Juicy, dirty poverty tourism in the Tenderloin

At the beginning of this month, a woman from the staff of a startup called Vayable wrote to us to see if I wanted to create “a tour of sorts of the best places in the Tenderloin” for their site. After all, she had created the Go Homeless for a Day one and was very proud of it (as their site is, acording to their about page, “for explorers who crave authentic trips”). Initially, I wanted to write back stating that if she did actually put that up, I would make fun of her for doing it as I find this type of thing to be that tricky point at which dumb and shit come together to form criminally lame.

Well, in the end I didn’t bother writing back and yet, I didn’t have to make fun of her as Jay Barmann took care of that very well in an SFist article:

Vayable CEO Jamie Wong says, “Large numbers of tourists spend vacation time and money to tour the slums in Bombay or to volunteer in impoverished parts world. This experience is no different.” Well, sure Jamie. I guess it just seems like a first when it comes to exploiting the poor in our country and treating them like animals in a zoo.

While this initially just seems like “poverty tourism”, this is also an offshoot of “voluntourism”. We see a rise in this type of thing in the Tenderloin during the summer (hello summer vacation missionaries), and it simply does not work. People think that popping in and either seeing the impoverished in the world firsthand or doing some uninformed short term work there is actually of some benefit when it’s really for themselves. On the ground, it fails the communities which are in theory to be helped.

Sure, while nibbling on your boiled goose after a lively game of squash at the club, you’re able to tell all about the time you spent helping/seeing the poor in Blah dee Blah, Somewhere and you believe that your telling about it is actually worth something (hint, it’s not). But, the problems in the world these days are not from lack of money for projects, volunteers to work on the projects, or awareness campaigns. There is already too much of all of this being thrown around without much thought other than making the donors and those who re-tweet a funding campaign feel good about themselves. What’s needed is long term, structural work with concrete and well-defined, absolute goals that look down the road decades, not days.

And this is what is continually thrashing the Tenderloin. Church groups who pop in to feed and proselytize for a Sunday or a Thanksgiving, or people who volunteer for a couple of months at a homeless shelter are all guilty of the same thing as anyone who goes on Vayable’s “Go Homeless for a Day” activity, in that they’re all just tourists (“leave your bed, television and car behind”). For those who live here this does nothing and accomplishes nothing except to perpetuate a homeless industry in which we all lose. In the case of Vayable, it also works to disgust me, so I guess that it does something in the end.

Fact-smacking Turk’s “most violent block”

KRON screen capture by Bluoz

For those of you who don’t know the Bluoz blog, you should. While we screw around, “reporting” on random street art and food in the hood, Jeff goes out and digs in to the sloppy mess of things that make this neighborhood have the problems that it does (often documenting those very problems with a webcam first-hand).

Case in point is one of his latest articles that goes on at length about just how blatantly wrong, Randy Shaw and company’s “most violent block” claim is. But, why would they bother to make this claim in the first place:

The only reason why this report was made is because the Central City SRO Collaborative recently moved to 27 Turk and now Randy Shaw’s organization is suddenly aware of crime, because now they have to actually see it with their own eyes.

The fact, is, the CCSRO has been actively campaigning against the police and development for a very long time, so it’s extremely hypocritical for them to be suddenly aware of crime now in 2011.

Furthermore, the claims that dealers come from across the bay on BART is also misleading, when many of the criminals come from within their own SRO housing, which has also been ignored by the same CCSRO for a very long time. The fact is that while some dealers come from Bayview, Potrero Hill, Fillmore, many dealers are based in the Tenderloin itself, and are housed there, for example, Hospitality House at 290 Turk.

We knew something smelled funny in the explosion of that story in the media, but we simply complained about it. Instead, Jeff then went back through the police crime archive (the same one Randy & co used to write their report) to actually look at all of 2010 and not cherry pick data to support a ridiculous claim.

It turns out that while that block on Turk has it’s (large) share of problem, it isn’t the most violent. That dubious honor goes to, *drumroll*, the first block of 6th Street (that one’s not so surprising), followed by the 1000 block of Potrero Avenue (this one is actually more surprising, as that’s where SF General Hospital is), and then the 800 block of Market Street (where Nordstrom and the Cable Car turnaround are). There you have it.

We’re all quite pissed about this as it just shows that when the media see “Tenderloin” and “crime” they run with it, fact checking nothing. You should have a look and see that the only people to try and attack what Jeff has put up are directly involved with the THC/CCSROC groups and/or are suited up campaign photographers.

Nice work, Jeff. As always, a tip of the hat to you.

Tenderloin apparently not best of much

Listicle of listicles, the SF Weekly Best of San Francisco came out today and there wasn’t a lot of love for the Tenderloin. Naturally, we didn’t get best blog, which we kinda figured would happen given the reach that SFist has and the number of people who love us vs. the number of people who hate us. But we’re sure if there was an honorable mention category in there, we’d totally be all over it.

Otherwise, some things that should have been a shoo in, such as “Best Banh Mi” went to a joint in the Inner Richmond, which I declare a disgrace until I get out there some day to actually try it. Of course, “Best Under $5 Meal” went to Saigon Sandwiches, so I guess there’s some condolence to be had there.

“Best Pickup Bar” was gifted to Hemlock Tavern, so that was cool if you like picking people up and the drinking, which people in SF seem to do more of than watching Giants games. “Best New Tenderloin Bar” went to Mister Lew’s which is solid, although it’s bizarre that they actually have a bar category for just for the Tenderloin.

Of the whole list (and admittedly, I might have missed something since I got bored and started scanning at some point) the best Tenderbit was 941 Geary getting “Best New Art Gallery“. Justin has been pumping out some great galleries and even greater exhibits for some time, so it was badass to see some recognition for the work.

Otherwise, better luck next year Loin…

Loving the public library, loving living in SF

During the last week we have greatly enjoyed two cartoons by local illustrator Wendy MacNaughton and, while we haven’t exactly been fans of some of her work in the past, we have to share them here.

The first one, which is part of her Meanwhile series over at The Rumpus, is a heartfelt tribute to the main branch of the San Francisco public library that we absolutely adore and make good use of as much as we can. If you love it as much as we do, it will make you all soft inside and hopefully you’ll run to return those long-overdue books you’ve been forgetting to return for a while now.

The second one, on today’s The Bold Italic, is a companion to a piece by Broke-Ass Stuart titled “Living in SF means…”. Although there’s no specific mention of the Tenderloin, I’m sure you’ll see yourselves in many of the descriptions, maybe substituting one word here or there. We particularly enjoyed this part:

It means having places you love close up forever. It means having friends get married and move to Oakland. Friends who leave to join the Peace Corps. Friends who go to rehab. Friends who lose their minds. Friends who move back to wherever the fuck they’re from. Friends who OD and never move again. It means dreading the inevitable earthquake that will ultimately wash this city into the sea.

Living in San Francisco means never leaving the house without wearing layers. Having just one wardrobe. Owning lots of hoodies. Owning lots of scarves. Owning lots of hoodies and scarves for your dog. It means having pale legs that get sunburned every time it’s warm out. Calling in sick to work because, for once, it’s 80 degrees and you want to drink a 40 in the park. Enduring the cold summer months and savoring the warmth and festivities of Indian Summer. It means being worried that the term “Indian Summer” may not be politically correct.

No Tenderloin in a meaty San Francisco?

That lovely slice of meat above that resembles a marbled slab of San Francisco is from Asterisk Magazine’s just released food issue. While it’s kinda weird that SOMA and Mission are connected together but South Beach is shown as being separate from SOMA, the bigger question is, where in the bejesus is the Tenderloin? I guess they though it’d be too “meat-forward” to have included it.

To console myself over this travesty, I need a burrito from the ever-declining health ratings hot spot, Tesoro which I like to think of as a game of “guacamole roulette”.


We forgot to mention that the Asterisk Magazine folks also made an alternate vegetarian cover for their food issue, that you can view here. No Tenderloin neighborhood in that one either, though.

The trend is Tenderloin

For those who are fine-tuned in to Twitter (give a follow, yo) and are ever finer-tuned in to their location setting being San Francisco, you might have noticed that “Tenderloin” is actually a trending topic this morning — alongside other equally very important discussion topics. This might be a first!

We’re assuming all that Twitter chatter about the TL is because of all the PETA insanity, although naturally we’d love to think it’s due to all our Tenderloin poll insanity. Well Tenderloin, it’s your time to shine, so don’t blow… ah man, what’s that dude doing between those two cars…

Is there snow yet? How ’bout now?

We had a tip sent in to point to a website created by a certain Sean Campbell that quite simply asks: Is it snowing in SF yet? A simple question that it seems the news wants to continually cram down our throat until it finally doesn’t snow and they forget that they ever mentioned it. So, in the chance you don’t have any windows or live in an underground cave, consult this site.

> Update 2/25

As pointed out in this tweet by mat honan who created www.isitsnowinginsanfrancisco.com, the NY Times covers this silly SF snow site phenomena better than the SF Chronicle (shocker, I know). There’s also a dedicated Twitter for it, of course. Expect Chronicle coverage maybe Wednesday the week after next or hell, maybe not at all. I mean shit, why even try to cover the city anymore? Thanks for the update tip in the comments as well, scurvy.

I live here SF: Leanne

You already know we’re big fans of Julie Michelle’s storytelling & photography project I live here SF, but even more so when she features Tenderloiners or Tender friends. Today’s featured person, Leanne, is both. So, of course, we’d love for you to go read her story right now.

And if that wasn’t enough to convince, although she’s lived all over the city, she has now settled in in what’s probably our most favorite building in the Tenderloin, the Alhambra. As you can see in this picture of Leanne and her daughter, it has one of the most amazing hallways.

Our building, which boasts one-of-a-kind architecture from the ’20s, is rich with history (like so many in San Francisco) and inhabited by a cast of quirky characters (also like so many in San Francisco).

The neighborhood is wonderfully vibrant and rough around the edges, inhabited by people and families from all walks of life. I’ve also happily discovered that the street people love babies. I feel a stronger sense of community in the thick of the Tenderloin than I have anywhere else I’ve lived. I truly feel at home here.

Go read the rest of Leanne’s story and check out the rest of her photos over at I live here SF.

Happy New Year of the Kitteh

As many of you in the neighborhood probably noticed, today Little Saigon was transformed for the Tet festivities of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year (“Hoi Cho Tet Tan Mao” in Vietnamese), organized by the Vietnamese Community Center of San Francisco. Tet (the Lunar New Year) is the most important holiday in Vietnam, traditionally a time of rest for both laborers and the land they cultivate, after months of hard work. Tet is about renewal, a time to get together with family and pay respects to ancestors. Many bought banh chung, a square cake made of sticky rice, pork and mung beans, to eat in honor of ancestors, said Hung Tran, 53, a founder of the Au Co Vietnamese Cultural Center.

In spite of the rain, yesterday’s festivities were well-attended, as colorful and cheerful as every year. Here’s how the recently launched Creosote Journal describes it:

According to the Vietnamese zodiac, 2011 is the Year of the Metal Cat. A prowler by nature, the cat represents sensitivity, gentleness and kindness. The metal cat—as opposed to the wood and water cats of other years—sets itself apart through the virtues of resiliency, determination and strength. Children that are born this year are said to have these qualities, and one would be hard pressed to find a better combination of them for this moment in history. Today, the four square blocks of San Francisco’s Tenderloin recently named Little Saigon transformed into a ribbon of food stalls, flower vendors, a smattering of American and South Vietnamese flags, bubble makers, balloons, entertainment; and possibly most amazing given the density of this neighborhood, a ferris wheel overlooking the whole scene. One more reason to love San Francisco’s Tenderloin District.

So Happy New Kitteh Year, y’all! In Vietnamese, that’s “chuc mung nam moi”.

Tet Festival by Aurora King/Creosote Magazine

Creosote has a few other photos of the festival, and below you have a little selection from the Tender’s Flickr pool. Enjoy!

Tet Festival by Troy Tran

Ed Lee at Tet Festival by Megan Wolfe

Tet Festival by David Yu

Tet Festival Wheel by DancesWithPixels

Concert on Larkin by Sirgious

Lion Dancer by Erik Wilson

The Tender Tonight: I live here SF at Somarts!

All of San Francisco is abuzz with Julie Michelle’s “I live here: SF” show that opens tonight at SOMArts. You can most certainly count us as part of the excited hordes! And not just because humin and I both participated in the project, but also because Julie is one of our favorite people. She’s a really talented photographer who really knows how to make people feel comfortable and show her their best side (and believe me, portrait photography is not easy). She’s also a truly curious person who loves meeting and connecting people. I can safely say that we’ve been enjoying San Francisco a lot more since we met her! Oh, and last but not least, she was the very first commenter here on Tenderblog! (That must count for something.)

The details:

I live here: SF Retrospective & Opening Night Reception
Where: SOMArts, 934 Brannan Street
When: 6pm-9pm with an artist’s talk at 6:15
Lots of the participants in this project will be in attendance, as well as a few other suprises.

In case you’ve been living under a rock (or don’t read this blog very much, because we’ve mentioned it many, many times), “I live here: SF” is a photography/portraiture project in which anyone who lives in San Francisco can participate by submitting their story of how they came to live in this city or their relationship with it. Then Julie does a portrait shoot with the person, usually in that person’s neighborhood or favorite spot. If you click on the photo below you can see the album of my photo shoot (and I hate having my picture taken). Humin’s is forthcoming.

You should browse through all of “I live here: SF”‘s stories and photos (you can waste a whole weekend doing that), but of course we would particularly recommend the ones focused on the Tenderloin as being most immediately appealing to you, dear Tender readers. Beyond just observing though, volunteer to participate in her project as a proud Tenderloiner and come out tonight to the show!