I asked. You answered.
One week ago, I inquired what makes San Mateo County so special that people are willing to put up with sky-high rents and home prices, overall Bay Area traffic headaches and the perpetual designation for out-of-towners that the locale as “just a little south of San Francisco.”
Why not just get the heck out of Dodge or opt not to arrive at all and set up roots somewhere a commute is five minutes, people don’t assume tech is the end-all, be-all and one might be able to afford food, shelter and even a wee bit of clothing?
Well, Leon the Giraffe, for one. A reader suggested the metal statue near Fifth and Laurel avenues as one of several features that make Central Park in San Mateo one of the county’s wonders — a park that was mentioned repeatedly in the past week of suggestions, actually. The reader also added worry every time efforts are made to “improve” the park. “How do you improve perfection?” she asked.
One missive broke down suggestions into lighter, business and historical categories: in that order, the Pez Museum of Burlingame, the San Bruno headquarters of YouTube and the Sweeney Ridge rail at the west end of Sneath Lane where the Portola Monument marks the spot Europeans first spotted San Francisco Bay in 1769.
Local nature received a lot of kudos actually. Princeton Harbor and Miramar Beach was described by one as a “guilty pleasure.” One reader’s list of seven wonders all gave a hat tip in some part to Mother Nature — the beaches (particularly Bean Hollow), Filoli Gardens, trails around Water Dog Park and along the Bay, Coyote Point Park, Butano State Park and Sawyer Camp Trail.
While some readers simply gave spots and things, some shared memories which explain why those treks to the trails, visits to the San Gregorio General Store or drives to the beach and redwoods are unlike what you’ll find elsewhere. Cracking open fresh peas in season, eating the goodies and throwing the shells out the window, was one generous tale from a woman who said she still does it 50 years after starting. This could be a great exception to those anti-littering campaigns.
Business might build the infrastructure but San Mateans apparently love their great outdoors. A Midwest transplant even said there are fewer flies and mosquitos here. Bonus!
CuriOdyssey, Coyote Point and the city of Half Moon Bay also rated.
That’s not to say everything great about San Mateo County is connected to flora and fauna. One list included Barnes & Noble (not sure if a particular store or the entirety), Yumi Yogurt and the Daily Journal. Another even mentioned a particular Daily Journal columnist with nary a prompt from yours truly. Excuse me while I blush a bit.
Of course, this same recommender also expressed wonder at, and I paraphrase for the benefit of a family newspaper, the number of county folks who’s heads remain firmly placed in their posterior, so I’m taking the personal nod with a grain or two of salt. I’m not sure that my weekly quips or the chance to shake one’s head at ridiculousness is enough to outweigh even the prettiest of views and marvelous of attractions.
Back in the day — the days of generations past, that is — another reader said convenience was what drove people to come and stay. The ocean, the Bay, San Francisco, parks, Stanford University. Everywhere you turned there was something. Of course, this reader did find that one day everywhere he turned there were too many people and has since headed north where the summer thermometer zooms into the triple digits.
Maybe the Peninsula weather gets another gold star. Redwood City would certainly think so.
What I think is that based on the quick and fervent response one of the county’s greatest assets is its people. Sure there are those who do need a swift kick or who have no investment — yet — in this place they lay their head. But for those who have made the commitment to San Mateo County, it is clear that this is a place like no other. They may spend endless frustrating years fighting over synthetic turf in parks, a new Safeway design downtown or the glut of parking at a Chinese restaurant but that’s only because it is their own backyard.
So next time somebody mentions San Mateo County and asks me, Who cares? I can point to the handfuls of people who took the time to share their favorites and say, They do.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. Follow Michelle on Twitter @michellemdurand What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.