[NSFW] The Changing Face Of Skid Row: Can a Bitch Get a Cab In Hunter’s Point?

PHOTO: Angela Bacca

You think you’ve been around the block, but I’ve been around the world. I moved to San Francisco in 2002, obviously being a low-income woman I’ve lived in every ghetto shit hole this city has to offer. Even now, 11 years later whenever I leave my apartment I wander through trash, needles and human fecal matter scattered all over the sidewalks– and that’s how I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

What is interesting about SF is how just a block or two can make the difference between a safe and a dangerous setting, a good place to buy drugs vs. a good place to raise an urban family. Now I’ve had plenty of babies, just none carried to full term. But we’re not here to talk about me, because our stratified society is confined to just seven small square miles where one can observe rapid gentrification first-hand. It blows my mind to see how quickly areas transition from ghetto to upscale.

Just look at Valencia Street!

Traditionally, the Mission District has been home to SF’s Latino population. Since many people in this community are undocumented immigrants, it’s easy to imagine this group’s buying power. Since this demographic resides throughout this specific area, you can imagine what kinds of businesses this community would manifest to provide its goods and services. Little hole in the wall restaurants and coffee shops, dollar stores, places to buy cheap stuff for your house and hooker wear. The finest polyesters money can buy ($9.99 for a party dress, holla!) and bakeries featuring the finest Tres Leches you have ever had the privilege of sampling.

When I moved into the Excelsior District in 2002 rent was still fairly inexpensive. I was living on the corner of Mission and Excelsior, way the fuck out there by Daly City. I had my own room for under $400 a month, and to be quite honest it was larger than my entire present-day apartment is. Any time of day you could ride the bus down Mission street and buy crack on the corner of 16th and Mission. All those women walking around in sweats are obviously hookers, people not familiar to the ubiquity of sex work in the City probably would never give these women a second look but I’m on to everybody’s little schemes. The streets were honestly not safe to be out on! Especially at night. A lady can never be sure at night.

At the time, the Mission was in the process of transitioning. I’m not talking hormones and boob-job transitioning. The Mission was becoming a bustling bohemia from the inside out, because it was the only affordable place for young people to move. I remember hanging out at my friend’s house on Stevenson, back when there was a freeway over it. It was a turn of the century off-white, dilapidated Victorian nestled between new urban lofts comprised of glass, concrete and chrome. What a relevant simulacra of what was to come.

Today the Mission is completely unrecognizable from what it used to be. Developers have been replaced all the tenements with lofts, and the sheer number of upscale restaurants and trendy bars up and down Valenica Street makes it look more like Hollywood than a place Mexican families come to try to and make it in America. I can’t help but wonder what happened to all these people?

Downtown is a fascinating paradox in and of itself…

People don’t really seem to realize how affluent our City is overall; the median income in SF is about $60,000 a year. With the cost of living so high, that means a lot of people here are ballin– hard.

The Tenderloin is bordered by the Financial District, Union Square and Nob Hill, so basically it has serious money all around it. mapofskidrowWhen I first moved to SF everyone was talking about cleaning up the Tenderloin, as it seemed a little out of place among the mansions of Pacific Heights and the major industry of the Financial District. Aside from Hunter’s Point, it was the only place I ever saw Black people. Well that’s not entirely true… I used to see Black people in the Fillmore before the City redeveloped the neighborhood, and any Black person not lucky enough to get his or herself a place in the projects (which still all sit precariously surrounded by upscale boutiques, apartments and eateries) all got moved to Hunter’s Point. I thought it was ironic that people who had lived their entire lives in a certain neighborhood could now no longer afford to live there.

I first got my taste of the Tenderloin as I was hanging out at my friend’s apartment, it was after 2 a.m. and we were enjoying bong rips on a Thursday night. We looked out the window onto Eddy Street and saw two White transgendered male-to-female sex workers smoking meth. I got some people on me for using the word tranny, so I will use transgendered male to female from now on. So anyways, I guess they needed to take the edge off, chasing the rush is never fun. A few minutes go by and we observe them shooting up so much heroin they had to massage the tar into their veins. An SUV with two Black guys pulls up, and the two transgendered male to female sex workers get in and the Black guys start fucking them. I noticed there was a small child in the back seat.

When I think of the Tenderloin I always get this image in my head. To be honest, the omnipresent wide-scale suffering and addiction amuses me, because just like any bitch who has been shat on her entire life, I take great pleasure in all of these unsavory individuals’ suffering. There’s nowhere for them to go, and even now they are all concentrated in eight square blocks. It’s interesting to watch them become more and more concentrated. In all fairness the bums, hustlers and drug dealers in the Tenderloin do actually have money, they come down to skid row when they are really down and out.

Where is there for these people to go? Not many of them are functional members of society. Even the Tenderloin has really transformed itself over the past 10 years. Since it’s one of the only affordable places to buy property every other block is nice or ghetto. There’s no middle ground. You will either be fine or you will have to wade through junkies and bums selling OCs out of their wheelchairs (which are really just a front for selling pills in the first place).

The neighborhood I’m currently in is going through a massive change. I live by Asia SF, a local drag show dining spot, which is really close to a major homeless shelter. My apartment is nestled in a strong community of about 10 drug nuisance SROs and the overpass that always wreaks of urine, even after it rains. I live in a historical building, but with all the buzz and new developments, my friends who live just a few buildings away just got their rent raised by $500.

Ironically, since the economic decline the City made all sorts of laws for new developments and Below Market Real Estate in the hopes of curbing gentrification. Does this mean inevitably I will be part of this marginalizing process? I am in the unique position of having enough money to actually buy property if I get my BMR certification.

Currently, since Mid-Market/Skid Row/SoMa (South of Market) is the only affordable place to develop, Dolby, Youtube and Twitter all just bought large buildings to bring their corporate headquarters to the neighborhood, all walking distance from each other. I can’t help but wonder what the influx of tech people (probably imported from the Silicon Valley) are going to think of their jobs and I wonder how these upperclass white people are going to enjoy all the shit and uncapped needles all over the streets.