Residents Call for New Tenderloin

by Ben Malley on May 9, 2007

More than 100 Tenderloin residents and employees marched through the neighborhood yesterday to send a message to City Hall – stop making the Tenderloin a containment zone for crime.

The march was organized as part of the TNT (The New Tenderloin) Project geared to address violence, pedestrian safety, and drug dealing in the neighborhood.

To help this effort, the community wants the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors to pass the Family Budget – a $20 million budget package that includes among other services $7.3 million for high-quality child care and $6.4 million for violence prevention programs.

The Tenderloin has become a containment zone for crime in San Francisco, where law enforcement tolerates drug dealing and prostitution to prevent it from spreading to more affluent areas of the city.

Photo by BeyondChron

According to the San Francisco Police Department, in the past 90 days there have been four homicides, six forcible sex offenses, 267 assaults, and 896 drug related crimes in the neighborhood. Residents say that a lot of the drug dealing and the crime that goes with it comes from outside the Tenderloin because as Randy Shaw wrote, “it’s viewed as a place where anything goes.”

The excitement was palpable as residents gathered for a press conference at 201 Turk Street before the march began. It really did feel like something important was in the works and the amount of media covering the event seemed to encourage people even more.

“I really do think change is possible here,” said Rev. Norman Fong of the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC.) Although based in Chinatown, CCDC manages several buildings in the Tenderloin and had a good turnout at the rally. “Something like this just might turn it around. We can make a difference.”

Photo by Terrie Frye

TNT stickers and signs were everywhere as residents marched to three recent shooting sites to share in a moment of silence for the victims. The march began to spread the word about TNT as people passed out fliers and pamphlets along the way. It also demonstrated to the community that people are ready to take action.

Jonny Martin, a Tenderloin resident and member of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation called on residents to stand up for themselves. “You need to ask yourselves to what extent are you willing to go,” he said. He said that actions speak louder than words, and that the community should not be deterred by the “snitch” label.

Photo by BeyondChron

The march arrived at City Hall and met up with activists from the Coleman Advocates Family Budget Agenda. Residents from the march entered City Hall and filled up most of the Board of Supervisors’ visitor area. Board President Aaron Peskin recognized the group and allowed time for representatives from the community to present their case for the Family Budget.

Community organizer Alysabeth Alexander of La Voz Latina was disappointed that the community could not get any commitment of support for the Family Budget from Mayor Gavin Newsom who had an aide meet with the group.

One of the challenges in creating the New Tenderloin is demonstrating to people from outside the area that the Tenderloin is a community of immigrants, low income families, and seniors – not criminals. Too many people don’t understand this and they write the neighborhood off.

But there are plenty of people here who want and deserve a better Tenderloin. Their activism yesterday may help to turn things around.

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