The Tenderloin Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

Randy Shaw (Author)


Publisher: Urban Reality Press
Format: Book
Binding: pb
Pages: 280
Released: April 16, 2015
ISBN-13: 9780692327234

America once had many Tenderloin neighborhoods. Today, San Francisco’s Tenderloin is the last. Surrounded by Union Square’s posh retailers to the north, upscale Hayes Valley to the west and the Twitter/Mid-Market tech scene and affluent SOMA to the south, San Francisco’s Tenderloin remains a primarily low-income, ethnically diverse neighborhood in a city of vast wealth. How has it survived?

Randy Shaw answers this question in his long awaited new book, The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco. Shaw, who has worked in the Tenderloin for 35 years and published four prior books including The Activist’s Handbook, traces the mystery of the Tenderloin’s survival from its post-quake rebuilding in 1907 through today. What he discovers challenges longstanding assumptions about urban neighborhoods. Not only does the Tenderloin show that residents can act to avoid the “inevitability” of urban gentrification, but also that low-income communities can enjoy the benefits of neighborhood improvements without these becoming a harbinger of displacement.

The Tenderloin is a must read for anyone concerned about the future of urban neighborhoods. It offers a new model and roadmap for neighborhood improvement that defies common assumptions about how big cities can maintain economic diversity in the 21st Century.

Named for a part of the city where bribes bought police the highest-grade beef, San Francisco’s Tenderloin is the last of many such neighborhoods once found across the United States. Shaw shows that for nearly a century the Tenderloin has fought against the establishment time and time again. And often won. Shaw shows how those outside the mainstream —independent working women, gay men, “screaming queens” activist SRO hotel tenants and many others — led these struggles. Once known for “girls, gambling and graft,” the Tenderloin was also fertile ground for the Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, Dashiell Hammett and other cultural icons. The Tenderloin is the untold story of a neighborhood that persisted against all odds. It is a must read for everyone concerned about the future of urban neighborhoods

“A lively and opinionated history of one of the most fascinating neighborhoods in the world, San Francisco’s Tenderloin, by a man who has been on its gritty front lines for 35 years. Even if you think you know this unique urban time capsule, Randy Shaw’s book will surprise and inform you.”
—Gary Kamiya, author of Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco

“In ‘The Tenderloin’ Randy Shaw offers an incisive history of one of the nation’s most underappreciated neighborhoods. From its wild swings through vice and repression, surprising presence at the heart of the domestic Cold War, unique role as the locale where today’s transgender movement began out of a strange mix of federal anti-poverty programs and faith-based political organizing, and as the landing pad for refugees from U.S. wars in Southeast Asia, San Francisco’s Tenderloin is an historic neighborhood whose stories unfold at an astonishing pace. Shaw’s thoroughly documented, and profusely illustrated work will be a basic resource for scholars and urban investigators for years to come.”
—Chris Carlsson, co-director Shaping San Francisco, editor of Reclaiming San Francisco and Ten Years That Shook the City: San Francisco 1968-78

About the author
Randy Shaw is the author of four previous books. He is the Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, San Francisco’s leading provider of housing for homeless single adults. Shaw is also Editor of, a daily alternative news site. Shaw is also the Director of Uptown Tenderloin Inc., which led the effort to create the national Uptown Tenderloin Historic District.

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