True Neighborhood Preservation in San Francisco's Tenderloin District

LEARNING AREA: Community Organizing and Planning, Real Estate Development
Oct. 2021
Partner Events
Center for the Living City




Join the Center for the Living City and the Tenderloin Museum for the fourth discussion in the 2021 Jane Jacobs Lecture series around the Kind of Opportunity a City Is. This discussion, led by Kathy Looper and Randy Shaw, explores the nature of true neighborhood preservation by examining a transformative period of tenant activism in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district in the 1980s. 

While often maligned for its history as a vice district and its ongoing struggle with drug use and street crime, the Tenderloin most importantly has a history as the city’s densest residential neighborhood. Over the decades, it has proved to be a vital urban enclave that is home to the working class, seniors, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ+ folks, and all stripes of outsiders and misfits. Unprecedented community organizing in the 1980s protected the neighborhood’s ample supply of single room occupancy (SRO) hotels from market rate redevelopment or conversion to tourist hotels. Tenderloin residents fought and won to preserve housing stock for low-income residents in a city dogged by increasingly exorbitant rents and property values, unscrupulous real estate speculation, and fierce gentrification. This tenant movement shaped the unique ecosystem of nonprofit-controlled housing, supportive social services, and innovative land use that has maintained the Tenderloin as the last bastion of truly affordable housing in San Francisco.  

Both Looper and Shaw were key figures in the shaping of today’s Tenderloin. Kathy, along with her late husband Leroy, converted the Cadillac Hotel into non-profit supportive housing, the first of its kind on the West Coast and a model for the region. Randy co-founded the Tenderloin Housing Clinic to provide legal aid to embattled Tenderloin tenants, and eventually developed THC into one of the Tenderloin’s major non-profit supportive housing organizations. Their work is part of a broader movement and milieu that leveraged several key Jacobsian tenets--in particular the preservation of old and historic buildings--to serve the poor and working class, redefining the Tenderloin as a neighborhood that ensures there is a place for everybody in San Francisco. Learn more by attending the Jane Jacobs Lecture Series’ True Neighborhood Preservation in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District.

Registration fee