Tenderloin Listed as Federal Historic District

One of San Francisco's most notoriously downtrodden neighborhoods has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places, a distinction that — in addition to giving the neighborhood some welcome positive attention — brings the potential for federal tax credits on building renovations.

The National Park Service (NPS) on Friday announced that “all or part” of 33 blocks in the Tenderloin had been designated a historic district. The announcement capped a years-long effort by those who live or work in the Tenderloin to earn the federal listing for the neighborhood. Last July, the State Historical Resources Commission created a Tenderloin historic district, setting the stage for federal designation.

“I think it's a great accomplishment,” said Dina Hilliard, a neighborhood activist. “I think it will make people look twice at the Tenderloin.”

Those who walk the streets of the inner-city neighborhood today might not be immediately impressed by its historic qualities. The Tenderloin is still home to densely clustered and often beautiful high-rises built after the devastation of the 1906 earthquake, but has become a sanctuary for drug dealers, addicts, and the homeless. It also has an inordinately high concentration of social services, with more than 80 service agencies operating within 50 square blocks.

In this respect, the Tenderloin differs from some of its counterparts on the National Register; other listings announced Friday included the Cooper Cabin in California's Stanislaus National Forest and the Valley Field Riding and Polo Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. The federal listing probably won't matter much for those seeking to address the neighborhood's chronic problems, such as its rampant drug trade. That doesn't mean the TL, as its residents call it, can't enjoy some time in the spotlight alongside less menacing locales.

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