Since I’d started researching the revival of efforts to “revitalize” the TL for my own reporting over the last year, I noticed the new dress code adopted in the TL last month. In addition to a large sign at the Cadillac Hotel christening it, “The Uptown Tenderloin Museum” green flags are now prominently displayed on streetlights that read, “409 buildings in 33 blocks. Yeah. We’re proud.”
As most in the loin know, after years of battling it out, the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, run by Randy Shaw has won its efforts to designate the TL a historic district in 2009. Its most popular aspect, the museum and designating it with the pre-nom “The Uptown” has been reported on here by SFGate, and the Tenderblog. Since, I wanted to share some of the information that has been given to me by housing program directors and finally the residents themselves. Since after-all, the largest stakeholders are often given the smallest voice, and I found that residents have some varied opinions about the outcome, but some similar concerns.
According to planners, they’ll be working to keep the residents in place, while increasing tourism traffic via a museum, bus tour, and walk through a real SRO… hmm, doesnt sound like your typical ride on a cable car. Yet, despite honest plans to introduce mixed income populations and increase the diversity of neighborhood businesses, the tenants of the proposal might not be concrete enough to prevent lower income communities from being pushed out.
Specifically, the plan to “diversify and assess the under-performing businesses” might play out unfavorably with unclear guidelines and a neighborhood full of Mom and Pop’s that may struggle to keep their doors open but remain staples among a community that relies on access to cheap, affordable goods and services.
Groups like the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Community reiterate the need for attention to be focused on ensuring a beneficial future for those residents and businesses that are bound to be displaced by revitalization efforts. Yet they do not deny that increasing tourism in any area will impact the community that already lives there.
TNDC’s Falk said in an interview, “This is not to say that we can always be effective against displacement. I think that when improvements come there is inevitable displacement of the population. For us, it’s being sure that the residents get the good things and are beneficiaries of the improvements that are made in the Tenderloin.”
But everyone is not on the same page. Assistant Manager of the North of Market/Tenderloin Community Benefit District Dina Hillard said, “A lot of the media is interested in how this will revitalize the neighborhood but for us that’s not really the point.”
For Hillard the focus is on highlighting the prospects that already exist, hoping that people will take advantage of the government money that becomes available with the designation. “We’re not looking for it to improve although we want it to be more clean and have less crime.” she said.
Yet some (myself included) may wonder if this new plan, being dubbed “equitable development” is just a euphemism for gentrification. I talked with Tenderloin resident Malik Ali Muhammad who was standing in the doorway of the Cadillac Hotel, the proposed destination of the new Tenderloin Museum.
He told me, “Everything has to come to change. Maybe it might bring up job values. But at least it’ll make people go- yeah this is my neighborhood. It ain’t so bad.”
At 43, and a resident of the loin for more than 20 years, he says these streets have seen both his highs and his lows. His dreams of becoming a major league baseball player were cut short with an injury while playing for the Seattle Mariners in the minors. When he returned to San Francisco, he immediately began using crack-cocaine heavily. Muhammad has lived through the deterioration of his neighborhood yet he is encouraged by plans to build a museum honoring its history and residents. But he continues to remain critical of the outcome of already existing tactics.
“They put this art stuff here on 6th and Market, and now we’re not allowed over there, telling us we can’t be over there during the day. It’s like an addict selling fake drugs,” he said, “Why don’t they put it in Presidio Heights? This is where we eat. Everyone’s allowed to come here for our drugs, our food, our nightclubs, but we’re not allowed in their neighborhoods.”
I’ve heard many of these similar stories over the last few months and though the Museum doesn’t have plans to open until 2011, for residents like Muhammad it’s obvious that “rebranding” may be having an effect its been touted not to.
“In the Tenderloin you’ve got 120,000 people that know each other. We’ve all got each other’s back. If you fight one of us you fight us all.”
**I am open to finding out more and covering the TL as proposed changes begin to take shape. If you or anyone you know are being affected by the increase of tourism on 6th and Market streets, are working with the city, THC, TNDC, any other group, or just care to comment, please do so or contact me directly to let me know your thoughts on this important issue. **