Baghdad by the Bay

Legendary columnist Herb Caen, the only man in American journalistic history to publish a daily newspaper column for 50 years, used to call San Francisco "Baghdad by the Bay." That was in an era when Baghdad carried popular connotations of A Thousand and One Nights, not the War on Terror.

But the expression might be updated and applied today to the city of Richmond, California, just a couple of miles north of Berkeley. Gang warfare has erupted, with members of two gangs assassinating each other on the streets.
Richmond police put SWAT teams on the streets today after two more people were shot, bringing the number of shootings in the city since Tuesday to 11.

The violence, which investigators believe is the product of a gang war, has claimed the lives of three people.

Two people were wounded, one critically, at 10:17 a.m. today when someone fired 30 rounds from a small-caliber pistol at Gertrude Avenue and Filbert Street just across the border from unincorporated North Richmond, police Lt. Mark Gagan said.
Given that Richmond has a population of 100,000 and Baghdad has roughly 50 times more people, I wonder which city has more violent streets?

I confess that I have become intrigued by the city, a place I generally steered clear of for most of the two decades or so I have lived in the Bay Area (an attitude that is widespread in these parts - Richmond has an image problem). But Richmond offers a fascinating blend of port and residentialport and industrial facilities, hard core ghetto, and new middle and upper-middle class residential and commercial development along the shore and inland, much this of utilizing land once occupied by railway yards, warehouses, and factories. There is also the very charming enclave of Point Richmond, the original pre-railway and pre-industrial settlement.

Like almost everywhere else in America, Richmond has hosted a huge influx of Hispanic immigrants, and neighborhoods once considered solidly blacknow sport Spanish language stores, restaurants, and billboards. I have no idea if the two warring gangs are one of the black and one of them Hispanic. That little detail is not something the press would want to publicize, if it is true.


The excellent 2005 film Coach Carter is based on the true story of Richmond High School basketball coach Ken Carter, who insisted that his student athletes excel on and off the court, and who got into trouble for it. Ken Carter is a man whom I deeply admire, and the film does him justice, with Samuel L. Jackson, the extraordinarily talented and hard-working actor in the starring role. While the film was not shot on location in Richmond, it presents what I believe to be a fairly accurate picture of the community.

Legendary columnist Herb Caen, the only man in American journalistic history to publish a daily newspaper column for 50 years, used to call San Francisco "Baghdad by the Bay." That was in an era when Baghdad carried popular connotations of A Thousand and One Nights, not the War on Terror.

But the expression might be updated and applied today to the city of Richmond, California, just a couple of miles north of Berkeley. Gang warfare has erupted, with members of two gangs assassinating each other on the streets.
Richmond police put SWAT teams on the streets today after two more people were shot, bringing the number of shootings in the city since Tuesday to 11.

The violence, which investigators believe is the product of a gang war, has claimed the lives of three people.

Two people were wounded, one critically, at 10:17 a.m. today when someone fired 30 rounds from a small-caliber pistol at Gertrude Avenue and Filbert Street just across the border from unincorporated North Richmond, police Lt. Mark Gagan said.
Given that Richmond has a population of 100,000 and Baghdad has roughly 50 times more people, I wonder which city has more violent streets?

I confess that I have become intrigued by the city, a place I generally steered clear of for most of the two decades or so I have lived in the Bay Area (an attitude that is widespread in these parts - Richmond has an image problem). But Richmond offers a fascinating blend of port and residentialport and industrial facilities, hard core ghetto, and new middle and upper-middle class residential and commercial development along the shore and inland, much this of utilizing land once occupied by railway yards, warehouses, and factories. There is also the very charming enclave of Point Richmond, the original pre-railway and pre-industrial settlement.

Like almost everywhere else in America, Richmond has hosted a huge influx of Hispanic immigrants, and neighborhoods once considered solidly blacknow sport Spanish language stores, restaurants, and billboards. I have no idea if the two warring gangs are one of the black and one of them Hispanic. That little detail is not something the press would want to publicize, if it is true.


The excellent 2005 film Coach Carter is based on the true story of Richmond High School basketball coach Ken Carter, who insisted that his student athletes excel on and off the court, and who got into trouble for it. Ken Carter is a man whom I deeply admire, and the film does him justice, with Samuel L. Jackson, the extraordinarily talented and hard-working actor in the starring role. While the film was not shot on location in Richmond, it presents what I believe to be a fairly accurate picture of the community.