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.