Yesterday, with the filthy carpet of a Bart train framing a dead-tree copy of the SF Bay Guardian that I’d picked up, I read their recent article The test of the Tenderloin. In what must be either the most unfortunate placement or some of the most ironic, this article appeared in the “Beer Issue” and overall, I wasn’t that impressed by it. I hadn’t even planned to mention it here except that SFist and Curbed both linked to it, giving it a larger exposure.

The media continues to feed the community the bs about Randy Shaw visions for the TL, who lives in the Berkeley Hills, close to Scenic St. Please! Please let’s hear from the people who live in the Tenderloin.
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Truth be told, when reading the first portion of it, my first thought was “Dammit, more selling of Randy Shaw’s very flawed ‘vision’ of the Tenderloin with this dead-end museum he wants to create…” and I wanted to react to that, although I already have. I went in to great detail about how the concept of business development and creating self-sustaining projects is utterly and completely beyond his ability as a director the main housing non-profit in the neighborhood with a vested interest in keeping the neighborhood underdeveloped. But, the article goes on to talk with more people involved in the Loin, albeit a great many of them (such as Shaw) don’t actually live here.

And this is the problem with the article. I feel that the author, Caitlin Donohue started off with what was a good concept, interviewed a ton of people and suddenly found herself in the miasma of what has become the definitive course of policy in the Tenderloin, in that there are too many. Everyone seems to have some idea as to how to grow the Loin, while still keeping it as the Loin except that none of these ideas have worked in the past other than to focus all the homeless outreach in to this one neighborhood.

Take a walk around Taylor, Eddy, and Turk and you’ll notice that storefronts that once housed viable businesses are either boarded-up or have become offices for non-profits. Randy’s own organization was involved in the eviction of long-time business (McDonald’s Books) from a space on Turk Street in order to make way for his own storefront office where he keeps the blinds drawn 24 hours a day.
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Just as mono-crops aren’t good for agriculture, mono-business isn’t good for a neighborhood which is what’s happened with the wild and unkempt overgrowth of non-profits in the area. By no means do I advocate for the wholesale removal of non-profit activities from the Tenderloin, but at the same time, there needs to be an extremely heavy leveling of the type of money that flows through the neighborhood (also, how about diversifying the non-profits themselves?). Promoting more local business growth is damned simple policy, but it isn’t aid-centric so no one really wants to hear it currently. Naturally, in this, I find it unfortunate, especially as the District 6 candidates at the forefront most all seem to want to tread the same path to Daly’s SRO-City. I just wish that Donohoe had delved more in to that and taken a stronger angle with the story than the overview that it was.