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).

Survivors Take the Other Path

Doorways, especially the more ornate, have always fascinated me. Opening them hopefully  leads to  answers, adventure, or escape.

 

Doubtless my taste in childhood literature – A Wrinkle in Time, Chronicles of Narnia, or From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – shaped this interest. In each the child characters found a hidden path,  most magical but some mundane, to  adult adventure without submitting to adult control.

Like every good piece of fiction, each character suffered disappointment, overcame obstacles,  and returned chastened. Regardless neither they nor the reader regretted the journey. Most, especially this reader, sought a pathway to return.Japanese Tea Garden Path

 

 

 

A life spent breathing San Francisco’s intoxicating smells – salty fog, innumerable spices, and perfumed humanity –  doubtless contributed to this zest for adventure. Childhood’s culinary map included  Chinese  Dishes, Russian Piroshki’s, and (homemade) Greek Food; generally sold in nearby but still different neighborhoods. (Now it would be ThaiEthiopian, and Indian, likely without as much travel but lessons still learned.)  Prior to Proposition 13 – yes, I’m that old – museum, aquariums, and parks holding the world’s knowledge opened their doors for free. (Even now you can find a way to free days if you can fight the crowds.) Frankly today the babble of different languages, clashing customs, and  the kaleidoscope of cultures make even SF MUNI an adventure. (Unlike some of my peers from the Outer Sunset, I — thanks to my mom’s early lessons — embrace San Francisco’s diversity.)

 

It’s why San Francisco continues to succeed through earthquakes, AIDS, and recessions.

 

 

 

 

Most of us came from somewhere else – or were raised by those folks from somewhere else – or wrongly get treated as being from somewhere else despite having families here going back generations. As such we know nothing forces us to remain stifled by custom or status quo. For those willing to remain so ignorant their stay is no longer pleasant. Or, on a happier note, food and/or persons from somewhere else often seduce them into knowing better. An honest look at San Francisco’s (California) history will reveal this has happened for centuries (when we used to pit ethnicities against each other, like we currently do with racial groups.)

 

 

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.

                    

Who Do You Plan Your City’s Future Around?

Found a provocative article today on an attempt in San Francisco to introduce  new smaller housing limits. Essentially it will allow developers to build living spaces no bigger than 150 feet. SF Public Press printed it at http://sfpublicpress.org/news/2012-07/developers-seek-to-legalize-tiny-apartments-in-san-francisco-citing-soaring-rents  Fortunately, unlike the Comicle, SF Public Press presented an in-depth article on the pro’s and con’s.

Graduate School Blues
Graduate School Blues (Photo credit: ChiILLeica)

Essentially the ideal candidate is twenty-something techie who works all the time and merely needs a place to sleep until the IPO hits. Why most of us know the IPO fantasy is simply a fantasy, it’s not the only industry catering to disposable employees. In the legal industry, I knew any number of young college graduates in the 1990s who slaved for two to three years to earn overtime money for graduate school. Sadly when they graduated law school they found the money was much better but the hours were worse sans the overtime. The same went for future MBAs. Then with the tech boom they migrated to Silicon Valley.

These small spaces with their cute IKEA furniture would stack on top of each of other in high rises. In theory the increased housing stock would drive down rents because of course these highly educated and well paid employees would flock to live near each other. It would be a step up from the tech hostels profiled last week in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/06/technology/at-hacker-hostels-living-on-the-cheap-and-dreaming-of-digital-glory.html?pagewanted=all) This is of course assumes these middle and upper class youth would surrender shared space allowing for all their tech toys, parties every twenty-something enjoys, and the amenities associated with living in San Francisco.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum on the Lower E...
Lower East Side Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Opponents fear overcrowding as people flock (read share) the smaller housing to save on rent. In other words the more likely tenant candidates would be low income workers and their families. I recall visiting the exhibits associated with the New York Tenement Museum (http://www.tenement.org/) These large buildings stacked tenants like cordwood, had shared sewage (big ditch), and housed any number of work sites (piece labor). Obviously it’s a leap to say these would automatically turn into these types of establishments. On the other hand, look at the McMansions in the burbs now overrun with tweaking squatters after the foreclosure crisis forced out the original owners (http://realestate.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=21179977)

Mcmansion north
Mcmansion north (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clearly this small (should be bigger than 150 feet) house would benefit many in the community. We need alternatives to homelessness. Similarly we don’t need to litter our suburbs with opulent, albeit shoddily constructed, monuments to consumer excess. Many of us headed toward retirement might choose a smaller living space, if only for the opportunity to stay in San Francisco. As the opponents astutely pointed not enough time was given the underlying decisions associated with this change.

However, the real problem is marketing fantasies keeps driving our  housing policies. During the boom period many bought the hype they needed and deserved an overly large home in the burbs. With many others the gentrification costs drove them to the outlying areas. Now it seems San Francisco wants to market its future around tech companies who (like many other start-ups) specialize in burning through employees for short periods of time. We need to ensure everyone has a seat at the table to discuss the future.

This does not mean we drive out the tech or bio companies. We need them. But we also needs the service employees, teachers, cops, and fireman. Perhaps most of we need to remember all of us will age.

Folks inching toward or past the half-century mark have lived through any number of recessions starting with Reagan and moving forward. Those slightly older can name more.  We need to remember things move in cycles. Thus the one thing we can’t do is tear up our social safety nets which carry us through the inevitable down cycles. Nor can we forget the ultimate survivors in nature are species welcoming diversification.

C