A bit over a month ago, our ever-present Tenderloin neighborhood spokesman who lives in the Berkeley Hills, Randy Shaw, posted his ideas on how Civic Center can be revived from its “failed” state. This article apparently made the rounds and people thought well of it as it quotes Jane Jacobs and her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Naturally, given that comments aren’t enabled at BeyondChron (their blogging platform would allow them by the way), there was no debate allowed to take place. Instead, the debate was written up by Bob Offer-Westort on an article over at IndyBay which starts off with a most agreeable number of shots across the bow:

Randy Shaw, the Executive Director the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and a resident of the Berkeley Hills, has made changing the nature of the Tenderloin one of his dearest goals for the past several years. His promotion of a new name for the neighborhood that no one uses (the “Uptown Tenderloin”—along with the embarrassing fake slang “Upper Ten”) and his ongoing creation of a neighborhood historical museum have, until very recently, been the most notable aspects of his one-man campaign of neighborhood transformation.

From that point on, you should really, really read the entire article, but a couple of great quotes from this very solid dismissal of what Shaw proposes for the Civic Center Plaza include:

…Shaw supports a Reaganite trickle-down taxation policy, the man seems himself as a progressive, thanks largely to his distant but laudable history of eviction prevention and tenant defense. But now that Shaw has, through the favor of the Newsom administration, become one of the neighborhood’s biggest landlords, he seems disinclined to continue that history, though he won’t stop bragging about it.

…right now, we regularly have five food trucks in Civic Center Plaza during lunchtime. Shaw would like to see one “high quality, destination food truck…” (On a side note, doesn’t the notion of destination run counter to the purpose of food trucks?)

Right now, Chinese senior citizens use the Plaza for Fǎlún Gōng meditation and taìjí in the mornings. Shaw wants yoga.

And this yoga thing maybe gets to the crux of it: Yoga is wonderful as exercise and meditation, but let’s face it: Its primary appeal is not to the average resident of Tenderloin or SoMa residential hotels. But this doesn’t matter for Shaw’s vision for the economic development of these depressed neighborhoods: The development is not by us. It’s not for us. It’s not about us: It is, in Shaw’s own words, for the attraction of outside investment.

But Shaw’s underlying goal—a renewal of the Tenderloin—is, despite its violently misguided direction, rooted in some valid concerns.

The Tenderloin is vibrant and diverse. It is more of a true neighborhood—where life is active on the streets and people know one another—than any other part of the city. But we all know that we have our problems.

But really, go have a read. This is an excellent article that I feel didn’t get nearly enough press as it’s based on the real Tenderloin and Civic Center neighborhood as it currently is, not some “Uptown Tenderloin” artificial-flavored delusion comprised of nebulous private security, a single food truck, and… oh why not, a unicorn petting zoo for the kiddies.

[Photo of the Civic Center plaza during the SF Giants Victory Parade by Keoki Seu, from our Tender Flickr pool]