The Tenderloin has a high violent crime rate and a high property crime rate for San Francisco.
The Tenderloin is named after New York City's Tenderloin neighborhood, which purportedly got its name after a police captain was overheard saying that he was able to afford better cuts of meat with the money he collected on the side by extorting illegal businesses in this area in exchange for not shutting them down.
It has long been an area known for its homelessness, prostitution, drug use, liquor stores, and strip clubs. These have earned it the reputation of being the worst neighborhood in San Francisco, and while the neighborhood continues to struggle, it has also been a haven for alternate sexualities and lifestyles and a site of remarkable culture and resilience.
It is often considered dangerous, and while crime is a little higher here (especially drug and robbery-related crime), walking quickly and with confidence, avoiding eye contact, tucking away flashy items, and staying aware of your surroundings will discourage most from making you their target.
It is common to be confronted by public drug use, arguments, mentally ill homeless persons living in squalid conditions, litter, and a terrible smell here, but you’re much more likely to be harassed than actually robbed. And yet despite how unpleasant the Tenderloin can sometimes seem, it is in many ways the heart of the city, flanked by affluent neighborhoods like Nob Hill and the Financial District, and stretching from Powell Street to Civic Center, making it the one of the most accessible neighborhoods in San Francisco.
Even if you choose not to live here, because of its geography it is tough to avoid and neighborhoods can turn rough very quickly, so anyone in San Francisco should stay aware when near this area.
There are some really amazing reasons not to avoid the Tenderloin, however. The preservation society works hard to keep keep the impressive architectural history intact. Housing is primarily single-room-occupancy hotels (many of these are protected by law), studio and one bedroom apartments, and cheap housing projects. It is also home to a somewhat surprising and impressive array of theaters and other live performance venues (Pianofight, Exit Theatre, A.C.T. Geary Theater, and Counterpulse, to name a few), art galleries, and trendy bars, which makes more sense when you consider its history as a haven for the creative and disenfranchised.
It has has resisted gentrification much better than most other neighborhoods in San Francisco. In addition, a “Little Saigon” area has sprouted up on its western edge due to the influence of refugees from Southeast Asia.
While it is gritty and not particularly family-friendly, as much as people avoid it, it’s actually a cultural hub that’s undeniably San Francisco.
Photo Credits: Thanks to @bayareafoodcritics, @lilcreamsoda, @bloodysive, @sofia_light_and_dark, @justjoshfunk1, @charsydney, @tenderloin.resident, @randelhart, @stevenbelieven, @hotcfilm, @tupelo_voyeur, @hotcfilm, @bryan.dempler, @ladywilson, @ckea, @toleubekovna_g, @arayahope, @suummerrain, @j.creis for your great photos of this neighborhood!