Sometimes your own backyard is a discovery. So it was on a recent weekend stay in San Francisco, which is only the span of the Golden Gate Bridge away from Smart Meetings HQ. The weekend’s focus: sustainability and community.
It began on Alcatraz, on an Alcatraz Cruises Night Tour. Against a clear night sky with the city skyline poignantly illuminated just across the bay, the former federal lock-up immortalized as The Rock was extra spooky. But the unexpected surprise was learning the sustainability story of the island and the boats that ferry Alcatraz visitors to and from.
Alcatraz Cruises has pioneered the use of hybrid ferries that use a combination of solar, wind and diesel power (for which carbon offsets are purchased). Alcatraz itself has no electrical or water lines connected to the mainland, so the National Park Service has installed solar panels and a battery system to supply much of the needed electricity; gardens are irrigated with captured rainwater, and toilets are flushed with saltwater.
The next day, a tabletop session at Hilton San Francisco Union Square—its hashtag is #hotelwithaheart—brought together nonprofit organizations that work with local hotels, restaurants and neighborhoods to advance sustainability in the city and improve the lives of people in need. They included:
Food Runners of SF, whose volunteers pick up “remaindered food” from not only hotels and restaurants, but also grocery stores, bakeries, company cafeterias, events and food festivals and deliver it to free-meals centers, senior centers, group homes, after-school programs and other hungry residents.
SCRAP, short for Scrounging for Creative Repurposing of Art Products, whose mission is stimulating creativity and environmental awareness in children and adults through the creative reuse of materials that are usually discarded as waste.
Code Tenderloin, which prepares those struggling in the city’s hardscrabble Tenderloin district and elsewhere for jobs, offering courses in successful job interviewing, workplace etiquette and other survival skills.
Tenderloin Walking Tours, which offers custom group tours and regular guided tours through the “much-maligned, often avoided and almost always overlooked neighborhood,” as the organization puts it on its website.
A delightful evening was spent at SF Jazz Center, created in 2013 as the permanent home for a nonprofit that is a world leader in “jazz creation, presentation and education.” The 36,000-square-foot center is the nation’s first stand-alone structure built specifically for jazz, and its main concert-hall-quality performance space, which seats up to 700 people, is also available for Ted talks, company gatherings and other meetings.
A sold-out performance by Bobby McFerrin was bookended by dinner at Urban Tavern, on the ground floor of Hilton San Francisco Union Square, and a nightcap in the clouds, at the hotel’s Cityscape Lounge, with its superb city views on the 46th floor.
Perhaps the most astounding meetings venue of the weekend came to light the next morning. Sustainability was still the theme—and artists are the potential beneficiaries. Gregangelo Museum is a Mission-style house in the placid St. Francis Wood district that has helped dozens of talented artists sustain themselves and their art by creating fantasy-scapes in 26 rooms with wildly colorful paintings, mosaics and furnishings. The house can accommodate up to 40 attendees for events, which can be further enlivened with costumed artists, thanks to Gregangelo Herrera, who owns a circus in addition to running the museum.