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November 11, 2019

Susan Pasley

The Tenderloin

52 years in SF

0:00 / 28:19

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The Tenderloin is my

favorite area to live in

I have lived here a long time and I’ve lived in many different parts of town. I moved to the Tenderloin 10 or 12 years ago. And then I always asked myself, why didn’t I live there before that. It’s my favorite area to live in, absolutely favorite. If you’re talking about the characteristics of the Tenderloin today, for me, it’s still a community that has a neighborhood feeling, even though some

of the community is what we might call a little “down and out”.

But I’m not really talking about homeless people. There are a lot

of people in the community who live in SROs, which are single resident occupancy. It’s mostly guys who live in those and their life is kind of out on the street because they have a room but they

hang out in certain neighborhoods, they socialize when it’s warm weather, they pull barbecues out on the street, so you get a

real sense of community. Plus, it’s still mixed. There are families, particularly Latino families and Southeast Asian families. So you

do see a mix of that kind of thing. There are still small, affordable, family-run restaurants. But at least I still feel like it’s not as

overly gentrified as the rest of the city is becoming. There’s still

a sense of community there, which appeals to me a lot.


One thing that I really liked so much initially about the city was

the variety. It was aside from the physical beauty. The big variety of different groups of people, you have the Latino community, Asian communities, you have Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese. There’s sort of a niche for almost every different kind of community. That was always very exciting to me. That’s part of my passion. I like that kind of variety and excitement.

It’s really an open city with a mix

of cultures, a mix of pursuits,

that accepts marginal lifestyles.

The city has the openness to support any kind of lifestyle, which gave the city its great mix, its creative spark. It’s so welcoming

to anybody living any kind of way. The great thing to me is that you still can see (in the Tenderloin), within a space of a few minutes,

a family of Vietnamese kids and their mom, a drag queen passing

on the street, a guy who’s probably a pimp dressing real flashy,

a musician, or maybe a street artist, just all these within that little space. It’s just a vibrant mix, which to me has always been the culture of the city. But I think the problem is it’s not so much that the tolerance is fading, but it’s priced out. It becomes too expensive.

So my view of the culture is that it’s really an open city with a mix of cultures, a mix of pursuits, that accepts what in other places are called marginal lifestyles. Different people can live here, they can move in the same sphere. They can end up in the same places,

like the same restaurants, the same coffee shops. That’s what I think when I think of the culture of San Francisco, but I know it’s really

not true anymore because of the cost. It's way too expensive. In fact, I don’t even know if I will be able to stay here. In fact, I don’t think

I will, once I stop working. I’ve lived here all these years and I think at some point it probably will not be worth it for me to spend all the money I have to live in a place that doesn’t have the things I love about it, but we'll see. Could be down the line. That’s what I mean by the culture of SF, but it’s fading I think.

My description and vision of this city will probably not be reality anymore. 

That’s the hard part. Things do evolve, and they change. And I think the economics here has changed very, very, very fast and it

will keep changing more because it’s really expensive to be here.

I see, like businesses, they close all the time. Businesses that have been here 50 years, they just close because they can’t afford it anymore. So new businesses will take their place and the people who live here will like it, the people who make enough money to stay here. I can’t fault the people who are making all that money. What I can fault is not taxing the companies more to provide enough affordability in terms of housing so that other people can stay here. I always thought the culture of this city was important but if it changes, then it changes. And it won’t be important.

The people who contribute to the

diversity of the city have to be able

to live here and work here.

I think people could appreciate all the diversity if they can just experience it as a normal part of life. The diversity normally exists, people like it, and it’s part of the scene here. But I think the real thing to protect the diversity is economic. I just can’t realistically think any other way can do it. The people who contribute to the diversity of the city have to be able to live here and work here. But slowly, slowly, they can’t afford to. I think it's always important to keep promoting the diversity and the different offerings. We

can take the Mission as an example, which is still Latino in a lot of ways, but it is in transition. As time goes on, the Latino aspects of it becomes more “museum-like”. Some of the cultural aspects of

the city might get fossilized as museum pieces. You said you went on a tour in the Tenderloin and things like that are great because people will care more about things if they know about them. Also,

food is always a great thing if we can keep some of the real local eateries alive. Unfortunately, I think it always goes back to economics. If people can’t afford to have their businesses here and can’t afford to live here, slowly, slowly they’ll leave. And

then the diversity won’t be here anymore.

One thing that doesn’t change is

at least physically the look of the city. 

They tear down some buildings, but they don’t tear everything down to change the look. I walk a lot, so whether I'm walking in the Mission, whether I’m walking in North Beach, out to the water’s edge or whatever, you look and you say, “This is really beautiful!” All of these places have a lot of memories for me and that remains, which is great.

Some of the things that I can have the strongest emotional ties to are businesses.

They’re cafes where I would hang out, or maybe little shops

that I go to. They were locally-run and individual, not chains. Unfortunately, lots of these businesses, like my favorite diner,

was gone. It had been there since the 60s but it had to close in

the Tenderloin because the owner raised the rent too high

and he wouldn’t negotiate. It has been closed now for over 3

years. No one’s come in there.

Affordable housing to me is a real

key to keeping things and allowing

people to stay here.

There are measures for affordable housing, but they come largely out of the property taxes, people who own homes. I'm not sure a lot of it comes out of the business taxes on these huge corporations.

It’s not so much about the

newcomers, it’s the companies

Long-term residents could feel less antagonistic about the newcomers who are coming in, because I don’t think it’s so much the newcomers, it’s the companies. I just don’t think the companies are being made to pay enough money to support some of what could make the city more affordable for people.

If you live here,

you can vote here.

You just have to register to vote. We have remarkably low turnouts. People don’t vote. People have died for the right to vote in history, but now people just don’t vote. We have a right to vote, even though it’s hard to figure out these propositions. You can never be totally sure what it is, but I think simply not to vote is a very wrong thing. Maybe some of the newcomers will be more politically active to support things that could make the city a livable place.

The thing I’ve always liked to do the most in the city is just walk

around. I do everything on foot. It’s great when you come across something interesting and you will always see something new and different because of the mix of people. So I still do it, but I sort of

get sad when I see all these places closed. They had been there and were run by people who’d been there for a long time.

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