In his press release strongly condemning the weekend shootings that left one dead and four wounded, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom described the incidents as occurring “in the Theater District and South of Market neighborhoods.” The former took place in the 400 block of Mason Street, and for at least eighty years violent episodes in that locale have been wrongly attributed to the Uptown Tenderloin neighborhood, which lies three blocks to the south. In contrast, this is the first time I have heard any violence in that location correctly ascribed to “the Theater District.” And when that term is used in a mayoral press release, it means something.
While the Uptown Tenderloin has its share of violence and crime, public perceptions of the area’s problems have been inflated by reporting that ascribes violence anywhere near the community as occurring within its borders. Typically this means crimes on Sutter are identified with the Tenderloin, while positive actions along Geary or O’Farrell are wrongly credited to Lower Nob Hill
In the 1920’s, the local papers described major raids on “Tenderloin bordellos.” Turns out that eight of the eleven raids occurred in the Western Addition, with only one within the Uptown Tenderloin’s borders.
A major police shooting in the 1990’s on Folsom and 6th was also widely described as occurring in the Tenderloin. It seemed that the police and media were in cahoots to associate criminality with particular neighborhoods regardless of where the underlying incident occurred.
And the motive was obvious. Saying a shooting occurred in the Theater District could scare off patrons, alienating more powerful commercial interests than those in the Uptown Tenderloin.
That’s why Mayor Newsom’s willingness to properly identify a shooting that could easily have been misplaced in the Uptown Tenderloin is an impressive and powerful statement. It is further proof that the times in the Uptown Tenderloin are changing, along with public perceptions of the area.