Areas to Avoid, San Francisco
I'm traveling through South America and having heard many first-hand accounts of theft and robbery, came on here initially to check out warnings for Quito. I didn't want to freak myself out so I moseyed on over to the San Francisco warning page to see what people had to say about a city I knew just to help gain some perspective.
First let's agree that any city, particularly big cities and particularly in areas with income disparities, there is a higher level of danger that requires caution paired with common sense.
Here's what I will tell you about the Tenderloin. If you want to see San Francisco, you can't avoid it altogether. It's right in the heart of this city and takes you into some beautiful neighborhoods, plus the TL has some amazing gastronomical offerings. Many hotels are based in or around here because it is so central to the things you want to see.
Don't let fear ruin your experience, but also don't be careless.
When leaving your hotel, know where you're going and don't look like a lost tourist. Get a map, study it, know which streets to avoid at night and don't go on those streets. If you must go down some sketchy streets, walk with big-city attitude and confidence. Understand that neighborhoods in SF can go from posh to hellish in about one block flat. Again, try and know where you're going. If you don't, take a cab.
Don't take more money than you need. Don't be flashy with jewelry or other personal belongings.
Ignore the crazies. No good comes of dealing with irrational people.
Watch your bags on buses. Don't get distracted or zone out.
A native New Yorker, who is well-traveled in the United States and world, I lived in San Francisco for a few months in 2008. It was my first time going to San Francisco. I traveled there for a job and wanted to try out San Francisco to see if I would like living on the West Coast. Having lived in New York my entire life, I had never been so afraid for my safety before. My father traveled to San Francisco with me initially - he too also lived in New York since the early 1970s and as a former Marine, he too also felt unsafe in San Francisco. I was working in the Tenderloin so I had to commute there everyday and would sometimes venture out for lunch. Fortunately, the area of Golden Gate Avenue I worked near was not terrible because it was a business area in the day, but I would recommend do NOT venture further east into the TL on Golden Gate Avenue past Van Ness INCLUDING during the daytime. In the TL, you will see the same crackheads daily asking for money, I saw a pregnant prostitute on the corner near the KFC soliciting for men, you see people shooting up drugs in broad daylight and the poverty is on another level. One day I missed my bus stop on my way to work in the morning, and ended up deep in the heart of the tenderloin. The bus let me off not to far from the Glade Memorial Church (featured in Pursuit of Happyness) and there a lot of people and homeless milling the streets in the morning looking for trouble. My father one day after leaving me near my work office walked the "wrong way" and saw a line of black men (we are also black) staring at him in a menacing way, wondering why he was new to their hood. He quickly and frighteningly walked out of that area. The area near the Macy's on Market Street is also very sketchy and if waiting by anyone near the Macy's or the mall (Civic Center/TL/SOMA), just be aware of your surroundings and try not to wait too close to Golden Gate Avenue. At night in the Tenderloin, you will see and hear police sirens, prostitutes screaming, broken bottles and other noisy activity.
When I initially moved to San Francisco, it was to stay with family in the Bayview's/Hunter's Point Area. Like I said earlier, this was my first time venturing out into SF. Bayview was the worst neighborhood I had been in my entire life. There were bullet holes in the Bus station glass, blood stains from murders on storefront sidewalks, crackheads and drug addicts galore, and it is not safe as a young woman to walk Anywhere alone - not even to Walgreens, to a store, restaurant, nor barely even to catch the city train. Believe me when I say after a few days, I moved right out of that area and into Inner Richmond which is a more expensive area, but I rather be safe than fear for my life every morning when going to work or trying to enjoy myself as a young person in a new city. Cars are broken into as a normal occurrence; radios are stolen; and car parts. I would also avoid the Western Addition and Fillmore areas which while I was staying here had murders frequently on certain blocks and you would not want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the Financial District one night, I saw a homeless man yell at two tourists who were retrieving money from an ATM machine because they would not give him any money. The tourists were shocked and did not seem to know it was a bad idea to take money out (even in a "good area" of San Francisco) after dark. I don't know if they eventually gave him some or all of their money.
Some SF residents are in denial about how unsafe their city is compared with other major cities in the USA. New York City is like Disneyland in terms of how safe you feel on a day to day basis as compared with San Francisco. I guess in NYC you have more options as to which areas you frequent and larger portions are the city are very safe with a small minority of neighborhoods in the extreme, but in SF, the crime is block-by-block and unsuspecting tourists or newcomers have no idea what they are in for. Needless to say, I decided San Francisco was not the city for me.
If you are planning on having a good time (safe and pleasant) in SF, watch out for both criminals and cops alike. Neither the cops nor the criminals have any good intention. Both want your money, lots of it. The cops in American cities have turned out to be no less dangerous than the criminals. In fact, they are worse because they hide behind the badge to rob you. The cops have been known to write citations left and write, right or wrong. They don't care. They just want money. And if you are a tourist, they know you don't have time to fight in court. So they write you a ticket for any thing in the book and expect you to pay for it. These days, a typical ticket costs at least $150 for the minimum infraction.
The best way to enjoy your vacation is to stay away from American cities. Go to Canada instead. It's more civilized there. Don't even think of Mexico unless you are in a suicidal mood.
I grew up in Los Angeles, lived in Paris and NYC for about 2-3 years each but finally settled in SF. Since San Francisco has a high population in a condensed area, I've noticed a lot more crime than usual. I've witnessed a murder in Lower Nob hill Jones&California, automobile vandalized explosions in front of my house in Chinatown. I got pick pocketed, my friends all have been robbed (iphones usually haha), threatened, followed and chased by crazies near union square/nobhill/tenderloin/soma. All this happened within the first two years, but people are usually harmless - knock on wood. After five years you get use to it and you blend in by dressing ghetto or in a hoodie.
Unfortunate events can happen anywhere at any time so I guess you just have to be careful. You can develop a shared physiological disorder if you stay too long. A lot of night life and bars are in or near the TL.
A tranny gypsy on crack cursed me today, "I hope you get chained in front of a truck and die, you will burn in hell" because I didn't have change on me :( The authorities should try harder to clean it up, it is a lovely city, my favorite city in the U.S. Too much freedom leads too chaos.
If your not from San Francisco don't listen to people about having a "real" San Francisco experience by visiting the Tenderloin. I doubt your going to get assaulted like one person said, but the area is a complete waste of time mostly. A Swiss tourist ahead of me asked the hotel clerk what areas to avoid and he heavily shaded much of this area for a reason. I walked through there once and I couldn't walk through fast enough. In a period of about 10 minutes while I was speed walking I witnessed one person shooting up, a tree that was obviously drowning in human feces and a guy taking a toilet break out of his car window in broad daylight. If your idea of the "real" non tourist experience is seeing this kind of thing knock yourself out. But stop telling tourists and people not from San Francisco to visit the Tenderloin. Really stupid idea. Native people never like to talk bad about their city but let's face it this is a really nasty neighborhood (at leasts parts of it) and just because someone doesn't want to see the plight of society on their vacation doesn't mean they don't care about these people. This has nothing to do with sympathy. I have traveled all over America and I don't recall ever being in a worse neighborhood than this one. I've been in Compton, South Chicago, East St. Louis, The Bronx, Atlanta among other places and nowhere seemed worse than this part of San Francisco. It's not just about being in danger of being shot. This area is not a museum for people to gawk at. It's people at their worst and should not be considered a tourist attraction. Tell it like it is. There are plenty of great diverse neighborhoods in San Francisco to visit. You don't have to go walk through this area to call yourself sympathetic.
For the record I was not born but raised in San Francisco since I was about 2 years old and while there are areas to avoid, the Tenderloin is not one of them. I was raised in the Richmond/Sunset Districts. When I turned 16 my father lost his job. Subsequently we lived in the Tenderloin till I was 19 and it honestly made me appreciate what little we had even more. Yes there are a ton of homeless people that live there including the occasional drug dealer selling to the bridge and tunnel crew kid but I don't think this is anything different than the normal activity in any other city. I can say that because I lived in New York NY from age 20 to 25 and Atlanta Georgia from 25 to 30. There are a ton of different activities ranging from the Theater, bars, night clubs, massage parlors, late night diners and more. If you want to really see what San Francisco is about then head to the Tenderloin/Theater/Union Square neighborhoods and I promise you will not be disappointed.
Walking on Van Ness Ave. and at the corner of Post St. just this past Wed. May 11th, my daughter and I got assaulted, randomly and out of the blue. A large, approx. 6ft tall man of about 200lbs came up behind us and grabbed me by the back of my hair and pulled me to the ground. I was unable to get up as he continued to wrench my head back and forth and drag me all over the side walk while my tiny little 5ft 100lb daugther tried to fight him off me. She too got thrown to the ground by her hair. This was a mother and daughter trip to celebrate my daughters 21st birthday. Nice birthday. This was at 12:30 PM, mid afternoon, in broad daylight and on a busy street with many apathetic bystanders who just stood by and watched. Luckily we were able to get away with only minor injuries but a very bad impression of SF. He sauntered off and no one did anything to stop him. He is still out there. This was the most terrifying experience of our lives but what was even more disturbing was the lack of interest or help of those witnessing this assault. So very glad I don't live in that city. This was my 3rd time visiting. There will most definately never be a 4th. Umm......Napa Valley sounds pretty good to me.
I'm a 4th generation native San Franciscan and I will never live anywhere else. There are a lot of posts on here warning potential visitors that certain areas and people should be avoided. I am a white female (and short - only 5'3") and I can honestly tell you that I have NEVER avoided any part of the Tenderloin, or any of its residents. It is NOT a violent or gang filled neighborhood, but it is an extremely poor, and often neglected neighborhood, most of the people who live there fall in to one of these categories...drug addicts, recent arrivals, runaways, homeless and the mentally unstable. If anything, it is a sad neighborhood filled with people who could use a little help. One of the most famous churches in the United States, Glide Memorial was featured predominantly in the "Persuit of happyness" movie, and serves over 2,000 hungry residents EVERYDAY from its cafeteria, in the heart of the Tenderloin.
We live in a city that is only 7 miles x 7 miles, yet has over 700,000 residents. Because of this, the lines between neighborhoods can easily be blurred. In just a short 5 or 6 minute walk you can go from being in front of a multi level millionaire mansion to standing infront of a hotel that is rented by the hour and is a known drug use hangout. If you can't feel sympathy for people who are struggling, or you can't ignore the loud argument between a couple of homeless people, maybe you should head straight for the Napa Valley instead...
Okay, I have visited SF for many years and all of this talk about 'The Tenderloin' is silly. If you are that terrified of it, you may wanna skip SF all together... in fact just forget about any urban area. You will find all sorts of crazies all over SF or any major city. Just stay home and watch American Idol and Law & Order. REAL people live in that area and the LARGEST concentration of families in the city. If you can't handle reality, stay out of it.
I had originally booked a hotel stay online at the Renoir hotel in the Tenderloin district. I only did my research (mainly reading reviews from other travelers) on the discount travel site. This was very stupid of me. The site must post fake reviews. The price for one week seemed to good to be true. After booking the trip I realized I had booked a stay at one of the trashiest hotels in California. After reading countless horrible/scary and some quite funny reviews on tripadvisor I called and canceled the stay. I was not about to stay in the "red light district" full of prostitutes, strip clubs and crack dealers. We were out $800 and had to book a second hotel in Union Square. By the way, this was not my first trip to San Francisco but I had formerly stayed years before with a boyfriend's family member near Golden Gate park which is a very different area.
The hotel in Union Square was nice and clean but was only a couple of blocks from the Tenderloin. We accidentally walked towards that area one evening and I was scared and turned right back. I had a homeless man scream at me for a couple of minutes outside a liquor store while waiting for my husband. This happened after being in San Francisco for less than 1 hour. There is great shopping and restaurants in the area in the daytime but should be avoided at night if female and not familiar with the area.
There are lots of good bars, cheap eats and inexpensive hotels in this part of the city. In addition to these attractions you will find strip clubs, massage parlours, prostitutes, junkies and other undesirables. This are should be completely avoided but be sure to use extra caution after dark and travel in a group if you can. You should have no problems if you stay aware. See the link below to an article on the Tenderloin from the SF Gate.
Going to San Francisco is a great time. Enjoy your time there, just watch your surrondings. San Francisco is a pretty safe city, during the day. I would not recommend walking around at night, unless your going to the SF Giants game. Its best to drive in the city at night, mainly because it gets really really dark in the city.
I am recently single and wanted to take a trip for the weekend. Booked at the Parc 55 which is in Union Square. After reading all of these reviews on the danger in SF I almost want to cancel my trip. Is it really that bad outside my hotel?
I've lived in New York and outside of San Francisco as well for many years now. Tourists who come to the Union Square District don't realize that if you go off a block or two, you're in one of the worst crack-ridden districts I've been too. Frankly, I've felt safer in Harlem. Now, I know San Francisco like the back of my hand and have visited hundreds and hundreds of times. I will no longer go to anywhere in the Tenderloin, because at 8 pm on a weekday night, with five friends, I was mugged at gunpoint by a crack dealer. He asked me for a dollar, and I tried to ignore him. My mistake. He took off with the $80 I had in my wallet; this was between Eddy and Turk, I think on Mason. Then, in broad daylight two years later, a friend was living there and went to pick her up. Parked on the street for about ten minutes. Had my windshield smashed in. Also, broke down there after vowing to avoid it completely. It was early evening, barely dark out, again I was on Turk. Was coming from a party, fairly dressed up, and my cell was out of battery. Didn't want to abandon my car because it was in front of a hydrant. So I decided to try to find someone with a cell phone to call a tow truck, without wandering any distance. I literally was solicited for paid sex like ten times in about 45 minutes. Ignored it. Stay OUT of this district. It's littered with crack-heads, there are dirty syringes in the streets, and yes, people can be violent. The last time I was there was perhaps a month ago, driving through from the airport, and some delightful man threw a bottle at my car at a stop light - thankfully he missed.
I also was sexually assaulted once, very minorly, on Haight Street by a young junkie, with several friends. We were in front of the music store, gearing up to go to a concert. He was sitting down. Didn't notice him. He put his hand right up my skirt. This resulted in one of my friends threatening him, which was a poor call, because in two seconds, there were like fifteen screaming junkies with dogs surrounding us. We went into the store and called the cops. Haight isn't all that bad, normally, particularly in the daytime. That was really kind of a fluke. But there are a lot of folks on drugs there, so be forewarned. The Tenderloin is filled with aggressive, impoverished crack heads, and after the bottle, I'll go around on 19th from the airport next time.
I've never had any problems like that in anywhere in the world (at least being mugged), and have only been a little creeped out in Jamaica once, in Oakland (it's a lot like the Tenderloin in parts), and in West Hollywood, where I stayed in the only hotel we could find, which was raided at 2 am. So much for budget travel! :)
Really, if you're coming to San Francisco, please be really careful and stay out of the Tenderloin; it's blocks from Union Square -- if you have any problems, duck into a store, or turn around and walk back the way you came and find a better route. Also, parts of Market Street (below that area) can have the same vibe. The rest of SF feels totally safe to me, and like mentioned, been in a few hundred times.
I've been reading a lot of stuff on here about the Tenderloin area of SF and I feel I need to defend it a little.
Ok, I'm from Manchester UK, and despite being from a somewhat middle-class background, I'm used to seeing the homeless/street crime just like in any major city.
The area is not exactly a tourist's dream in a sense of yes it has a sizeable homeless population and a quirky subculture of drinkers, drug addicts and prostitutes. However, I think that made the area more enjoyable in some sense, I mean it was pretty amusing listening to some conversations and watching elderly women asking for single condoms in liquor stores. At first I was a little taken aback but the homeless don't bother you except to ask for money and if you give a polite 'sorry' with eye contact avoidance there's no problem.
Basically, this area is like any less affluent area if a major city. Just use common sense! 9 times out of 10 if you don't bother them, they aren't interested in you. I think a lot of these comments are due to ignorance or lack of familiarity with big city life. Here's some things to consider - mental illness is not associated with violence nor does it make people dangerous (drug/alcohol abuse does however). Most of these problems are associated with poverty.
Basically, with common sense in tow, the area is fine and offers a quirky insight into the real downtown SF, not the disneyland SF that rich politicians would like you to see. The only real bummer was the $20 a day parking (please do park in a lot not on the street).
If you want to experience the world and live then you have to brave the real world. If you stick to places like Union Square then you end up spending thousands just visiting what is basically the same city, just in different places all over the world.
In conclusion, if you want a cheap, clean room surrounded by quirk in an expensive city and aren't a total snob, tenderloin is A OK. If you're rich and living off a trust fund and only want to see Saks and Tiffany's . . . avoid.