Consulate Gave San Francisco the Advantage Over 'Smogville'

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Los Angeles might have overtaken San Francisco as the West Coast's reigning powerhouse, but it didn't have a prayer of being the host city for the visit of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Logistics dictated that a stopover in San Francisco, site of the state's only Soviet consulate, would be easier to pull off.

San Franciscans, who pride themselves on their city's cosmopolitan flavor, couldn't resist the chance to lord it over what many here love to call "Smogville."

"As a city, San Francisco kind of has a stronger appeal," said Todd Sharek, an official of PBN Co., the San Francisco agency handling public relations for Gorbachev's visit.

And, declared Charlotte Mailliard Swig, the city's chief of protocol, "He showed good taste." Nonetheless, she noted that she would not presume to speak for the Soviet president.

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley long ago extended an open invitation to Gorbachev to visit his city. But Bradley has not traveled to the Soviet Union since 1976 or 1977, long before Gorbachev rose to power, a spokesman said.

San Francisco politicians and business leaders have actively courted the Soviet leader for five years. As mayor, Dianne Feinstein in 1985 twice traveled to Moscow, where she invited Gorbachev to reciprocate. Mayor Art Agnos, who as a state assemblyman also visited the Soviet Union in 1985 to discuss refugee issues, renewed the invitation in a letter earlier this year.

But the big reason for choosing San Francisco was the consulate, observers and officials agreed. On his quick overnight stop, Gorbachev will sleep in the secure confines of the Pacific Heights home of Soviet Consul General Valentin Kamenev.

"All I can tell you is, they did choose San Francisco," said Sharek of PBN Co. "Maybe he just wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge."

Times researcher Norma Kaufman contributed to this report.

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