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Inside and out of the Arts District


Seen above:

Felice Ana Denia, who lives and works in Central Market, is artistic director of Denia Dance.


Introducing arts into a neighborhood is often considered a step on an inevitable path to gentrification.

The three steps:
• blight
• arts
• gentrification

But artists, art workers and art patrons are also the victims of gentrification. They build studios, theaters, galleries, attract restaurants and shops to a neighborhood at great personal and financial cost.

Then rising rents and new construction drive them out.

The new plans for Central Market
offer an opportunity to end the spiral to gentrification

Tenderloin residents will not be affected by Central Market Art Space Zoning. They will not be driven out due to San Francisco’s “many anti-displacement laws,” says Randy Shaw of Tenderloin Housing Clinic, a large activator of the Tenderloin and SOMA low cost housing.

Residents of the “luxury look” supportive housing buildings constructed by non-profit housing organizations South of Market Street and around the Hilton are also protected from dislocation.

In the residential field, The City requires luxury builders to also construct lower rent units as a percentage of the luxury units. The Arts Space plan is similar in a limited number of ways,

In the case of the Central Market Art Space program, the district would be one distinct area: between Fifth and Eighth  Streets for buildings facing on Market Street or within a required distance from Market. Benefits and obligations would not be available anywhere else.


A new zoning law would be created for for historic structures, allowing the owners to sell air rights to builders and renovators within the Central Market Arts District.


Builders would be required to supply a permanent space for nonprofit art organizations, typically in the basement or second floor. The size requirement would be a percentage of the upper floor space. The electrical, plumbing and elevator space, and ceiling height specs would be similar in each project.


The size of the Arts space would not count towards the zoning limits.


In addition, the builder would be granted a bonus space which would not be counted as part of the zoning limit.


An example of such a facility is at a lower floor at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 6th St. just off Howard St --- although not all projects would be as deluxe.


The units would be rented, maintained and promoted by a committee made up of artists, the building owner and a representative of The City.


The rental terms would be aimed towards flexibility.


The goal


The goal is to create permanent arts spaces of various sizes, in a unique district of The City, fostering a continuing arts community, increasing the value of the buildings involved, making the highest use of all the unique transportation facilities in the Central Market district.


And, above all, we can create permanent lofts, work spaces, performing venues and galleries to exist as long as the buildings exist. Through lean times and creative blocks, the spaces would remain available.

If any place could make it happen, that place is San Francisco!



In the areas around Central Market, SRO hotels push tenants into the streets during the day. The SRO landlords receive City guaranteed payments along with flexible building code enforcement and are not required to provide common or gathering space. 

Due to the current zoning preserving the outmoded Single Room Occupancy hotels in the Tenderloin and on Sixth Street and due to City contracts providing landlords with a guaranteed income, the current residents are guaranteed their homes as long as the city continues the current “care not cash” policy. Unlike the artists, the SRO tenants are not at the mercy of market forces which might drive them out.

The landlords benefit from guaranteed paying tenants for housing units which are illegal under current zoning. There is a danger that, having this monopoly position, they can avoid providing adequate facilities. The City has a certain amount of room to negotiate for improvement due to the fact that landlords have no other potential tenants and the rent is guaranteed by General Assistance programs.

The City benefits by having low rent housing at an unbeatable price. The City is harmed by a concentrated mass of tenants, who can be defined as “people of leisure,” who rule the streets of Mid-Market. These tenants suffer from a lack of services which could help them cope with a range of problems, especially addiction and mental health disabilities. As “care not cash” has taken shape and the recent recession held on, the troubled folk spending their day on Market Street has intensified.

The tenants benefit from an indoor place to sleep and a guarantee that they will not be driven out. However, these “people of leisure” suffer from a room too small to spend the day in and an income too small to provide any purpose other than spending time on the street waiting for a Community Meal facility to open.

Since tiny, dilapidated, old hotel rooms without a kitchen drive residents out into the streets, the Central Market Plan must require:

(1) greatly increased SRO building code enforcement and

(2) “home rooms” located within a SRO hotel or in a central location in SRO prominent areas, served by visiting mental and medical health specialists.

About "Home Rooms"


In the past, Medicine Men roamed the Wild West with entertaining shows that touted the miracles of Patent Medicines --- along with samples and demonstrations. 

Today, we need “Home Rooms” to provide an alternative to the streets. The current situation of long, slow lines outside Community Meal locations as the only daily destination is harmful to SRO residents and the surrounding area. In some cases, a minor renovation of the existing lobbies in the larger hotels could provide Home Room space. Or SRO residents could be provided with a card to admit them to one of a number of supervised rooms in one of the “luxury look” supportive housing buildings. The nature of the client's difficulty could be keyed to the card, providing safety by separating incompatibles.

These rooms would facilitate community by providing a relatively secure place for similar people to gather and connect.

The “Home Rooms” would be served by modern Roaming Medicine Men who are social, mental and medical health specialists, touting and demonstrating today’s help for SRO tenants and landlords.

A study for The Mid-Market PAC counted 50 mental health facilitators in the Tenderloin, Mid-Market and SOMA areas. A new Central Market Arts Space Plan must include operating guidelines to encourage health professionals to roam the Wild North and South of Central Market Street.

For organizations which might provide traveling medicine men
Click HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE

Dance ignites Summer of Art at UN Plaza. 12-2pm.

Info HERE.

Next:   People walking on Market St  HERE