A view of the Belgravia

Maybe you’re like me, or if you’re lucky, you’re not. Whatever the case, maybe you’ve walked by the Belgravia at the corner of Sutter & Jones and thought, “Dangit, what must it be like to live up in there? That’s mighty fancy.” Well, Cletus accent or not, now you can see it for yourself. And, that’s a recent one. Here’s another from two years ago.

If I were to ever live there, I feel like I’d need to invest it a good humidor, cognac selection, and possibly a monocle.

When the tides meet

For anyone who has been to Cape Town, South Africa, you will most likely have hiked out to Cape Point. There, in a vast expanse of blues and greens you see the meeting of two oceans: the Indian and Atlantic. They froth and crash in to each other in a turgid dance of currents that you’re thankful to not be navigating, but gazing at from the outside safety of the shores.

To paint this in to more of a local sense, anyone who has met me knows that I often refer to living between the Academy of Art in the Upper Tenderloin and the Tenderloin Housing Clinic/Neighborhood Development Corporation in the Lower Tenderloin as being in the middle of a shit sandwich. And, don’t for any second think that we’re the bread in this arrangement.

All of this is a long way to get to a recent article on Beyond Chron (if they want links, then open up comments) about the AoA now renting the defunct former digs of the Culinary Academy for their “fashion school” at the corner of Turk & Polk. Let’s remember that the AoA garners $400 million+ a year just in tuition, not to mention their “triple room occupancy” dorms. They are a blatant (I would even say predatory) for-profit school and these are no end of evil. For all the hype of their fashion school being “invited” (I wouldn’t be surprised if they paid something) to NYC’s Fashion Week, it’s amazing how they don’t have anyone notable either as staff or former students despite having 17,000 students a year.

Then there are the various homeless social service providers who have become something of a de facto mafia in the Tenderloin. Don’t believe me? Try and get funding for any art project in the neighborhood and you’ll be directed by the city agencies to “work with” the homeless non-profits. Have a crime problem on your block? Go talk to Randy Shaw to get the police to do something about it. Some call this neighborhood activism, but I just call it self-preservation.

…Elisa Stephens has a fondness for historic buildings, which the central city has in large supply.

Naturally, as they’re vacant due to the destruction of the neighborhood through the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC) and Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC). All of this article really smacks like a cheering piece for the AoA as they may have donated some large amount of money to the THC to be “good neighbors”. We’ll never know, though, as the THC doesn’t release detailed donation records publicly. That’s what happens when you shift social services over to private contractors –you lose all accountability.

Suffice to say, the AoA and the homeless industry have been moving steadily towards each other over the years, probably attracted by their mutual love of profiteering, and it was bound to happen that their interests would meet some day. Elisa Stephens’ love of buying up buildings in downtown is not to revitalize the neighborhood. Her students don’t really even see the neighborhood as they’re shuttled about in their special, private, gridlock-inducing buses.

The former Culinary Academy site is only one block from the new SF PUC building that opens in 2012. The combination of these two new facilities should help revive the distressed Golden Gate corridor between Polk and Van Ness.

This is what will actually happen: both the PUC and the AoA will clear out at the end of the day. The same problems that currently exist will continue to exist as these aren’t neighborhood institutions or even neighbors at all. They’re just tenants who have no real stake in the neighborhood. Randy damn well knows this as he heads home to his mansion in the Berkeley Hills when the sun goes down. Elisa damn well knows this as she heads home to her mansion in Nob Hill when the sun goes down.

The only way any of this will change is if AoA students start getting shot/mugged/stared at weirdly and the AoA puts pressure on SFPD to protect their cash cows (ie students). This would be wonderfully ironic given the constant police intervention required to deal with their dorms in the upper Tenderloin and the out-of-control students treating the entire area like it’s their living room given that there is no curfew or control in the dorms. There have already been several medical emergency calls (due to substance abuse) to the dorms so far this year, but no one wants to talk about those.

Also, students do not revive an area. I went to UC Berkeley and the entire south side of campus is a complete wasteland of shitty student-related bars and restaurants. The same thing is happening here and if anything opens up near this new building, it will only be for the students, not the rest of the neighborhood.

Taking on Randy Shaw’s Civic Center

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]

Because you can never have enough parking

This morning I came across the most bizarre sight of a worker cutting a garage-sized hole in to the side of what had previously been the wall of a small, nice building at 883 Sutter Street. In most instances, this would leave a large, gaping hole, except that this garage-sized hole exposed a ready-to-use garage on the other side of it.

Some time back, in front of this 1921 building, the sidewalk was altered to create a garage access ramp, which went directly in to a wall. Well, it appears that the joke was on the unsuspecting, as secretly, the owner of this address (who appears to have purchased it sometime in 2010 for $1.2 million) was refining garage-grade construction for a future point at which it would be unleashed upon the neighborhood. That day is today and the garage door is replete with the, “You park in front of my garage, I’ll tow your ass, tow it good! Here’s the number of the towing company.” message.

And yes, this all appears to be permit-proper as there was one filed two years ago to the day, to do this very construction and it was approved by SFFD et al. Just weird that there was no sign ever posted in the front of the building acknowledging the legality of said work… With a recorded $300,000 in additional work, it seems that this is now a private residence?

>Update

This evening, I bumped in to the actual owner of this building and chatted with him for a bit. He has indeed turned it in to a residence after a storied past of being a bar, store, and a number of other things. The façade has pretty nothing historical to it and in fact the doors weren’t even in that space originally. All told, he has about 4,000 square feet of space it in now with a few more updates in the works. Even if he decides to use it as super hero lair, I’m just thrilled that it’s not becoming yet another AoA building or SRO hotel. So, it appears we are to welcome our newest single family dwelling to the Tenderloin/Nob area.

Tenderbits

  • Great portrait snapped in the back courtyard of the now in SoMa DWNTWN store [Caliber]
  • After months of remodeling, Brenda’s French Soul Food expansion is finally complete in the ex-laundromat next door. Since the new side is all done, guests will be served in it while they completely overhaul the “old” side, which will be complete in about a month, bringing it to 72 seats total. [Tablehopper]
  • Did you know that Many early film exchanges were located in Tenderloin buildings because of their proximity to Market Street cinemas? [Up from the Deep]
  • San Francisco saw a 41 percent increase in people asking for help feeding themselves and their families this year compared to last year, according to a new survey of homelessness and hunger [City Insider]
  • The Senate hotel at 567 Turk street (built in 1913 by architect Charles J. Rousseau and also known as Crescent Manor) to get face-lift [SF Chronicle]
  • Civic Center to be renamed Ronald M. George State Office Comple [ABC7]
  • San Francisco named 3rd drunkest city, after Milwaukee and Fargo. We have to wonder if there’s a specific neighborhood with a higher average than the rest of the ciy, ahem… [NBC Bay Area]
  • Analog missed connections [The Tenderloin Geographic Society]

Big Tits photo by Thomas Hawk, from The Tender’s Flickr pool

The end of 824 Hyde

While “emergency demolition” was approved nearly immediately after the fire that gutted 824 Hyde almost two months ago, it’s taken quite some time to get out the heavy equipment needed to turn a 95 year-old building in to rubble. But, last week, the time finally came and unlike 901 Bush Street which was rebuilt a couple years ago, there will be no rebirth from the literal ashes. Definitely sad to see the building go.

In the gallery below (which due to a lot of the work being started by hand meant we took these over several days), you can see that people weren’t able to go back in as there are endless belongings on display. We hope that those who were displaced by the fire have managed to pull their lives back together to some degree.

> Update 12/20

For those interested in seeing proper destruction and the hole between the two buildings, The Tens has a more recent photo of the nearly-finished demolition work.

When non-profits become your developers

In typical San Francisco fashion, while alarmist have been clanging on and on about gentrification and condos, non-profits have been building up nice little new condos with great abandon. Now, I have nothing against people living in good buildings. I just have yet to understand a) why they need to all be focused in the Tenderloin (people will indeed go to where services are) and b) why these new structures have to look so crappy. Those buildings that were built down on Taylor near Market are decently okay, but will not age well. They were also built upon empty lots, so no real harm done (although green space would have been nicer). But, a new building development has been proposed to go up at 121 Golden Gate, which is at the corner of Jones.

Apparently that rather bland building, built in 1912 is a historical building that can’t be torn down outright. So, in order to go ahead with their plans, they’ve proposed plopping this new structure on top of the historical one. Oh, just in case that doesn’t look like a tub of shit to you in the photo, take a look at a similar lump at the corner of Frank Norris & Polk.

This mix of new and old simply does not bode well. I think that a much better option if this needs to be done is to do what H&M did on Powell wherein they tear out the interior and keep the facade. While I hate to see the old buildings go, that is a far better option than what’s being proposed now.

HT to Socketsite for keeping up these haps.

The Boyd: the most photogenic hotel in the Loin?

While meandering about Flickr, I’ve been noticing for some time that there are a great many excellent pictures of the sign of the Hotel Boyd (now an SRO) on Jones at Golden Gate. Like many others in the Tenderloin, it’s a beautiful old sign, but it seems to get a lot more attention than others (except perhaps the sign of Woerner’s Cigar Store on Larkin). I don’t know if it’s because it’s next to one of the most beautiful buildings in the neighborhood, the Hibernia Bank, or because of its neon sign that lights up as a glowing red ember in the neighborhood, day or night. Whatever the reason, I’m constantly seeing beautiful photographs of this 1907 building.

Here’s a selection of some of my favorites:


By Julie Michelle


By Patrick Boury


By Troy Holden


By Stuart Dixon


By Thomas Hawk


By Victor Ramos

What are your favorites? Maybe you have others?

Anyone got $700,000 and a hammer?

It appears that my beloved neighborhood ruin of 907 Post Street is on the market for $700,000 (which can buy you a town in other places). I love this place as I’ve mentioned before and (prior to Jane Kim appearing to have won D6) if my lottery-winning plans were actually working, I would have swooped it up, restored it, and opened a proper co-working/office space on the second floor with cafe on the first.

Alas, I do not have this kind of money and it appears that the owner (who according to records lives in Ashbury Heights) does not either. It could also be the case that the owner is looking to make a tidy profit on the sale given that the last price paid for it in February of 2000 was $224,000.

Let’s be honest though, it needs a lot of work. It was heavily damaged in 1994 by an explosion (oh how I yearn for those distant days when the Chronicle had actual news). I’m going to guess that it would also need seismic retrofitting as well. And once Chris Daly II takes office in January, any new owner would probably be forced to have a needle exchange program in the corner of whatever commercial space they would try to open there.

There are a lot of loose ends when it comes to what can be done with the building though as the records have a variety of blanks spots, such as the date of original construction. I’ve read that it’s historic and thus can’t be torn down, which would be dandy good if true. Of course, you never know what could happen and given that the lot is designated to allow buildings up to 80 feet tall and with a 1,224 square foot lot size, I’m sure, given the amount of work that the building needs, a developer would happily demolish it to build modern condos on the space with parking entry on Meacham Alley like 645 and 647 Hyde have.

We’ll see what actually happens to this building. Nothing is selling terribly fast in the current real estate market, so I’m sure it will get to rot a bit more before getting picked up and headed in to a foggy future.

I’ve had warmer welcomes, Hallidie

While I’m generally all for trying, I have no idea why those powers that be are trying to “spruce up” Hallidie Plaza with these banners. There were a number of them last week, but it appears that this is the last one now. I guess that they’re trying to celebrate some recent landscaping work that went on, which has left this plaza pretty much the same way, it’s always been: a sad, sad gateway to San Francisco for those arriving on public transportation.

The [ahem] homeless guys selling the StreetSheet and/or just bumming for change are still there. That sad looking cable car cafe thing is still there. And most importantly, the 213th Shitting Congress (also known as the native Hallidie pigeon flock) is still there. I can’t really tell what has changed that necessitated the installation of these banners.

There is a solution for this 1973 sweat stain of a station entrance which was covered here. The plan that John King outlines in the link on that article is a mighty good one and makes me sigh every time I hop out of the Bart and head in to the Loin, which quite honestly, I find more welcoming than Hallidie Plaza.