World Homeless Day celebrated with random occupations

Today was World Homeless Day and, like last year, it was celebrated by local homeless advocates led by the squatters’ collective Homes Not Jails — with Frank Chu in an advisory role. Their main focus was occupying vacant buildings around the Tenderloin, as opposed to say, SOMA, North Beach, or everywhere else that’s vacant in SF these days.

According to their website, they gathered at Civic Center by Larkin & Fulton at 5pm and were joined by members of the hashtag-friendly OccupySF protestors. At this point, according to Chron intern Vivan Ho who was there, the group was about 20 people with nearly as many journalists covering it. Sounds like the SF I know and love…

The group then rallied towards the former Cathedral Hill Hotel at 1101 Van Ness Avenue, which was subsequently occupied. They reported that most if not all of the rooms remain furnished and in habitable condition. Apparently, the protesters were allowed to stay after security did a safety check through the building. Afterwards, at around 8pm, part of the group split and moved on to the former Charlie Hotel building at 1030 Geary, right above the shuttered Infusion Lounge. For a little bit, they partially blocked traffic on Polk Street but the police merely yawned as if saying it would be illegal were traffic not to be blocked on Polk.

I then stopped petting my neighbor’s cat and left the comfort of The Tender HQ to go check out the “action”. I saw about 50-70 people gathered in front of the building, which contains 17 apartment units that they said should be opened to homeless individuals immediately. They were all eating dinner (spaghetti, I think) served by what appeared to be the guys from Food Not Bombs. I overheard the leaders discussing where to go next, but there didn’t seem to be a clear plan. There were also a few people inside of the building, eating their dinner quietly as well. Across the street four media vans and a couple of police cars were watching the action. On my way back home I saw one of the cops buying some food at Jebena, presumably donuts.

I have no idea if more buildings were occupied as was their initial plan, but I wish they hadn’t focused exclusively on the buildings that are vacant because of the planned CPMC Hospital. For example, how about raising some attention towards 655 Geary? I mean, shouldn’t the main target for such actions be buildings that owners are deliberately keeping vacant for speculation (Hibernia Bank, anyone?) instead of the ones that have an actual development plan?

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.

Is your Loin rent “affordable”?

According to this article quoting a real news agency, rents are looking to head up nationwide, making “average monthly rent over $800”. Naturally, the author goes on to say something tinged with a hint of ass:

Of course, when we see that number, we San Franciscans raise a skeptical brow. $800? Maybe for a kitchen-less studio in the ‘Loin.

Um… anyone able to find an $800 studio in the Tenderloin these days? Beyond the whole Twitter-move-in-and-hood-go-boom news, rents in the Tenderloin have been steadily going up and will continue to do so. This $800 figure is a load of crap, even a search on Craigslist will only turn up a couple of SRO’s at anywhere near that price.

My building rents one bedrooms for a bit over $1800 now. I know a friend paying $2200 for a two bedroom at Post & Leavenworth that he moved in to two years ago. Another friend pays the same for a place on Geary & Larkin. So seriously, “affordable Loin”? What say you?

(Yes, that shot above is an open house for a one bedroom renting for $2,950. It’s up on Jackson in Nob Hill, but seriously, WTF?)

Taking a bite out of Randy Shaw

If one is to ascribe to the Tenderloin being San Francisco’s “colorful” neighborhood, then H. Brown would be the most vibrant crayon in the box. And although we might not always agree with him, we surely enjoy seeing his comments spice up any article and blog post on local politics.

As thoroughly covered by Mike over at the Civic Center blog, we get a telling glimpse inside the public comments portion of the Twitter-Gate tax break hearings last Wednesday. Basically, Randy Shaw got up gave his two minute spiel (described by Mike as “a testimonial to his own fabulousness”), which consisted of such gems as “Gentrification. We’ve stopped gentrification. Our problem is we can’t get any investment. We are a neighborhood starved for investment.” and “…we also passed the rezoning of the Tenderloin to stop commercial development, to stop all tourist development…” (See the full transcript here.)

Which all comes from the mouth of someone wanting to establish a Tenderloin Museum (excuse me, an Uptown Tenderloin Museum) as well as lead poverty safaris through the area.

H. Brown was not to hear of this bullshit and ran down to City Hall to give his impassioned and quite awesome two minutes response to Randy Shaw, once again brilliantly described by Mike as “one of the most pointed and entertaining public eviscerations that’s ever been heard in that room”:

Apparently, after that Randy Shaw stormed out of the room. Truth hurts, I guess.

Many thanks to Bluoz for pointing us to the awesome videos.

A photographer’s apartment on Jones

Thanks to our Tender Flickr pool, we came across this cool Tenderloin apartment interior. When we contacted photographer Ben Soto (whose photography we’ve featured here a few times), we found out the picture is of his apartment on Jones between Ellis and O’Farrell. It seems that he just moved there recently. “I must say that it is nice to have your place come together exactly the way you always imagined it would”, reads the caption.

Ben is an artist, so obviously his apartment has a messy studio area which you can see pictured below. Lately, though, he’s been focusing on his photography (don’t forget to check out his Flickrstream). We’re of course fans of his Tenderloin photos, but he has gorgeous pictures from all over San Francisco.

Apparently, the city in general, and the Tenderloin in particular, have been quite an inspiration for him and we’re truly happy for that:

Before now I’d hit a rut in my photography, not finding much motivation to go out and make new photos and couldn’t seem to find a way to get out of it. When I came up to San Francisco in August on vacation with my girlfriend I’d instantly fell in love with the city. I’d come to the city by the bay before, but always with family and never really saw the city. I saw the things that everyone knows of the city. An island prison, cable cars from times passed, and the gateway to a better life, but I never really saw the real city.

I went home talking of moving out and going at this photography thing full force, and to live somewhere as a transgendered person, I’d feel more comfortable as I grew into the man I’ll become. So I packed my bags, boxed up my cameras, said good bye to my family and friends, grabbed my girl and hit the road.

We got a rockin little studio apartment in the colorful Tenderloin. It was certainly a culture shock moving here, cause where I lived before was Orange County… yep Orange County California. So you can imagine that seeing people smokin crack out front my apartment, yelling at 2am, and some of the scariest dreads you could ever imagine. My mind raced at the photographic possibilities that lay before me. I took more photographs consecutively that I had ever done back home.

Oh, it turns out the polka dot shower curtains in Ben’s apartments are the exact same ones we have here at The Tender HQ. Go Ikea.

Coworking comes to the hood

Photo by The Tender

It’s pretty much a fact that there is little in the way of office space in the Tenderloin area. Your typical search on Craigslist the Almighty (yes, you can bow) generally looks like this. For those of us who want to actually work here, this means you either work from home or work out of cafes with wifi. Obviously there was the third choice of going to a separate neighborhood, but that always seemed rather silly (not to mention expensive) given the amount of large, unused spaces we have in our hood.

Of course, when it came to that middle ground between home, office, and cafe called, coworking there was nothing. This all changed two months ago when Sandbox Suites opened up their Tenderloin East Union Square location.

Photo by The Tender

Located on Sutter between Mason & Powell, we realize that it’s not sitting at say, Ellis & Turk in the heart of the Loin, but when it comes to presenting a quality space that you can quickly walk to, they’ve done a nice job converting the old, Joie de Vivre offices in to something cool where you can work in a casual atmosphere. I’ve tried coworking before and on a part-time basis (as I am admittedly a badger who doesn’t like coming out of his burrow) it does work to be communal with those who are like-minded and all working on a project as opposed to just hanging out at a cafe.

Photo by The Tender

For those familiar with the three year-old Sandbox in their SOMA location, you know what they’re about. For those unfamiliar, they provide a communal, transient space as well as quasi communal, permanent desks, and also actual offices. The prices are obviously more than being a cheap-ass who buys one coffee to use wifi the whole day, but are a great deal cheaper than any actual office space out there and you can receive mail there as well.

Photo by The Tender

If you’re interested in checking them out, you should stop by or say hi at their Holiday Shindig tonight at 6PM which is of course listed on our massive Tender Calendar.

The selective service of SFPD

At the Indian Summer party, in true San Francisco fashion, the weather decided to wear its “fuck you” shirt that day. Also apparently frontin’ the “fuck you” style was the SFPD.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the police in SF have a pretty crappy job. No one likes them and no matter what they do, someone (especially in this town) is going to get pissed at them and ultimately probably sue them. That said, their approach to the music at the Indian Summer gig wasn’t the best and the brightest. Yes, the music was loud and yes, a citation was deserved to be given (the music could easily be heard beyond the property limits), but it all could have been done in a much more proactive manner to maintain a level of understanding with those who live in the neighborhood.

Apparently, the cops came by the party a total of three times. It was on the third visit that they finally decided to issue a “disturbing the peace” citation to the owners of the home (who have had the cops storm in on a separate occasion with guns drawn) in the amount of $2,000 who then announced to all those in attendance that things really needed to be shut down quickly. This, is bullshit, especially when you read how California Penal Code 415 (nice number) is enforced:

…shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than 90 days, a fine of not more than four hundred dollars ($400), or both such imprisonment and fine…

Now, it appears that the SF law soften the state laws, but what makes this painfully screwy is that it basically appears the cops decided to enforce the law this time as they could collect money on it. When it comes to a local coffee shop that we know and love, they decide that if a random nutjob in the neighborhood runs in and assaults one of the staff, this transgression not only requires two calls to get them to come from their station two blocks away, but also that charges don’t need to be pressed.

Then of course, there is the absolute, David Lynch surrealism in issuing such a ticket in such an amount in the Tenderloin!!! I mean, on my walk home from the party, I was offered both OC’s and a “good time” had I been “looking for it”. You want to think better of SFPD, but after this and numerous theft incidents that have happened to me this year where they wouldn’t even let me fill out a report, you wonder what our local blue bacon is really doing besides fattening up their pensions?

Firsthand account of the Leavenworth fire

Following is a firsthand account of Sunday’s fire at the Colonade Apts on 550 Leavenworth from building resident, Matt Fondacaro who resides in the unit next to the one where the fire started. It clears up a lot of rumors that have been circulation and sheds some light on how the Red Cross handled the situation. We thought that it was most definitely worth sharing as its own post:

Here’s my account of the fire (I lived in the apartment next to where the fire started):

I woke up after hearing the front gates of the building being rattled and hearing spanish. I thought is was someone trying to get in. I opened my window to see what was going on, and all I hear is fire. i look out of my window to the left and see white smoke coming out of the windows (which were closed).

I call 9-1-1 and tell them there is smoke coming out of the apartment next to mine. They tell me to describe it and i do, and they dispatch the fire dept.

Immediately following that, I hear the fire bell ring, and now i know it’s serious. I get my girlfriend out of bed and tell her there’s a fire. I grab my cat and put him in the carrier and I got the hell out of there. As I exited my room, I look over to the apartment that has smoke coming out from underneath the door. The door opens and there is a junkie meth head lookin’ guy on his knees, looking dazed or something. The entire room was filled with smoke and I couldn’t see anything. Smoke was filling into the hall and all the residents were scurrying out.

I run out of the apartment, cat and girlfriend in tow, and for the next hour just watched as the fire raged and incinerated the apartment. Several people, including the homeless and the crackheads, were trying to console and help out as much as they could.

After the fire was extinguished, they allowed us to go up one by one. I went up with my girlfriend into a powerless and dark building, seeing water drip down from above. I pass a few firefighters as I enter my building. It looked like a warzone.

Part of the wall was torn down, and I saw the empty black apartment that I shared a wall with. Things that were against that wall (my records, my futon, my bike, some film cans and a dresser) covered in debris and water. The next thing was to think (what can i grab to salvage?) I grabbed my laptop, assorted shirts, underwear and socks, and a jacket and a couple flannel shirts. My jeans were soaked and covered with debris, so I had to wear the shorts I threw on earlier all day (and yes, it started to rain).

As I grabbed my stuff and got out, I just had to take a moment to think (a good deal of my shit was ruined and there’s no way I’m gonna be living here anytime soon.)

Enter Red Cross. They say there’s a place around the corner we can go and wait as they estimate the damage and figure out what to do. naturally I go and guess who’s not there: No red Cross. To ease the pain, me and my other neighbors took some vodka shots and drank some beer, while watching Youtube videos.

Eventually the red cross showed up and we registered with them. Initially they were gonna put us up in hotels. that soon changed to shelter. No way am i gonna stay in a shelter. I opted to stay with my girlfriend in excelsior.

Now it’s the waiting game. Wait to get my relief money so i can buy clothes and food, and figure out where i’m gonna stay and get back my deposit and rent money.

as for the person who started the fire, well, I hope he’s getting sodomized in prison. After the fire, he walked out of the building and walked by. I asked him, “Dude, what the fuck happened up there?” He responded with, “Wow, it’s just like watching a movie.” Then he walked off. If he didn’t look so gross and dirty (obviously looked like a junkie recluse; very tall and skinny with a giant belly that looked absolutely disgusting), me and a few other tenants would have had no reservation beating the shit out of him for endangering so many people’s lives and displacing all of us. good thing they arrested that motherfucker.

The building is uninhabitable for at least 3 days. Apartments like mine, the person directly above the fire and several others are gonna have to wait until they remodel and rebuild it all.

as for the cause of fire, many rumours circulated around the block. Meth lab fire? (would be a bigger explosion) Trying to kill himself? (try hanging yourself, it’s safer for others that way) just an arson? (we should burn him alive as an ironic punishment) whatever the cause, just know this disaster has ruined a lot of people’s lives.

> Update

We learn via The Snitch that Paul Williams, a 64-year-old 46 year-old resident at 550 Leavenworth, has been arrested and charged with arson. Fire department spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge said two units on separate floors were damaged by flames. A total of nine units are uninhabitable due to fire, smoke or water damage. One firefighter suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze, Talmadge said. She said the fire caused an estimated $550,000 in damage to the building and $300,000 in damage to its contents.

> Update 1/17

Steve Williams, brother of the man arrested for starting the fire, left a comment below clarifying a few points about his brother:

-Paul Williams was not 64, like most media outlets reported, but 46 (way to spell, journalists!).
-Paul Williams was in the final stages of full blown AIDS and the day of the fire his organs were shutting down but “his mind unfortunately went first”.
-Paul died a few days later and his brother thinks he would have never have started the fire on purpose and attributes it to his illness. He also says he feels awful for the peoples homes and possessions he destroyed in the building. May he rest in peace.

Why the AoA will never be a real school

(note, these are not the steps to their illegally converted dorm)

These three sacks of d-bag were sitting across from my building tonight playing two ukuleles and some kind of crappy drum in the immediate vicinity of two dorms (and although it’s almost midnight, they don’t seem to have any intention to stop). Usually, when this kind of crap happened in the past, I could call that dorm and tell them to shut them up. But it appears that now the AoA had the number to the dorm changed, which figures as I’m sure too many people in the neighborhood called it to tell them the same thing and that was a total bummer, man.

Academy of Art “University”, you will never, ever be anything more than a very expensive to attend real estate sham.

Live Like Old San Francisco in the New Tenderloin

Just yesterday we were wondering why there aren’t many properties to look at in real estate sites or blogs. The awesome Curbed SF often writes about the Tenderloin, but has a hard time finding homes to buy to feature in this neighborhood… because there just aren’t many, with all the SROs, special low-income housing buildings, AoA dorms, tourist hotels and whatnot.

So when we saw a post today titled “Live like old San Francisco in the new Tenderloin” on Curbed SF, we got all excited thinking it was time to look at some cool real estate porn in our neighborhood. However, since we’ll never actually be able to afford to own anything in San Francisco (here or elsewhere) this is conveniently not about apartments for sale, but for rent. They call it vacation rentals, but at a 6-month minimum we have to wonder who has that kind of time (and money, at $2,000 a month) to spend in lounging around San Francisco.

But in case you’re in fact rich, unlike us, here‘s what SF Curbed has to say about this opportunity to live in the 1929 Hamilton Building (named after Alexander Hamilton, in case you didn’t know):

We’ll believe in the foretold Tenderloin Renaissance when we see it, but those of you entertaining thoughts of taking up residence in the city’s favorite punchline before it gets all gentrified and stuff might want to consider this sizeable 1-bedroom vacation rental in the (ahem) Theatre District’s historic Hamilton Building as a way to get to know the neighbors before getting caught up in HOA fees.

At an average of $66 a night, the unit is probably cheaper than any hotel in the neighborhood that doesn’t charge by the hour and has been “recently decorated by an interior designer” who was apparently going for an early-70’s naugahyde look. The quaintly restored grand lobby and fountain courtyard are nice artifacts of what was once the “Tallest Apartment Hotel in the West”, but the aforementioned decorator’s insistence on floor-to-ceiling mirrors everywhere might trigger your vertigo if the casino-style carpet in the lobby didn’t already make you dizzy. On the sunny side, the 16th floor roof deck would make a delightful backdrop to any pre-war themed cocktail party or movie shoot you’ve got planned. The catch (of course) is a minimum rental of 6 months, which works out to 2 grand a month.