A group of small businesses, nonprofits and residents on the 100 block of Eddy Street are collecting signatures for a petition to have metered parking spots on the northern side of Eddy Street between Mason and Taylor removed to “disrupt the drug activity that uses these parked cars to hide drug sales and use.”
“Almost all of the stakeholders on the block have been meeting for almost a year to try to take more ownership of the block as a group so we can send a message to some of the visitors on the block who were doing things that we’re not finding constructive," said Doug Gary, director of Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing, which runs the Empress Hotel at 144 Eddy St. "And we’d rather they stop doing that on our block."
Since a shooting on March 23rd of last year that injured seven people on the 00-99 block of Turk, “a lot of the bad actors from that block moved to the 100 block of Eddy Street,” Gary said. “So we saw a big uptick in open and less open drug dealing and a number of people who don’t live in the Tenderloin, maybe from the East Bay, who are coming to participate in illegal and unwelcome activity. That included intimidating people who live and work on the block.”
Concerned about the changes on their block, the group was introduced to the “Take Back Effort” by Tenderloin Police Captain Jason Cherniss, and have been engaging in a variety of “community policing” tactics.
“We felt like we had to do something,” Gary said. “It’s great to call the police when something happens, but as a community, we can do even more."
"One thing we’ve been doing since probably mid last year is that at 2pm every weekday afternoon, everybody comes out of their storefront to have a presence,” he said. Some shops sweep or simply wave at one another. The Empress Hotel uses the time to tend the community’s garden.
“It’s pretty cool seeing all of these different stakeholders coming together for a shared desire of what the block could look like,” Gary said.
Now the group is preparing to engage the city on another solution.
“We feel like if we can get rid of parking on that side of the block as a temporary measure and see if it works, then it will decrease a lot of that activity. Both because we’re seeing people hide behind cars and trucks on the street for drug dealing, for games of dice and other activities that generate the kind of activity we don’t want on the block,” Gary said. “And it’ll also give clearer sight lines for us and for the police to see what’s happening.”
“The 0-99 block of Turk Street did that as one of their responses to some of the crime that was happening and it did definitely make a big difference,” he added.
Do crime statistics show that the parking removal on Turk in the Tenderloin works to deter crime?
It’s difficult to measure, Captain Cherniss said. Crime statistics are not a good indicator of the problem. A baseline could not be measured using crime statistics as people don't typically call the cops for problems like a dealer using his grandmother’s handicap placard and parking his car all day on Turk for cover. Instead, anecdotal evidence collected with the help of the SRO Collaborative was used as support.
The shooting on Turk Street also complicated the department’s ability to measure the parking removal trial’s effectiveness after the fact, Captain Cherniss said. The shooting occurred about a month after the parking ban was implemented, which led to Police Chief Greg Suhr requiring two police officers on the block 24/7.
Statistics aside, Gary has seen a noticeable difference on the 100 block of Eddy since stakeholders on the street came out. “It’s very clear that people who know the block, either because they live and work there or because they are there doing these other things regularly, just know that there’s a different feel because there’s a sense of ownership now,” he said.
“I think there is that sense that people have about the Tenderloin that it has a lot of crime and that it’s intractable,” he said. “I don’t think it has as much crime as people think and it’s absolutely changeable. And I feel like this block is doing everything it can to make sure people understand that.”
Once the petition reaches its signature goal, the group will deliver it to Supervisor Jane Kim and Captain Cherniss — who “have been great in their support for everyone who wants to see the change”, Gary said — for assistance navigating the process with the SFMTA.
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