Speak your mind on public Loin toilets

With such a large population of homeless people dwelling, or others from around Bay Area hanging out in the streets of the Tenderloin, it’s not a surprise that the neighborhood has a public defecation problem. (Although, to be fair, this is a problem in other parts of the city as well.) Basically, there aren’t enough public toilets to supply the demand, since what goes in must come out. Unfortunately public toilets are not only really expensive to build and maintain but also really hard to plan and design to make them efficient and appropriate to the needs, ie you can’t just cut a hole in the sidewalk and call the job done.

Back in September it was announced that the city, inspired by the success of parklets, was studying a plan that would put eco-friendly, translucent public toilets in parking spaces that were being dubbed: pooplets. These pooplets are being designed by Oakland-based Hyphae Design Lab, in partnership with the North of Market/Tenderloin Community Benefit District and SF Clean City. They’re still in the design phase but are starting to do some neighborhood outreach to keep the public informed of their design process, schedule, and what the possibilities are.

So today at 2 and 5:30pm they’ll be hosting two town hall meetings to hear feedback from the local residents, to answer questions and hear suggestions. Now it’s your turn to give your two cents on this issue that, if you live in the neighborhood, has showed up on your front door or under your shoes more than once. They’d like to get input especially on

-Where the toilets should be located
-What they should look like
-How to encourage proper usage

And if you can’t attend, send your suggestions to Hyphae Design or the NoM-TL Community Benefit District.

The Tender Tonight: Please Touch Garden Launch Party

Remember that a few weeks ago we featured the “Please Touch Garden” and we mentioned that it was about to be open to the public? Well, the time has finally come and tonight they’re having a launch party at Swig (561 Geary) from 5:30 to 9PM.

So please come out and show your support for this awesome community project by grabbing a drink and having a great time.

All the proceeds from the party will go to the garden. But this won’t be just a fundraising event, but also a fun party with live music, DJ’s, drink specials, cool raffle prizes, and an auction for a date with some of the hottest bartenders in SF (wait, what?!).

If you’d like to RSVP, you can do it here.

And if you can’t make it out for the fun, you can still be there in spirit and show your support by making a donation.

Hope to see y’all at Swig tonight!

A box of chalk goes a long way

After our little Sunday Streets photo recap yesterday, a tipster sent us a link to this post from new blog 415hills (self-described as an “Afrod mixed chick philosophizing in TL, SF, CA with a piglet and orchids”).

Sunday Streets was in my neighborhood this past Sunday, which created the perfect opportunity to draw chalk art in the middle of the street. Jonathan and I chose the intersection of Larkin and Ellis for it’s smooth black pavement. We both began drawing our own designs and after a few minutes, I had strangers approach me and ask if they could use the chalk. Before I knew it, there was a whole mural of chalk in the intersection and an impromptu game of kickball. Many people asked me if I was an organizer, I replied “I just brought the chalk”. I had no idea a box of chalk would lead to such fun.

Go check out more photos of Sunday’s improvised chalk drawing session, over at 415hills.

Sunday Streets Photo Recap

As those of you who left the house before 4pm noticed, yesterday Sunday Streets took over the Civic Center/Tenderloin area. And unlike last year’s rainy disaster, this time it was quite pleasant and well-attended. There were lots of activities throughout the day, such as live music, chalk drawing on the pavement, mural spray-painting, hip-hop dancing, tai-chi classes, games for children, the obligatory political campaigners and, of course, bikes, bikes, bikes.

Naturally, this was all greatly to the annoyance of this car-sexual who was very, very pouty and stomping his little feet about the fact that he couldn’t park for five hours, in the one neighborhood in all of San Francisco where you truly can live without a car (humin has been doing it for a decade and without working in SF).

Since we were too lazy to take our cameras with us when we toured the car-free streets of Tenderloin on our recently-acquired bikes, we selected a few from our Tender Flickr pool, for those of you who missed this glorious day. Actually, it’s more of a recap by neighborhood photographer and Tender friend Erik Wilson, aka Generik11.


Streetsblog has a nice writeup about Sunday Streets including several other great photos of the unusual sight of a car-free Tenderloin. Check it out.

Please Touch Garden to open soon for touching

Several months ago, when walking from the Civic Center Plaza to Van Ness we noticed this mysterious sign on an empty plot of land on Grove Street.

Several photographers also noticed the art installation behind the fence, “To see the world you could otherwise not see” which we featured in a photo roundup back in January.

Time passed and we forgot about it. But then, going through our photo archives a few weeks ago, we came across it again and decided it was time to investigate the matter further. Which basically meant finally checking the tumblr website referenced in the sign. A few days later, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I finally had the chance to get a proper tour of the Please Touch Community Garden and to hang out with its project director — GK Callahan. Callahan is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute graduate, a Bourbon & Branch bartender and a teacher at the Lighthouse, a non-profit that offers rehabilitation, education, recreation and employment services for the blind and visually impaired.

The Please Touch Garden has been a long time in the making. A couple of years ago Callahan started volunteering at the Lighthouse, located at the corner of Van Ness and Lech Walesa Alley. Just a few steps away lied this dirty vacant plot in between the former SF Arts Commission Gallery and an empty city government building. The fence in front of the plot had a hole in it which allowed Lech Walesa dwellers the chance to fill the area with needles, all sorts of illegal activities and bodily fluids. Callahan looked at the vacant plot every day from the windows of the Lighthouse and decided to do something with it.

After a year of negotiations with the city, in January he finally received permission to use the space followed by a grant from the SF Arts Commission to turn it into a community garden. His goal, Callahan says, was to strengthen the role of art and nature in the lives of the neighborhood residents. He wanted the garden to be fully accessible and inclusive to all. What makes it so special is that Blind Leaders Program (in collaboration with various public, governmental and community groups as well as neighborhood Volunteers) are designing, building and maintaining it — hence the name Please Touch.

Right now the 4,000 square foot garden has no access to water, so the plants need to be either watered by hand by carrying multiple five-gallon buckets from the Lighthouse offices, or a long hose has to be rolled out from there across the Lech Walesa Alley and to the lot. That’s why Callahan wants to incorporate a rainwater harvesting system to capture the rainfall water from the rooftop of adjacent buildings to be used for irrigation.

In recent months the Blind Leaders and volunteers have decorated pots for plants, germinated seeds and planted a variety of fruits and vegetables. Bigger physical tasks have included painting over graffiti-covered walls, and the process of sheet-mulching which involves moving large truckloads of cardboard, then shoveling mulch into wheelbarrows and spreading them both across the garden in order to choke out the weeds.

One of the things that caught my eye when visiting the garden was the extremely light “living wall“, built by Aurora Mahassine. She makes these by grinding materials that would normally go to the landfill and calls it Habitile walls. Landscape architect Alicia Yballa also volunteered her skills to the design of the space. A lot more still needs to be done, so they’re always looking for more volunteers (if you’re interested in volunteering, write to pleasetouchgarden@gmail.com).

Since this is a community effort and they are committed to full ADA accessibility and sustainable materials and methods, they are always in need of donations as they are facing all sorts of unexpected expenses (if you have some bucks to spare, you can make a check to the Lighthouse for the Blind, earmarked for the Please Touch Community Garden (it’s tax-deductible). Or you can also make donations in kind, of things such as old furniture, paint, wood, etc. If you are as broke as we are, you can always pass along the word or become a Facebook fan.

If all goes well, the Please Touch Garden should be fully open to the public in a few weeks and there should be an opening party some time soon. We can’t wait!

The Nile Cafe to serve breakfast, get a parklet

A couple of days ago we wrote about the city’s Public Health Department shutting down hookah lounges due to the state ban on indoor smoking. And while most neighbors don’t seem extremely sad about the loss of Cairo Nights (I know my tear ducts are dry), some of us have been wondering about the fate of other, more responsible hookah lounges.

It turns out that Nile Cafe on Jones & Geary (whose owner is the same as Jebena coffeeshop on Polk & Geary) is making a go of trying to transition themselves in to being a proper day-time cafe serving breakfast and lunch. Currently they are just an evening cafe, opening from 4 or 5 to 4am on weekends and 12:30 during the week. They’re planning to start opening in the morning, serving breakfast and lunch. They also applied for a parklet a few days ago, which would be a great addition on that block. With Dottie’s closing this area will be ripe for new cafe and eatery business as, despite the current thug bleed over from O’Farrell, tourists wander these parts in desperate search of sustenance.

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]

Parklets starting to sprout

As we reported here, back in November farm:table applied through the Pavement to Parks program to bring a “parklet” to the front of their establishment after the huge success of the one they had installed for Park(ing) Day. Shortly after that, we learned that Bamboo Bike Studio (also on Post) and Quetzal Coffee on Polk had applied for parklets as well. Now, several months later and after a lot of paperwork, all of them have been granted permits but only one of them has finally seen the light of day.

The parklet in front of Quetzal has now been open to the public for a bit less than a week, after building it over a weekend with prefab sections. It’s nothing amazing, but it still looks pretty cool. And in spite of the ever-changing weather, we’ve seen people enjoying it every time we passed by Polk and Fern.

It may not look like it, but apparently a parklet isn’t exactly cheap. With a price tag of $5,000 minimum, plus maintenance costs, it’s quite an expense. And while the folks over at the Bamboo Bike Studio are planning to do all construction in their workshop, farm:table is in need of doing a little fundraising before getting it out there.

That’s why they’re organizing an Art Auction at Silverman Gallery on Sunday, from 7 to 10pm, hosted by La Monistat. You can score some cool artwork from Tender friends such as Jason Permenter (designer of the Tenderloin Coffee Crawl poster), Rocky Villanueva, Jeremy Novy and many more. Don’t miss out if you’d like to see more parklets in the TenderNob! And hey, no parklet-napping, okay?

And for those wanting to see even more parklets pop up, you can apply for a parklet permit until June 16th via the Pavement to Parks program.

Free tai chi at Boeddeker Park on Thursdays!

In an attempt to make the Tender Wasteland more of a park again, starting today and running through the rest of summer, apparently there will be free tai chi (no, not chai tea) from 11 to noon on Thursdays. That would be right now, so hurry up and head over there!

While I’m still of the opinion that the park should be razed and turn in to a soccer field so that I can dazzle you with my insane footwork, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I’m sure the spicy sounds of Ellis and Eddy will be soothing in their own urban way.

Jane Kim was Biked to Work

As you all know, it was Bike to Work Day today, which came nearly a month and a half after we all enjoyed a Walk to Work Day. Does this mean the other 363 days of the year are Drive to Work days or is there a Be Late to Work Day to promote usage of Muni and other such days that we don’t know about?

Anyways, we’re sure that like us, you saw the throngs of cyclists all over the city this morning, happily cycling to work like there was no tomorrow and enjoying all the “energizer stations” spread around town. And among them was, of course, our illustrious D6 supe Jane Kim. But not on her own like most everyone else, but in a tandem led by one lucky Bike Coalition staff member named Peter Masiak.

You see, Jane Kim told the crowds today that being a “city girl” she never learned how to ride a bike. We assume she did learn how to wear fashionable clothes and heels, which she sported on the tandem bike for the enjoyment of the Dressup Challenge judges and bloggers alike (such as Fog City Journal where we took these two photos from, or Mission Local who took the detail of her red shoes). Obviously, you can see how much everyone is in to her political work as an official which is uh… non-pledge centric I guess.

In case you wanted to see some more photos of the Bike to Work Day events at the Civic Center, Fog City Journal has quite the spread. Also, if you like biking around San Francisco consider doing it every day. Streetsblogs SF has a nice overview of the increased bike infrastructure you can now enjoy in this city.