Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Lefty, Government-Regulated, Bottle City of Squalor : San Francisco's Tenderloin

by Gary Kamiya from Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco (via Salon)

In the universe of San Francisco, the Tenderloin is the black hole, the six-block-by-six-block area where the city’s urban matter is most intensely concentrated. It is the only part of San Francisco that remains untamed, its last human wilderness. Without the Tenderloin and its radioactive core of junkies, drunks, transvestites, dealers, thugs, madmen, hustlers, derelicts, prostitutes and lowlifes, this smug, overpriced, increasingly homogenous burg would feel like one of those motel bathrooms that are “sani-sealed for your protection.”

The Tenderloin is the creepy Mr. Hyde (which happens to be a street running through it) to the rest of San Francisco’s respectable Dr. Jekyll (who, appropriately, goes unhonored – although some jokester named a hotel on Hyde “The Jekyll”). And this evil twin isn’t hidden away in some asylum on the outskirts of town. The Tenderloin is surrounded by Union Square, Nob Hill, the Civic Center and the gentrifying mid-Market district. It’s about as central as you can get.

This is weird. Many cities used to have “bad” neighborhoods in the heart of downtown, zones of misrule where the primal human urges – to get laid, to get high, and to get money – were allowed to bloom furtively in the night. But most of them are gone now, victims of gentrification. New York’s Times Square feels like Disneyland, Vancouver’s Gastown has been tamed, Boston’s Combat Zone was rendered hors de combat years ago. And of those that remain, none take up 36 square blocks of prime real estate in the middle of one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Union Square is the center of San Francisco’s downtown, the quintessential public space of Any Corporate City, 2012. An invisible capitalist force-field (in the beginning was the Logo, and the Logo was with God, and the Logo was God) emanates down from the huge airline-and Midori-touting billboards looming over it. But you only have to walk a couple of blocks from the square’s bustling southwest corner at Geary and Powell to find yourself in a lurid demimonde populated by characters out of a Denis Johnson novel.

All of which is to say that the Tenderloin is a large turd – often a literal one – floating in the crystal punchbowl that is San Francisco. So why is it still here?

Because the city wants it to be here.

For decades, the Tenderloin has been carefully protected by the city and various non-profit organizations. It’s not that these officials, social workers, homeless advocates and low-cost housing activists want to maintain a zone of misrule, crime and filth in the heart of the city: it’s simply an inescapable consequence of their laudable commitment to defend society’s most vulnerable members. The problem is that by saving the baby, you also save the bathwater. No one has figured out a way to protect the “deserving poor,” to use the condescending 19th century parlance, without also protecting the creepy, kooky and dangerous poor. The result is, in effect, a protected urban wildlife zone, a Bottle City of Squalor

1 comment:

  1. The article relates "Many cities used to have “bad” neighborhoods in the heart of downtown, zones of misrule where the primal human urges – to get laid, to get high, and to get money – were allowed to bloom furtively in the night. But most of them are gone now, victims of gentrification."

    Bellingham Washington, known also as the City of Subdued Excitement, has the Downtown Neighborhood, which has a very bad side, stabilized by a major software employer, and its “campus” of offices spread across several city blocks, and which serves as night life entertainment and restaurants. and which serves as basis for a number of law offices.

    Squeezed into Bellingham’s Downtown Neighborhood are five of liberalism’s resources, that is social service organizatons, which are the basis for Liberalism’s clientelism, and which provide economic life and survival for the poor, who live devoid of any meritocracy.

    The first resource is Interfaith Clinic, that is the Department of Social and Human Services Community Health Clinic, which provides Medicaid medical and dental care. The second is Opportunity Council, which provides Energy Assistance Grants, Community Voice Mail, a Soup Kitchen located in the suburbs at Faith Lutheran Church, Early Learning and Family Assistance, Home Weatherization Assistance, and Low Income Housing Assistance. The third is Law Advocates which provides service bureaus of local attorneys, who volunteer their time to provide free low cost civil legal advice and help, such as obtaining Washington State IDs. The fourth is The Lighthouse Mission and The Agape Home For Women And Children , which provides three hots and a cot, for those coming from jail or who are homeless. The fifth is a number of subsidized low income apartment buildings, like the one I live in, providing a SRO, so that I am able to survive, pay my bills, have a nutritious diet, maintain mental health, and have a physically clean life.

    I live in the Sea Breeze Apartments, right in the center of Downtonw Bellingham, near Holly and Railroad. I am not bothered by those who are in my neighood who live to get laid, to get high, and to get money. Yet my life is a constant moral, that is virtuous, and ethical challenge, largely because of the antisocial people, that is psychopaths, who “live free” on a social security disability award of $730 a month, plus housing assistance, plus SNAP Food Stamps, for their inherent mental disorder of busybodyness, which relates is “the act of interfering or meddling into other people affairs; it is also the act of touching or handling other people's properties without their permission or consent which may result into conflicts” .

    Libertarians most likely would say shame of you for your dependency. I say thanks to Jesus Christ, who provides, for now, through His dispensation, Ephesians 1:10, resources so that I can maintain a spiritual life in Him.