Every week we bring you Urbane Studies, a regulary feature in which our Tenderloin correspondent digs out the finer points of city lore on individual street corners. This week: a doomed park, a financial institution and a love-hate relationship with authority at Jones & Eddy.
It’s a funny thing, memory. We were initially excited about this set of corners because this was where we’d have the opportunity to sing the praises of the Magic Dollar Store. Plastic things! Cheap things! Things that no one needs, but at this price you can't afford not to buy! But no, the Magic Dollar Store is technically not on the corner directly across the street from Boeddeker Park. Instead, pride of place goes to ...a credit union. Fair enough, we’ve had our fling with dollar stores, it's just that credit unions aren't that sexy.
But in the right lighting, credit unions have their distinct appeal.
In what many would consider control group city environs (e.g., not the “scary Tenderloin”), you’ll find many a corner anchored with financial institutions, lately the cold, blue glow of a recently installed Chase. If you’ve been following our eastward progress from Larkin Street, you’ll note that we haven’t reported on a single bank, not unless you consider ATMs in liquor stores to be financial institutions (ones where your hidden fees amount to a 40 of King Cobra). We managed to completely overlook the Northeast Community Federal Credit Union, proving we've still a thing or three to learn. As befits an organization this deep in the TL, NCFCU specializes in offering financial services for the underserved, building credit for those who need it most. This branch is one of three, the triad rounded out by Chinatown and South of Market branches.
Chinatown is home to many financial institutions, but few focus on the welfare of the individual, while SOMA, like the Tenderloin, has largely been the provenance of shady check cashing businesses. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has walked through the neighborhood that instant payday ventures are ruthlessly predatory on the poor, but there’s hope yet, as legislation has finally begun to pay off in the right way (and yet, in a kinda wrong way).
Boeddeker Park is the sort of rambling, easy-going expanse that one might find in a self-policed neighborhood full of hawk-eyed mothers and park-sitters. Unfortunately, its placement in the Tenderloin allows that it’s almost never open, despite being located diagonally from the Tenderloin Police Station. In the news recently for being the worst park in San Francisco, we’ve been keeping an eye out for all that sweet public funding that updated the Mission’s playgrounds--it's coming, but not soon enough.
Named for Father Alfred E. Boeddeker, the great humanitarian responsible in large part for programs like the St. Anthony Dining Room, it was originally opened as Central City Park in 1978. Primarily functioning as a cage to keep green space in and people out,the site was developed by Marin landscape architects in 1985, and then redesigned, implementing changes that didn’t take into account “comments in a report from city park staff that stated the original design of the park was problematic in itself.”
Given extant line of sight issues that foster crime, the park will be gutted, the clubhouse rebuilt: heartening news to anyone who saw the park as a missed opportunity botched by top-down urban planning. That it is the largest open space in the Tenderloin--and that a successful project could prove naysayers wrong--makes it major factor in community rehabilitation.
What else don't you know about the park? Few fans of Ruth Asawa may be aware that the sculpture, Redding School, Self Portrait, created with children from that school, had been commissioned for the site. The playground within the park was named after Sergeant Kenneth Sugrue, the sort of cop that makes a difference in a hard-to-love place. And thanks to the Uptown Tenderloin Museum's historical marker set in the sidewalk, passerby can imagine the site as it once was: a pleasure palace and a testament to the fickle fashions of time. One minute it’s a theatre, next a rollerskating rink, then it’s a bowling alley: what’ll these kids want to get up to next?
Surely, the kids across the street at San Francisco City Academy just want a place to play. While the Tenderloin is home to at least 4,000 children, this private elementary school hosts just fewer than 100 students, most of whom receive scholarships. Being situated where it is, you can imagine there are challenges (a nice word for it). Looking at what’s at stake in cost of education, SFCA's weekly operating budget is about $4,000. For a private institution to run on so meager a sum, this amounts to miracle work. And, given that this is a Catholic school, it may well be just that.
The last word on the intersection goes to the Tenderloin Police Station. With a caveat.
Having grown up in a certain era with skateboarding punks, most of our friends had ample opportunity to scrutinize the hood of a black and white cruiser; a few even got rides. Yet it's too easy to generalize, as is the case with much of the TL, which is why we have to give a tip of the hat to the SFPD and their efforts to minimize the dangers that come with the territory. If you’ve complained about what they’re not doing, consider what happens in their absence. And of course they do work, despite comments to the contrary. So go ahead, complain--but remember, SFPD is always hiring.
Previously: All Urbane Studies posts on SFist