The move in of artists in the 6th street neighborhood brings hope to the community.
One or more scans of original printed documents are included here. To read the text of these documents, please activate the Read the Text tab.
Artists Bring Hope to Seedy Neighborhood
Low-rent studios constructed by nonprofit agency
From the outside, 495 Minna Street is unremarkable and grimy, typical of the depressing seediness found near Sixth Street, one of the city’s roughest neighborhoods. But inside, a pair of chic, well-lit studios have become home to two artists in a project that many hope will help turn the area around.
Three weeks ago, Joe Ruiz, 35, and Alvin Tan, 38, had the dubious fortune of moving into the two, low-rent, living and working units for artists on the ground floor of the Sunnyside Hotel. The studios are part of the nonprofit Tenderloin Housing Clinic’s rehabilitation of the 54-unit residential hotel at Sixth and Minna streets.
“I was having a really hard time getting studio space in the city,” said Ruiz, echoing the woes of many an artist in San Francisco, where a shortage of cheap, spacious studios has driven many to the East Bay. “It was almost impossible. I was almost ready to give up and go back to New Mexico.”
Now Ruiz is paying $475 per Randall Shaw, director of the month for a 575-square-foot studio studio designed by architects Zachary, Nathan and Arnold Lerner. Painted in light colors, Ruiz and Tan’s homes feature thick, glass- front space for block windows, varnished wood floors, a small kitchen, bathroom and a staircase leading up to a sleeping loft.
The units are the first subsidized by the Redevelopment Agency, which paid the $185,000 bill for the studios and a new 225-square-foot hotel lounge. The lounge will serve as an art gallery and an office for the Sixth Street Tenants Alliance’s information services for people on general assistance.
Not only do the studios provide space for artists, but they are also seen as a boost to the Sixth Street area, where stores and housing were severely damaged in the 1989 quake.
“This on Sixth Street is very important because it is well-known that artists stabilize a neighborhood, just by their nature — they’re outwardly involved with the neighborhood,” said city planner Susana Montana.
The Redevelopment Agency has been working with the community to rebuild the area. The Sunnyside Hotel is the first of several projects to be completed, said Bill Rumpf, the agency’s chief of housing.
Randall Shaw, director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, is convinced that the project will help make the street safer. “I think this will make a big change.” The store-front space had been empty for more than 10 years, and many felt an around-the-clock tenant was better than a liquor store or a business that might not survive. Although redevelopment officials have no plans for more artist units, Shaw hopes the concept will catch on.
Ruiz and Tan were selected by a panel convened by Arthouse, an artists’ information clearinghouse that first proposed converting vacant storefronts to studios. Artists were eligible only if they made less than $17,470 a year. Although 75 applications were sent out, only 15 were returned, said Jennifer Spangler of Arthouse, because of the studios’ location.
Ruiz, whose talents include painting, printing and ceramics, said that the seediness of the area gave him pause, but he decided art was more important. “I have to battle it out with the society that’s out there. … It’s just going to make me a better artist.”