Advocates for the Tenderloin look further than Law Enforcement but instead Crime Prevention. Suggestions for improving the area include allowing new businesses in at a street level, and adding a school and rehab to the neighborhood.
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Randy Shaw is sick of hearing the Tenderloin get slammed.
City officials and new businesses have unjustly written off the crowded urban neighborhood at a critical time, said Shaw, the director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and an outspoken Tenderloin advocate.
The neighborhood’s commercial district is plagued by empty storefronts and poorly lit streets, as noted by local residents and by a new survey released by Tenderloin Youth Advocates.
The nonprofit group blames the community’s pervasive criminal drug trade for alienating new businesses and accelerating the general decline of the neighborhood.
Regarding the Tenderloins identity crisis, Shaw said. “When a problem isn’t solved for a while, people assume it’s unsolvable.”
Instead of channeling funds into long-term economic development in the Tenderloin, city officials are focusing on short-range crime prevention, Shaw said.
“All we get is arrests, and you can’t find anyone here who feels safer with all of these police around,” he added.
The police can’t solve the problem, and everybody knows it.”
Other Tenderloin activists agreed with Shaw.
While many acknowledged the pervasiveness of the drug problem, and the need to make streets and parks safer for residents, most agreed with Shaw that emphasizing the negative elements in the community wouldn’t help solve the Tenderloin’s problems.
“We know what sucks. Now we’re trying to solve these problems,” said Malik Looper, co chairman of the Tenderloin Crime Abatement Committee, a volunteer group in the district.
The committee has focused its efforts for 1995 on Boeddeker Park located on Jones Street between Ellis. and Eddy streets. The park is a notorious site for drug activity and crime.
“If we focused on Boeddeker, we’d be able to monitor our success,” Looper said.
Malik’s father, Leroy Looper, stressed the need to bring vitality back to the Tenderloin by filling empty storefronts with businesses that would be pragmatic and beneficial for the community.
The senior Looper heads the Mayor’s Tenderloin task force, a group that pinpoints specific concerns that need to be addressed in the community.
“Empty storefronts are a problem … it tells people that someone doesn’t care.” Looper said.
Vacancies in street-level commercial properties were down slightly in 1994 from the year before, from 136 of 952 spaces to 127, according to the survey. Vacancies represent about 13 percent of street-level business space in the Tenderloin.
The number of bars and cocktail lounges is also down slightly, from 34 to 33. The total number of bars and lounges has plummeted 57 percent since 1988.
The survey also noted that 14 shops and theaters specializing in pornography made up only 1 percent of Tenderloin business last year.
David Tran, a Youth Advocates member who helped compile the survey, hopes that some of these statistics will improve people’s opinions of the neighborhood – while also making a convincing argument for government-funded development in some areas.
In addition to new commercial businesses, a grade school for Tenderloin students and rehabilitation facilities for those addicted to drugs and alcohol were cited as necessary resources.
“You’ve got to treat people. We have a drug problem in San Francisco that won’t go away,” said Looper.
“Getting a school here will improve the sense of community,” added Paul Boden, an aggressive advocate of renewal in the Tenderloin.