Area code 415 is almost closed and when it is, newcomers won't be welcome.
The area code that once encompassed all of the Bay Area is filling so fast with San Francisco and Marin County phones, fax machines and other devices that phone companies will run out of fresh "area code 415" phone numbers by 2015. New residents of the city will be given another three-digit prefix - area code 628.
"My first reaction when I heard it was just, 'Ew. What the hell,' " said Kat Escudero, a native San Franciscan who says she has 415 in her blood.
"The 415 area code is pretty much symbolic of who we are," said Escudero, a 28 year-old project manager. "Honestly, hearing (628) equates San Francisco and 'Frisco. As a native, I can't hear that - it is just grating."
The state's Public Utilities Commission, which acts as kind of a traffic cop for telecommunications in California, said the popularity of cell phones means there just aren't enough permutations of phone numbers to go around without adding a brand new, three-digit area code.
People who already have a 415 number probably won't have to change under the proposed plan. The 628 area code will be given only to residents and businesses that get a new number after 2015 within the current geographic boundaries of the 415 area. Public hearings on the plan start early next year, and state officials said they were too busy to provide additional information.
When it was created in 1947, the 415 area code covered the entire the Bay Area. By 1959, as the region's population grew, the phone company pushed the South Bay into 408 and the North Bay into 707. In 1991, the East Bay became 510, and by 1997 most of San Mateo County had been segregated by the 650 area code.
These days, a 415 prefix means the voice at the other end of the line lives or works in San Francisco or Marin. And in three years, it will mean the person had roots in the city before 2015.
"In a way, you can point out those who aren't really from here," said Edwin Lindo, a 25-year-old city native. "We welcome everyone, but (628) is a badge that you'll wear saying, 'We aren't really.' "
"When you ask somebody for their number, you're asking where they're from," said Pat Albano, 28, who moved to San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood from the Philippines when he was 2. "The people with the 415 number, I don't know, I always just get along."
Heather Villasenor, co-owner of San Francisco's 415 Clothing, Inc., started making T-shirts, hoodies and ball caps tagged with the city's area code in 2001.
She hasn't decided if she'll branch into making 628 clothing.
"We'll have to cross that bridge when we get there," she said with a sigh. "Why not just take it all back from Marin and give them 628? That would solve everything."
This isn't the first time a change to telephone numbers has brought hand-wringing about San Francisco's good old days.
In 1948, when the telephone company consolidated the city's famous Chinatown China-5 operator exchange, The Chronicle reported that "another San Francisco tradition was a thing of the past."
"Gone for them are the tinkling voices of the Chinese switchboard operators, the girls who speak five Chinese dialects and know nearly every Chinatown subscribers number and address if you only supply the name," The Chronicle wrote.
Then in 1992, decades after San Francisco had done away with the operator exchanges and created the 415 area code, Chronicle columnist Herb Caen griped: "I'm still trying to memorize 413. I mean 415."
Rudy Villasenor, owner of 415 Clothing Inc. walks past a set of 415 numbers on the front steps of his store on Thursday Dec. 13, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. San Francisco is discussing the possibility of changing the 415 area code to accommodate more phone users in the area.
Heather Villasenor displays a shirt emblazoned with the local area code at her 415 Clothing shop in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. The state public utilities commission is considering adding a new 628 area code to the city, which has remained exclusively 415 for decades. Villasenor wants to "remain true to their roots" and says they won't be adding a new line of 628 fashions
Hats embroidered with the local area code are sold at 415 Clothing in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. The state public utilities commission is considering adding a new 628 area code to the city, which has remained exclusively 415 for decades. Co-owner Heather Villasenor wants to "remain true to their roots" and says they won't be adding a new line of 628 fashions
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