Tenderloin was tough in the 1980s, but not like today

When I graduated from Princeton in 1981, there were two things I wanted to do: make a living as a writer and live in the city where I was born.

That was San Francisco.

During some summers during my college years, I worked for a family-owned car rental company headquartered on O’Farrell Street in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco.

I also worked there my first two years out of college.

During that time, I moved to the Tenderloin from the Marin County seat of San Rafael, where I was living with my parents in the house I grew up in.

While San Rafael and the Tenderloin were within walking distance of each other, they were as culturally distinct as two places in the Bay Area.

San Rafael was the model of the American suburb. Its tree-lined residential streets were lined with beautiful old Victorian and Tudor houses. Its Main Street — occupied by small, family-owned businesses — was so iconic that it became a featured location in “American Graffiti,” the movie about high school kids that launched George Lucas’ legendary film career.

In contrast, the Tenderloin had no trees. But it had a number of disheveled men, some of whom seemed to be engaged in disreputable enterprises.

It was indisputably one of San Francisco’s roughest neighborhoods.

But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, homeless encampments weren’t clogging the sidewalks there. This is not the case today.

The Daily Mail ran a story this week that appeared in the Drudge Report. It was headlined: “San Francisco worker posts terrifying parade of drug-addicted homeless people passed out on the sidewalk in the city’s Tenderloin District.”

“TikToker ‘Freqmeek’ captured the pre-dawn terror as she gingerly made her way through dozens of desperate addicts in the Tenderloin District,” the Daily Mail reported.

“There are a lot of concerns and protections in place for drug users and the homeless, but what about the working class who have to pray to get to and from work in this environment,” the Daily Mail quoted the TikToker as saying.

The report included a photo of people camping on the sidewalk.

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman, as the Daily Mail noted, sent messages on X (formerly Twitter) that cited San Francisco and Los Angeles as examples of why she wanted to ban people from sleeping in tents on the streets of Great Britain.

“No one in Britain should be living in a tent on our streets,” Braverman said.

“Unless we intervene to stop this, British cities will go the same way as places in the US like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where weak policies have led to an explosion in crime, drug use and misery,” she said.

What happened to San Francisco since the 1980s? Did he fall into poverty?

Quite the opposite: it has become a richer city.

According to Census Bureau data published online by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the median household income in San Francisco in 1989 was $30,166 (equivalent to $74,278 in September 2023 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator). In 2021, according to this data published by the Federal Reserve, it amounted to $119,776.

However, San Francisco’s homelessness rate has risen even as median household incomes have risen. According to biannual surveys conducted by the city under the guidance of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were 5,404 homeless people in San Francisco in 2005. By 2013, that number had risen to 7,008. In 2019, it reached 8,035. Then, in 2022, it dropped slightly. To 7754.

How does one of the richest counties in the United States have a neighborhood where people sleep on the sidewalks?

The people who run the city and are responsible for enforcing the laws there allowed this to happen.

The homeless must be placed in shelters, the mentally ill must be properly cared for, and criminals must be tried and fairly punished for their crimes.

A city and state that leaves homeless, helpless, and criminals on the street does not help them nor help innocent citizens who must deal with them alone.


The Daily Signal publishes a variety of viewpoints. Nothing written here should be construed as representing the views of the Heritage Foundation.

Do you have an opinion about this article? To cast your vote, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we will consider publishing your edited feedback in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the URL or title of the article as well as your name, town, and/or state.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *