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Bay Area Basks in Gorbachev Visit's Afterglow

June 06, 1990|MARK STEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — The Bay Area basked Tuesday in the afterglow of a visit by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, proud of the nearly glitch-free day and happy to show the world it has rebounded from last fall's earthquake.

There were a few annoyances--some people were "mortified" by a shabby grocery store seen by Raisa Gorbachev on Monday--but most were pleased that the 22-hour visit both charmed the city and showed it off to the world without disaster.

After summits in Canada and Washington, Gorbachev came to San Francisco to woo leading West Coast business leaders to invest in his country. He also met with South Korean President Roh Tae-Woo to discuss improving the relationship between their two nations.

"As mayor and a citizen of San Francisco, the day was spectacular on all counts," Mayor Art Agnos said Tuesday. "The city gained luster as an international city. . . . The city was spectacular."

"We're not a bunch of weirdos like the East Coast thinks," said proud San Francisco resident Pat Garavaglia. "We're a worldly people with a global view of politics."

Evidence of just how smoothly things went was the fact that police reported only one arrest related to the visit in a day packed with demonstrations by thousands of protesters from a multitude of ethnic and political groups.

The sole arrest was of a woman babbling incoherently as she tried to penetrate a police line outside the Fairmont Hotel. She was detained for psychiatric evaluation.

Traffic generally moved well all day, with Yellow Cab driver Gene Tabrizi dismissing the worst slowdown as nothing unusual.

"Traffic is the same as every day," he said. "It's bad, but not as bad as L.A. I don't even feel (Gorbachev) being in town."

The most dangerous situation on the road, the California Highway Patrol reported, was when drivers on Interstate 280 pulled over to the center divider and stopped to watch Gorbachev's 40-car entourage cruise down to Stanford.

Traffic even flowed smoothly near Candlestick Park, where fans were flocking to see the Giants whip the aptly named Cincinnati Reds shortly before Gorbachev passed by on his way to the airport.

For the most part, nothing could dampen the generally upbeat day.

"The city, which had the worldwide press here for 24 hours, was able to show that it recovered from the October quake," said Agnos, referring to the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that was extensively reported around the world. "It was a tremendous bonus for the city."

Less of a bonus to the city's--and the country's--image, at least in the minds of some people in the upscale Upper Market District, was Raisa Gorbachev's tour there of a humble market on Ranus Terrace.

"I don't think there's a fresh vegetable in the store," said one grumpy neighborhood resident. "She (Mrs. Gorbachev) must have felt very at home."

The neighbor feared that the grocery, with its water-stained ceiling and cracked-linoleum floor, would give Soviet citizens the impression that Americans pay high prices for marginal goods.

Other scheduling blemishes that smudged the day were largely a result of the Gorbachevs' personal spontaneity. By beginning their day late on Monday and juggling the rest of their busy schedules, they caused a series of little disturbances.

There was pandemonium at Stanford University, for example, when officials unexpectedly canceled the credentials of reporters who were to have covered his Littlefield Center meeting with 27 distinguished faculty members and nine students.

One reporter who had been scheduled to cover the sought-after event pleaded with press relations manager Peter Bartelme to be given access to "somewhere, anywhere, where he might conceivably say something."

"The best I can do for you is the Oval, where he gets out of his car," replied Bartelme, thumbing through a stack of credentials.

"How about the art museum?" the reporter pleaded.

"Sorry, no art museum," replied Bartelme, adding with a sigh: "I feel like a ticket scalper."

"We did credentials for the Golden Gate Bridge (50th anniversary in 1987) and the Super Bowl," he said, but because of Secret Service and KGB security demands, "this is by far more difficult."

Times staff writer Victor Zonana and researcher Norma Kaufman contributed to this report.

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