When I was a kid growing up in the Tenderloin, I learned very early on that my neighborhood was different from other neighborhoods in San Francisco. It wasn’t until I was in high school where I learned that what I meant by ‘different’ was disinvested in. I went to schools across the city where I was exposed to things my neighborhood didn’t have — things like healthy grocery stores, open space, and a surplus of school options.
There are roughly 3,500 children growing up in the Tenderloin today that see these same disparities as they travel across the city for resources that are scarce in their own community. Now, my five-year old niece is one of those kids. When we go to Golden Gate Park she always asks me why there are no big parks near her home in the Tenderloin. Children in the Tenderloin deserve access to a healthy community where they can thrive as much as any child in other parts of SF and our city leaders should look to them for those solutions.
Unfortunately, we know that youth often don’t have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions. So, when we kicked-off our campaign to develop alternatives to traffic enforcement, we needed to lean into this community and hear from the Tenderloin’s youngest leaders. Young people have ideas and solutions to the challenges they’re facing, and we’ve seen numerous examples of young people leading campaigns that create good for entire communities.
In early February, we partnered with the SF Youth Commission — a body of 17 youth leaders appointed by District Supervisors and the Mayor to advise city leaders on policies related to young people and to explore community alternatives for traffic safety. The focus group was facilitated by two of their members: District 5 representative Nora Hylton and District 6 representative Gabbie Listana. Over an hour on Zoom, youth from Westbay Filipino Center, United Playaz, YBIKE, and other youth organizations shared their traffic safety concerns and ideas they’d like to see implemented in the Tenderloin.
Tenderloin Community Benefit District’s (TLCBD) Safe Passage program was an example of a community-based alternative to traffic safety. It was created in 2008 by a group of mothers who came together to find new ways to keep their children safe while walking through the neighborhood. More than ten years later, Safe Passage has become a coalition of mothers, youth, seniors, volunteers and community based organizations who work to make people in the neighborhood feel and be safe through education, visibility, and engagement.
Commissioner Listana, currently in seventh grade, said, “Speeding is my biggest traffic safety issue.” In the discussion about community alternatives, Commissioner Listana shared, “Growing up in the Tenderloin, I was part of TLCBD’s Safe Passage program and I love how the program builds trust within the community through volunteers from the community.”
The voices of our youth are powerful, and as adults it is our job to make space for young people to be involved in creating our future. As we wrap up our community engagement process, we’ll be speaking with more youth in the community about what traffic safety alternatives they think will work in their neighborhood.
If you’re someone who lives or works in the Tenderloin, take our survey today. We’ll be presenting our findings in the coming months — sign up for updates to keep up with our Tenderloin Community Alternatives to Policing in traffic enforcement campaign.