Another Day in the Neighborhood 

Walking to work from MUNI in the Civic Center can be a fascinating experience as long as you remain alert. Mind you weaving through traffic and around waste – less said the better – hones one’s observation skills. 

But those skills create the false illusion you are seeing everything.

Case in point the Mid-Market (read Loin) attempted metamorphosis into a “middle class neighborhood”  – only in San Francisco – through high rise apartments averaging $3,000 plus a month. 

Will it succeed? Initially yes but long term remains questionable. Why? It’s unclear the newest neighbors understand San Francisco’s cyclical economy and population density require certain attitude adjustments. Conversely those most resentful of the financial upheaval must accept these folks are not going away.

As the weather people are fond of saying the earliest indicators are not good. A beautiful new supermarket opened next door to Twitter – replete with enticing pictures promising foods from all over- but it doesn’t list it’s hours and remains closed before 8:00 a.m. 

I guess if you have to ask the hours you don’t belong there. Surrounding this newest slice of retail heaven are emotionally disturbed street residents navigating a savaged mental health system. Contrary to developers’ dream designs these folks’ psychotic breaks will not take place off stage. See John King’s great article on Developers Narrow Vision

Okay how do we fix this problem? 

Developers and tenants must understand short of tanks rolling you will not move everyone to Oakland (Nice Try Libby but No Thanks). [Given each also lives paycheck to paycheck thanks to their high rents a certain humility would also be welcome.] This means directing additional money to mental health programs. 

Homeless Advocates and City Hall must set up shelters accepting pets, offering showers, and providing treatment while demanding accountability. [Forced treatment of mentally ill remains a seemingly intractable issue but if we don’t allow people to bleed to death on the street how can we ignore self-harm or assaults on others.] Those screaming about criminalizing the homeless must understand prisons don’t only exist behind bars.

 In the meantime the neighborhood continues strong. 

I toddled off to Walgreens which has been serving and welcoming all San Franciscans for decades. Retirees practiced their tai chi and lapped me as they circuited the Civic Center Plaza. Two homeless men eagerly played cards. 

Throughout Falung Gong members continued their vigil. 

 Yep it’s Another Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Fred Rogers the beloved conscience of the pre-Sesame Street generation.)

A Neighborhood That So Loves Its Children

Contrary to popular belief, San Franciscans like kids. We may not favor sharing SF MUNI space with strollers the size of mini-hummers. Nor do we possess wide swaths of land for expansive malls filled with mega theaters. However, just about every school based bond wins wide support. We book our recreation centers and public parks with back to back soccer and baseball games. Our cultural institutions open their doors for free on multiple days and sponsor youth oriented events.

This community concern and parental passion reaches it zenith, however, in the Tenderloin. There hard-working immigrant communities coexist with the hardcore homeless grappling with mental illness and/or substance abuse. In the Loin too often syringes litter the streets, urine permeates the air, and feces (from assorted mammals) turn sidewalks into hopscotch games. Much of this gets hidden from non-walkers by towering edifices paying homage to monumental egos. 

Despite these obstacles, a quick look will turn up the some of the most vibrant and involved educational programs in the City both during and after school hours.

Volunteer organizations run day recreational programs, tutor students who often arrive not speaking  English, and provide safe after school programs. Other groups provide financial support to these and other programs.

 

 

 

 

A clear example occurred last Thursday when a daytime showing of the Olympics headlined a community fair set up with free kid sized entertainment. Happiness both on the kids and the parents faces shone through the pictures (probably same expression appeared on faces hundreds of years ago in medieval times during Maypole Celebrations). ‘

All the pictures  speak for themselves.

However, pay attention to a few things. One, its unclear if the pirate flag or the kids frightened the dragons more (regardless expressions on this arcade ride are priceless).

Two, the giant slide attracted the most users, but note the differing responses on the three children’s faces (joy, surprise, and fear).

Art on the Walls, Peace in the Heart

Below is a very small sample of muralsgraffiti, and graphics I found on a lunch break near work. Mind you I don’t claim this as an exhaustive catalog of the Tenderloin’s vibrancy. In time, I will seek out more and better examples (please feel free to send me suggestions).

Sometimes the building’s graphic designs or additions brought their own punch to the picture. I loved these few examples, which relied both on paint and design. Kudos to the Hostel for using the SF Giants colors. We will just admire the arrow shapes and ignore the blue in the white building. 😉

Mind the last one with the wavy special effects is a killer if you have vertigo. Best enjoyed in quick glances.

Perhaps my favorites are building additions where it’s hard to tell if a freelance tagger or professional muralist designed them. I suspect in these next pair of shots it’s professionals. The one with the young boys is the entrance to the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (great community resource).  The Keith Haring influenced one lies in an alley way (total shame since its gorgeous). By the way, I’ve included random people in some shots because it makes it look more alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I found certain scenes just reminded me of San Francisco with the different signs and the bus. After all what is the City without SF MUNI? Now calm people, calm; it works a lot of the time.

Or I found the contrast interesting (both in a good and bad way) such as how  advertising signs contrasted with items on the street. 

Plus I liked the way the store owner made tagging easy. Better to join them than try and beat them.

The most professional, and seemingly newest, appeared on US Post Office. These are beautiful images of music and birds, which also tie in with modern tile facade. They could be their own postcards but again it’s interesting to juxtapose them against the street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nifty Nearby Nuggets

I work within shouting distance of San Francisco City Hall, which exists in a neighborhood most of us know as the ‘Loin (Tenderloin). The Tenderloin boasts both some of the oldest and newest building buildings in the City, a diverse and densely packed populace, and the real and imagined seats of federal, state, and local power.   Having attended Hastings and worked down there for years,

I have seen it swing from the most vibrant to the most desolate of places (sometimes in a single day as folks scurry home).

Tonight I can’t possibly do it justice so I will let some random photos speak to it. Know however you should come on down. You will find the best food (at the best prices), a dizzying amount of art (in museums and fairs), and street theater (both in and outside of City Hall).

Enjoy but remember I’m still learning both the software and photography.