area may have Pixar, Wellington is the undisputed heart of New Zealand’s film industry, having been the birthplace and launching pad for Avatar, King Kong and the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.
Home to Academy Award-winning Sir Peter Jackson’s special effects studios Weta Digital and Weta Workshop, the suburb of Miramar has become a bustling creative hub with thousands employed in the film industry. Park Road Post Production, who put the finishing touches on Sir Peter’s films, have just opened a ten-day intensive film course for the next generation of filmmaking talent.
The forested hills and sparkling harbour, combined with comparatively friend drone regulations in New Zealand, make Wellington a fantastic place to shoot aerial footage. Check out the amazing video work from Royster Productions in this slam poetry tribute I wrote to Wellington:
6. Prison Island In The Middle Of The Harbour
Okay, so while Matiu-Somes Island has never been home to the country’s most dangerous criminals like Alcatraz, the island in the middle of Wellington Harbour was used to hold prisoners of war during both world wars. It additionally served as a quarantine station in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, with ships of new immigrants cleared through the island to stem the spread of typhoid, smallpox and scarlet fever. An animal quarantine station came next, built as a biosecurity measure, and remained until 1995.
The island is now essentially the opposite of a prison, keeping the bad guys out — these days it serves as a predator-free wildlife sanctuary home to a number of rare native birds, as well as the tuatara, New Zealand’s native reptile which dates back to the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
7. Colourful Victorian Houses Cover The Hills
Both cities share similar styles of architecture, with colourful Victorian houses adorning the hills of Mount Victoria, Mount Cook and Thorndon.
8. Cable Cars
Wellington is characterised by hill suburbs surrounding the central city. To save weary students and commuters from those massive hill climbs, Wellington has a cable car that passes close by the University of Victoria. The ride begins from Lambton Quay, in the heart of Wellington’s business and shopping district. Unlike San Francisco’s cable cars, the Wellington car doesn’t share the road with other vehicles, but follows its own track through back yards and parks.
9. The Earth Trembles
Wellingtonians and San Franciscans alike are no strangers to earthquakes. Both sit on the margins of the Pacific tectonic plate — on opposite sides from each other. The plate margin runs down the entire length of New Zealand (that’s basically why we’re here), with the fault line running right beneath Wellington. A number of buildings in the city , including the iconic Te Papa museum, sit on lead rubber base isolators to protect them from regular shakes.
While residents are used to small regular quakes, disaster resilience is one of the four focus areas of the sister city proposal, in which both cities could learn from each other.
10. Awesome Sculpture Art
Wellington is well known for its modern and wide-ranging public art. All along the waterfront, there are sculptures, statues and stone slabs bearing the words of the nation’s most celebrated poets.
San Francisco’s proximity to Burning Man, and its large share of people who make the annual pilgrimage, mean that lots of art ends up here after it leaves the Playa. While I’m not aware of any artworks that have made it from Nevada all the way to New Zealand, there’s a lively cohort of artists in our local Burner community.
11. Bonus Reason: Even More Awesome Street Art
Art deserves two categories, because art is… well, awesome.
While San Francisco has Clarion Alley and many other amazing contributions, street art is prolific in Wellington, with many large murals around the city, and the distinctive styles of several artists evident as you walk through hidden laneways and carparks. Lately, giant pigeons and three-eyed monsters have been cropping up around the city on walls and street signs.
I like to think of Wellington as a miniature model version of its bigger sister across the Pacific, a concept that is best illustrated below in Michael Jo’s award winning tilt-shifted, time-lapse video Little Wellington.
With so many similarities, it’s time we made it official: let’s seal the deal and make San Francisco and Wellington sister cities. You can throw your weight behind the campaign, by signing the open letter of support.
The Wellington San Francisco Society is looking to establish a committee in San Francisco to help the campaign along on the other side of the Pacific. If you’d like to get involved, host or co-host local events, or help build a small team of people to wave the flag, get in touch: dan (at) gamefroot (dot) com
This article originally appeared on Medium.com