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People playing chess along Market St in Tenderloin
People playing chess along Market St in Tenderloin
The L's, The Loin, TL's, The TL, The Trendy Loin, The Tender Nob, Little Saigon, Tenderloin Heights
 • Board of SupervisorsJane Kim
 • State AssemblyTom Ammiano (D)
 • State SenateMark Leno (D)
 • U.S. HouseNancy Pelosi (D)
 • Total0.9 km2 (0.35 sq mi)
 • Land0.9 km2 (0.35 sq mi)
 • Total25,067
 • Density27,681/km2 (71,694/sq mi)
ZIP Code
94102, 94103, 94109
Area code(s)415

The Tenderloin is a neighborhood in downtown San Francisco, California, in the flatlands on the southern slope of Nob Hill, situated between the Union Square shopping district to the northeast and the Civic Center office district to the southwest. It encompasses about 50 square blocks and a conservative description has it bounded on the north by Geary Street, on the east by Mason Street, on the south by Market Street and on the west by Van Ness Avenue. The northern boundary with Lower Nob Hill historically has been set at Geary Street.

The terms Tenderloin Heights or The Tendernob refer to the area around the indefinite boundary between the Upper Tenderloin and Lower Nob Hill. The eastern extent, near Union Square, overlaps with the Theater District. Part of the western extent of the Tenderloin, Larkin and Hyde Streets between Turk and O'Farrell, was officially named "Little Saigon" by the City of San Francisco.


The Ambassador Hotel is a neighborhood renovated single room occupancy building that sits on the Eastern edge of the Tenderloin.

There are a number of stories about how the Tenderloin got its name. One says it is a reference to an older neighborhood in New York with the same name and similar characteristics. Another is a reference to the neighborhood as the "soft underbelly" (analogous to the cut of meat) of the city, with allusions to vice and corruption, especially graft. There are also some legends about the name, probably folklore, including that the neighborhood earned its name from the words of a New York City police captain, Alexander S. Williams, who was overheard saying that when he was assigned to another part of the city, he could only afford to eat chuck steak on the salary he was earning, but after he was transferred to this neighborhood he was making so much money on the side soliciting bribes that now he could eat tenderloin instead.[2][3] Another version of that story says that the officers who worked in the Tenderloin received a "hazard pay" bonus for working in such a violent area, and thus were able to afford the good cut of meat. Yet another story, also likely apocryphal, is that the name is a reference to the "loins" of prostitutes.

The Tenderloin borders the Mission/Market Street corridor, which follows the Spaniards' El Camino Real, which in turn traced an ancient north/south Indian trail. The Tenderloin is sheltered by Nob Hill, and far enough from the bay to be on solid ground. There is evidence that a community resided here several thousand years ago. In the 1960s, the area was excavated to develop the BART/MUNI subway station at Civic Center. During the excavation, the remains of a woman dated to be 5,000 years old were found.

The Tenderloin has been a downtown residential community since shortly after the California Gold Rush in 1849. However, the name "Tenderloin" does not appear on any maps of San Francisco prior to the 1930s; before then, it was labeled as "Downtown", although it may have been informally referred to as "the Tenderloin" as early as the 1910s. The area had an active nightlife in the late 19th century with many theaters, restaurants and hotels. Notorious madam Tessie Wall opened her first brothel on O'Farrell Street in 1898. Almost all of the buildings in the neighborhood were destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake and the backfires that were set by firefighters to contain the devastation. The area was immediately rebuilt with some hotels opening by 1907 and apartment buildings shortly thereafter, including the historic Cadillac Hotel.[4] By the 1920s, the neighborhood was notorious for its gambling, billiard halls, boxing gyms, "speakeasies", theaters, restaurants and other nightlife depicted in the hard boiled detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett, who lived at 891 Post Street, the apartment he gave to Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.

Tenderloin strip club in 1991

In the mid-20th century the Tenderloin provided work for many musicians in the neighborhood's theaters, hotels, burlesque houses, bars and clubs and was the location of the Musician's Union Building on Jones Street. The most famous jazz club was the Black Hawk[5] at Hyde and Turk Streets where Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis,[6] Thelonious Monk,[7] Gerry Mulligan, and other jazz greats recorded live albums for Fantasy Records in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

With housing consisting almost entirely of single-room-occupancy hotel rooms, studio and one bedroom apartments, the Tenderloin historically housed single adults and couples. After World War II, with the decline in central cities throughout the United States, the Tenderloin lost population, creating a large amount of vacant housing units by the mid-1970s. Beginning in the late 1970s, after the Vietnam War, the Tenderloin received large numbers of refugees from Southeast Asia—first ethnic Chinese from Vietnam, then Khmer from Cambodia and Hmong from Laos. The low cost vacant housing, and the proximity to Chinatown through the Stockton Street Tunnel, made the area attractive to refugees and resettlement agencies. Studio apartments became home for families of four and five people and became what a local police officer called "vertical villages." The Tenderloin quickly increased from having just a few children to having over 3,500 and this population has remained. A number of neighborhood Southeast Asian restaurants, banh mi coffee shops, ethnic grocery stores, video shops and other stores were created at this time, which still exist.

The Tenderloin has a long history as a center of alternate sexualities, including several historic confrontations with police. The legendary female impersonator Rae Bourbon, a performer during the Pansy Craze, was arrested in 1933 while his show "Boys Will Be Girls" was being broadcast live on the radio from Tait's Cafe at 44 Ellis Street.[8] On New Years Day in 1965 police raided a Mardi Gras Ball at California Hall[9] on Polk Street sponsored by the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, lining up and photographing 600 participants and arresting several prominent citizens. One of the first "gay riots", pre-dating the Stonewall riots in New York, happened at Compton's Cafeteria[10] at Turk and Taylor Streets in August 1966 when the police, attempting to arrest a drag queen, sparked a riot that spilled into the streets. Prior to the emergence of The Castro as a major gay village, the center of the Tenderloin at Turk and Taylor and the Polk Gulch at the western side of the Tenderloin were two of the city's first gay neighborhoods and a few of these historic gay bars and clubs still exist.

The apartment where Dashiell Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon was once in the boundaries of the Tenderloin at the corner of Hyde and Post. Both the movie and book The Maltese Falcon were based in San Francisco's Tenderloin. There is also an alley in what is now Nob Hill, named for the book's author (Dashiell Hammett). It lies outside the Tenderloin because the boundary was defined with borders different from today's. Some locations, such as Sam Spade's apartment and John's Grill, also no longer lie in the Tenderloin because local economics and real estate have changed the character and labeling of areas over time.

In July 2008, the area was designated as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.[11]

Attractions and characteristics[edit]

Nestled near the downtown area, the Tenderloin has historically resisted gentrification, maintaining a seedy character and reputation for crime.[12] Squalid conditions, homelessness, crime, illegal drug trade, prostitution, liquor stores, and strip clubs give the neighborhood a seedy reputation.

Part of the neighborhood forms part of the theater district. Prominent theatres include the Geary, the home of the American Conservatory Theater, and the Curran, Golden Gate and Orpheum Theatres operated by the Shorenstein Nederlander Organization. Alternative theaters in the Tenderloin include EXIT Theater, which operates four storefront theaters and produces the San Francisco Fringe Festival, the New Conservatory Theater, the Phoenix Theater, the Off-Market Theater, The Last Planet Theater and others. Alternate galleries include The Luggage Store, the 509 Cultural Center, the Shooting Gallery and others. The neighborhood has many bars dating to prohibition and before with dive bars, including some left over from when the neighborhood housed large numbers of merchant seamen such as the 21 Club[13] and the 65 Club. One bar is built on the site of a previous speakeasy, Bourbon and Branch, at the corner of Jones and O'Farrell Streets. The original speakeasy was restored in the bar's basement, including many of the original decorations. Many bars have entertainment including the Dixieland-oriented Gold Rush, and the drag bar, Aunt Charlie's. Larger live music venues include the Great American Music Hall and the Warfield Theater. Historically, the Tenderloin has had a number of strip clubs, although their number has decreased in recent decades, resulting in dilapidated buildings. The most well known is the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theater.


The tenderloin serves as a mecca for the art scene in San Francisco, housing the "White Walls" gallery and "Shooting Gallery". The tenderloin has been home to mural work by artists such as Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee, Mike Giant, Blek Le Rat and Dan Plasma.[14]

The "Book & Job" gallery has become known for hosting skating legends such as Tommy Guerrero and promoting "Zine Weekends."


The Tenderloin is a high-crime neighborhood, particularly violent street crime such as robbery and aggravated assault. Seven of the top ten violent crime plots (out of 665 in the entire city as measured by the San Francisco Police Department) are adjacent plots in the Tenderloin and Sixth and Market area. The neighborhood was considered to be the origin of a notorious Filipino gang Bahala Na Gang or BNG, a gang imported from the Philippines. In the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, the gang was involved in extortion, drug sales, and murder for hire.

Graffiti art and tagging are a common problem in the neighborhood. Dealing and use of illicit drugs occurs on the streets. Property crimes are common, especially theft from parked vehicles. Violent acts occur more often here and are generally related to drugs. The area has been the scene of escalating drug violence in 2007, including brazen daylight shootings, as local gangs from San Francisco, and others from around the Bay Area battle for turf.[15] 14 of the city's 98 homicides took place in the area in 2007.[16]

Social services[edit]

The Tenderloin has been the home of Raphael House, the first provider in the city of shelter for homeless parents and children, since 1971. It is an ethnically diverse community, consisting of families, young people living in cheap apartments, downtown bohemian artists, and recent immigrants from Latin America and Southeast Asia. It is home to a large population of homeless, those living in extreme poverty, and numerous non-profit social service agencies, soup kitchens, religious rescue missions, homeless shelters and Single Room Occupancy hotels.[17]

The Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC) has offered important social services to the poor of this neighborhood for decades. According to its Director, Randy Shaw, the clinic's "mission is to prevent tenant displacement, preserve and expand the city’s low cost housing stock and to provide comprehensive legal assistance to low income tenants. The Clinic is successful in fulfilling this mission by providing free legal services, securing SRO units through the Master Lease program and offering comprehensive support services to our clients."

Religious institutions providing community services to the Tenderloin include Glide Memorial Church, which was reinvigorated by Cecil Williams in 1963, St. Anthony's, a program of the Franciscans and San Francisco City Impact founded by Pastor Roger Huang. These all provide meals and other social services to poor and homeless residents and others. Glide and the surrounding neighborhood provided much of the setting for the 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness. In 2008, The Salvation Army opened the Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center, a multipurpose center featuring a gym, swimming pool and fitness center among other amenities. The funding for this center was made possible by a 1.5 billion dollar bequest from Joan Kroc, the widow of McDonald's founder, Ray Kroc. Adjacent to the Kroc center is Railton Place, a 110 unit apartment complex run by the Salvation Army for former foster youth, homeless veterans, and adults recovering from addictions.


In recent years, residents have spearheaded a local arts revival.

In 1987, residents and others from the Aarti Hotel on Leavenworth Street founded the 509 Cultural Center at 509 Ellis Street. After the 1989 earthquake damaged that facility, artists founded The Luggage Store at 1007 Market, at the intersection of 6th Street, Market, Taylor and Golden Gate Avenue. In 1989 the Tenderloin Reflection and Education Center (TREC) spun off from St Anthony foundation and operated a cultural center including dance, music, writing quilting, and other arts workshops in the St. Boniface Neighborhood Center. Artists and activists such as Eric Ehn from the Iowa Writing Workshop and Theatre Artaud; Miya Masoaka, a recording artist with Asian Improv Records; Lucy Jane Bledsoe, published novelist and writer for the East Bay Express; Pearl Ubungen, choreographer; Ben Clarke, Founding Editor of Freedom Voices; and Maketa Groves, poet and published author at Curbstone Press; and Tenderloin resident and Athabaskan poet Mary TallMountain offered numerous free workshops. TREC and its publishing project Freedom Voices continue to offer workshops on an occasional basis at the Public Library, Hospitality House, the Faithful Fools and other locations in the neighborhood. Tender Leaves, the Center's literary journal was published from 1987-2006.

From 2006 to 2009, The Loin's Mouth, conceived by its editor Rachel M., was a semi-quarterly publication about life in the Tenderloin and Tendernob areas. Since then, others have come about to fill the gap including the Tenderloin Reading Series, which is a quarterly literary event in the neighborhood as well as The Tender, which is a local journal focusing on the events, food, and politics of the neighborhood.

In 2006, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts was formed to produce, exhibit, and develop creativity with the most contemporary new media technologies. Initially located on Taylor Street in an 8,000 sq ft (740 m2) space, they have since moved across the street to rent space from The Warfield.[18]

Every year the local Vietnamese Community hosts the Tết celebration of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year in the Little Saigon section of the Tenderloin.

Parks and recreation[edit]

Historically, the downtown Tenderloin had no parks between Union Square to the East and Civic Center Plaza to the West until a number of activists, who organized the City's Citizens Committee for Open Space, advocated for more open space in the Tenderloin in the 1970s. As a result a number of parks and playgrounds were created including first Boeddeker Park, a multi-use facility, then the youth-oriented Tenderloin Playground, followed by a number of mini-playgrounds.

Boeddeker Park, located at the corner of Eddy and Jones Streets, is one of the most used parks per square foot in the City but has had difficulty meeting the needs of the neighborhood's varied communities. It is often unused by children and is commonly occupied by drug addicts and intoxicated people during the daytime. Periodically there are efforts to improve the park, such as holding free concerts.

The Tenderloin Children's Playground, on Ellis Street between Leavenworth and Hyde Streets, was opened in 1995 and has attractive indoor and outdoor recreational facilities and hosts a number of community and family events.

Sgt. John Macaulay Park, named after a San Francisco police officer who was killed in the adjacent alley while on duty, is a small gated playground at the corner of O'Farrell and Larkin Streets. Although the park is located across the street from a strip club, it is frequented by parents and children from the neighborhood.

The "Tenderloin National Forest" (a project of the nonprofit organization The Luggage Store/509 Cultural Center) is an unofficial park that was established from 1987–present that maintains the park and opening hours. It is located on Cohen Alley just off Ellis Street.

Renaming attempt[edit]

In March 2011, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Vice President Tracy Reiman sent Mayor Ed Lee a letter proposing for renaming of the neighborhood and suggesting alternative name like the Tempeh District,[19] claiming "the city deserves a neighborhood named after a delicious cruelty-free food instead of the flesh of an abused animal."[20] The proposal was met with ridicule by locals and Mayor Ed Lee responded that it was more important to improve the lives of the residents than rename the neighborhood.[21][22]

See also[edit]

  • [[Archivo:
  1. REDIRECCIÓN Plantilla:Iconos|20px|Ver el portal sobre San Francisco Bay Area]] Portal:San Francisco Bay Area. Contenido relacionado con San Francisco Bay Area.



  1. ^ a b Script error: No such module "Vorlage:Internetquelle". City-data.com, abgerufen am 31. Dezember 2011.Vorlage:Cite web/temporär
  2. ^ Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration at line 2058: attempt to index a boolean value.
  3. ^ "Williams, 'Ex-Czar' Of Tenderloin, Dies; Picturesque Former Inspector of Police Gave the District Its Sobriquet. Figured In Lexow Inquiry; Retired on Pension After That;-Noted for His Love of a Fight; 77 Years Old. He Never Shunned a Fight. Appearance Before Lexow." New York Times March 26, 1917
  4. ^ The Cadillac Hotel Shaped History of San Francisco http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=4882
  5. ^ Success in a Sewer, Time magazine Aug. 03, 1959 http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,825838,00.html
  6. ^ Miles Davis: In Person Friday Night Live at the Blackhawkhttp://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=11727
  7. ^ Thelonious Monk At the BlackhawkTemplate:BillboardURLbyName
  8. ^ Script error: No such module "Vorlage:Internetquelle". Coolcatdaddy.com, abgerufen am 31. Dezember 2011.Vorlage:Cite web/temporär
  9. ^ http://sfpl.lib.ca.us/librarylocations/main/glc/pdf/GLC46_Evander_Smith-California_Hall_Papers.pdf
  10. ^ Documentary movie Screaming Queens: the Riot at Compton's Cafeteria http://www.screamingqueensmovie.com/
  11. ^ State Approves Uptown Tenderloin Historic District http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=5912
  12. ^ Guidebook reference to Tenderloin as "worst neighborhood in San Francisco http://www.sfgate.com/traveler/guide/sf/neighborhoods/tenderloin.shtml
  13. ^ Listed as one of the "Best Bars in the U.S." by Esquire magazine 2008 http://www.esquire.com/bestbars/bb-21-club-sf
  14. ^ Script error: No such module "Vorlage:Internetquelle". Aerosol Fiends, 5. April 2010, abgerufen am 31. Dezember 2011.Vorlage:Cite web/temporär
  15. ^ "3 Tenderloin slayings are called drug-related", San Francisco Chronicle, April 26, 2007
  16. ^ Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration at line 2058: attempt to index a boolean value.
  17. ^ Central City SRO Collaborative http://www.ccsro.org/
  18. ^ "GAFFTA has moved" The Tender, April 1, 2011
  19. ^ Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration at line 2058: attempt to index a boolean value.
  20. ^ Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration at line 2058: attempt to index a boolean value.
  21. ^ Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration at line 2058: attempt to index a boolean value.
  22. ^ Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration at line 2058: attempt to index a boolean value.

Further reading

  • Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Configuration at line 2058: attempt to index a boolean value.

External links[edit]

Template:Neighborhoods of San Francisco

Coordinates: 37°47′N 122°25′W / 37.783°N 122.417°W / 37.783; -122.417