The Story
San Francisco’s notorious Tenderloin district houses a diverse + vibrant community comprised of artists, students, families, and perhaps most notably, the city’s largest homeless population [63%]. The current homeless residents [4,191] have limited or no access to basic urban rights such as proper sanitation, adequate shelter, and privacy. With housing options already scarce, residents are faced with a particular disadvantage when trying to move from the shelter or street, as many lack the required qualifications to be considered. Gentrification of the surrounding areas threatens to push residents out of the Tenderloin altogether.

Despite these obstacles, a resourceful community + dynamic culture exists amongst current residents. To displace homeless and low-income residents of the Tenderloin would be to deprive an already marginalized community of their main support system. For this proposal, displacement of current residents is not an option.

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Moving Forward
Opt[in] is a response to the socio-economic reality of the Tenderloin by using social capital as the driving force. Our emergent, community-based model aims to activate residents of the TL through the revitalization and retrofitting of existing infrastructure in an effort to preserve San Francisco’s historic urban fabric. Similar to a college campus, we propose a one card system that connects residents to all basic services and amenities [food, shelter, healthcare + sanitation] within their chosen neighborhood block. We aim to create a diverse social ecosystem where all residents can thrive.

Our Vision
Aiming to highlight the existing diverse culture of the Tenderloin today, Opt[in] perpetuates a community-driven platform for sustainable urban growth. Our team proposes the development of a strategic masterplan to gradually retrofit + redevelop existing infrastructure, while investing in social capital + quality of the built environment.

Opt[in] offers the unique opportunity for people to congregate, learn, share, + create together in the public realm. We aim to facilitate a democratic process of reshaping and activating public spaces with vibrant community-based participatory design. Central to this approach is knowledge in the making and public space stewardship, which emphasizes shared experience, collective creation, and ownership. As a resident of Opt[in], one becomes the curator of the public realm while facilitating the organic, long-term growth of the Tenderloin.

With the idea of displacement not being an option, Opt[in] serves as a model to connect existing + future residents to readily available resources within the community. Throughout its history, the Tenderloin has been an area disconnected from San Francisco as a whole. Opt[in] demonstrates how an area that was once isolated, can be transformed into a model for sustainability by activating the area’s largest asset – its people. With basic tools + knowledge provided, Opt[in] fosters the opportunity for residents to build a neighbourhood in which they have the ability to thrive. We aim to give the marginalized residents of the Tenderloin a role in shaping their own lives- the way they see fit. Our hope is to not address the “problem” that is the Tenderloin but to build upon its rich history, diverse culture, + historical infrastructure.