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A few spots to be wary of
I've lived in SF most of my adult life. San Francisco is a relatively safe city, and, with common sense you should be just fine. Most of the places you're likely to go as a tourist are safe. However, here's a few places you should avoid.
Hunters Point/Bayview - Never EVER go to the HP. Day or night it is extremely dangerous. Fotrunately, it's hard to get lost there - few buses go there, so it' unlikely you'll wind up there by mistake. There's only ONE reason, as a tourist, that you would go there, and that's to see the 49ers at 3Com. Stick to the main exits and don't try to drive thru the 'hood.
Tenderloin - The TL isn't as bad as it used to be, but it should still be avoided at night. Some parts of it, like Turk Street just north of Market, should always be avoided. The bad blocks are pretty obvious - if it looks bad, turn around and find a different way.
Market & 6th - This is one of the scummiest blocks in the city. Avoid it at all hours. SOMA from 4th Street towards downtown is relatively safe however. The main homeless area (their home) is around 7th & Market, heading towards City Hall.
Haight Ashbury - Safe during the day, but LOTS of bums - calling them "homeless" is intellectually dishonest. Expect to be panhandled mercilessly. Simply smile and say "sorry" and keep walking. Do not make eye contact with anyone you don't want to have a rambling conversation with. Junkietown - the area near Golden Gate Park at the end of Haight Street near McDonald's - should be avoided at night.
16th & Mission - a major transportation hub but also a VERY scummy block. If you take BART to the 16/Mission station, go up the escalators, on to the plaza, and keep walking! Don't loiter around the plaza; all sorts of vermin hang out here. Things improve greatly just one block away.
Be cautious in Junkietown (GGP near Haight St.)
If you go to the Haight/Ashbury, you will see lots of so-called "homeless" people. It's unfortunate that the word homeless has been used to describe this group, who are more accurately described as "bums."
Virtually all of them have alcohol and drug problems (particularly heroin), are seriously mentally ill, or both. They are rude, disrespectful, and belligerent. Any of them will resort to petty crime (or worse) in a heartbeat if they feel they can get away with it.
While some of these kids are here 'cuz they fled abusive households (especially foster children), much of the time the only "abuse" they've suffered is that they had parents who wouldn't let them run wild and take drugs all night.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU GIVE THEM ANY MONEY! This is especially true if they are threatening or belligerent! In my experience, giving money to an aggressive, belligerent person only makes them MORE belligerent!
The area they live and congregate in is called Alvord Lake, though I call it Junkietown. It is the area at the beginning of Golden Gate Park, right at the western terminus of Haight Street, near the ever-slumming McDonalds. This is really the only part of Golden Gate Park where you need to keep your wits about you. I wouldn't say it's necessarily dangerous, though it's certainly depressing and infuriating to watch young people live like animals.
And speaking of animals, be particularly careful if you have young children or pets with you. Many of these street kids have dogs - who are often meaner and dirtier than their owners. Another serious concern is used hypodermic needles; tell your kids not to pick anything up off the ground!
You should definitely avoid this area - and any unlit areas of the park - at night.
As always in dealing with homeless people, if you are threatened, followed, or harassed, go into a nearby business and CALL THE POLICE.
Unlike many in this city, I make a firm distinction between "helping the homeless" and "enabling junkies." And so should you. Thank you.
BART at Night can be a little scary
Try to stay away from the Oakland BART station at night.
It's very deserted, I mean no one around. I felt very vulnerable at 8:30 at night coming back from Berkley. On Sunday's there are no direct trains from Berkley to San Francisco, so you have to transfer at the Oakland or McCarthur station. the Oakland station did not feel safe at night. The area around the Powell BART Station also felt very precarious at best at nightime.
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Check your direction when leaving the Cow Palace.
Many events such as WWE wrestling, Ice Capades, and countless other events occur at San Francisco's Cow Palace. For a tourist, it should be told that there is a very dangerous part of the city very close by. This area is called the Sunnydale projects, or "The Swamps" as locals call it, which is located a couple of blocks north of the Cow Palace. There is the threat of drugs and gang violence, especially at night.
Avoid people who tell you not to avoid the HP
Most tourists don't go to Hunter's Point or Sunnydale for the simple reason that there is really nothing to see - certainly not compared with the rest of the City. I'm a little surprised by some of the anonymous comments on here who are seeming to say that there is no reason to worry about going to the HP. That is just plain false.
For those not aware, San Francisco is on the peak of a 3-year surge in violent crime. Most of these murders occur in the southeast of the City. Now, we can argue all day about what racial, social, and economic conditions are the reason for it. But, my dear tourist, this is NOT YOUR PROBLEM. We SF liberals are very good at guilt-tripping people into denying that certain realities exist. And one of those realities is that the southeast, particularly Hunter's Point, is a dangerous place to be. Only a FOOL would suggest otherwise!
Please do not go to Hunter's Point, and please do not let these well meaning but misguided people convince you to go to a place that is simply NOT SAFE.
Enjoy your visit!
Getting Around SF
San Francisco is a great city but like the other native SF say be aware and street smart. There are dangers lurking in isolated dark areas. Avoid Muni lines # 15 Third, 22 Fillmore, 14 Mission, these lines are crowded, rowdy, noisy and rude people, avoid sitting in the back. Sam Trans is better take the Express to downtown if you are in the outer city area. The BART Civic Center Station 7th ST. Exit is the worse, foul smelling, crazy panhandlers and drug addicts loitering around, avoid it if necessary. San Francisco is beautiful except for the scummy areas just like other big cities.
Native's area to avoid
Tenderloin is triangular area between Market, Van Ness, and stops a couple blocks before Union Square (around HIlton). Some decent hotels are in the Tenderloin, but usually up near Sutter or Post. It's the "lower" Tenderloin (Market between 6th and Van Ness) that gets the seedy reputation. The "upper" part is fine.
Not so nice section of town is around 6th and 9th and Market, as there's some adult theaters and such there. However, it's easy enough to bypass that section of town by hopping onto the various Muni vehicles that travel on (or under) Market St. and pay the $1.25 fare (per person of course).
Should you need help, there's a police station right around 6th and Market (on Eddy actually) and another one around Hotel Renoir (8th and Market) usually with several squad cars around. Or just dial 911 on any public phone.
South of Market is extremely quiet at night except around specific night clubs and such. Definitely take a cab to your destination and a cab going back.
Consider joining one of those "party bus" tours on the weekends, or even hire a limo for pickup and drop-off (it's less expensive than you think though 15-20% tip is expected).
Civic Center (around city hall, 9th and Market) is tolerable, but you may see more homeless people than you're used to in a big city. However, they are generally harmless as long as you don't gawk.
In general, tourists are not bothered unless you're just plainly UNalert for dangers. Don't stray TOO far off the beaten path and you should have a great time in San Francisco.
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Areas to watch out for...
I was born and raised in San Francisco, I'm in weak LA now, but I want to help you all know exactly where those bad spots are in the city.
First, as you all probably know the Tenderloin and South of Market (SOMA) can be very dangerous at night, but in the day they can be just as bad. Also, be on the look out for the Civic Center (Maket st area). If you haven't been to these three areas, just think of "Skid Row," because that's exactly what they are. Other bad areas are the Fillmore, Chinatown at night, Broadway can be at night, the Mission from SOMA to Daly City and on 24th st. from Mission to Potrero, Excelsior, Lakeview, Hunter's Point, Bayview, Portrero Hill, San Bruno district, Visitacion Valley and the neighborhood I grew up in, Sunnydale (the swamp). I'm not saying you will try to go to these areas in the first place, but I have traveled and I know how easy it is to get stuck in the wrong neighborhood. Also you should probably stay out Golden gate Park at night, because you my get attacked in the dark by some hobo or something. It's pretty close to Haight st. so I felt I had to tell you all that, just in case you wander in there.
Do not come to this city like most other tourist do with a naive attitude, the city can be very dangerous, trust me I know, and I didn't have to act like a tourist to find out. Just be very aware do some researching and you should have a better time than those uninformed tourists. You can email me for any questions.
- Family Travel
Visitacion Valley - It's Frightening (Part IV)
Well, it was too early for champagne. The bus made another turn and a sharply different picture stunned me. Coming from Russia and having seen some rough places out in the regions, I know what public housing looks like there and I hadn't seen anything like that in the US. Until the bus turned on that street, called Sunnydale (see the map in the picture.) This was a neighborhood of two-story, barrack-style public housing. It looked poor. It felt gloomy, even in the bright San Francisco sun. Or maybe the merry sunlight made it gloomier. There was a dilapidated building of a public aquatics center. No wall stood straight. Down the street, a group of black youths stood outside one of the barracks. They were loitering. They had nothing to do – and it was so obvious that they had little to lose. I don’t know about you, but I fear loitering people in bad neighborhoods. The thought that the bus might open its door in front of them and then they might get on filled me with terror. I could sense trouble right there in the air.
There’s not much more to say. I’m writing this; therefore, I’m alive. I had a first-hand experience of how uncomfortable _non-belonging _ is. I’m grateful to Ms. Bus 9 Driver. A competent participant of this site commented: “I don't think it matters if you’re white on the bus, because as long as the people there don't know you, there will be trouble.” Now I fully appreciate how lucky I was that nothing happened on the 15.
By the way, I stayed at Days Inn at the corner of Geneva and Bayshore that night. That’s close to Sunnydale, as you can see from the map. I felt totally safe.
Any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Use common sense.
San Francisco by far is one of the safest, most beautiful, and picturesque cities in the world, however among all the beauty, and siteseeing, is a dark side of the city. While most of the city is safe during the day, it is extremely important to use caution during the night. Stay in well lit areas and avoid smaller darker streets. Also don't go into the Tenderloin, Hunters Point, Sunnydale, Potrero Hill, parts of the Mission, and areas south of Powell and Market all the way to Civic Center and Market. This strech of Market has nothing really of interest aside from clothing stores, seedy strip clubs, and x-rated video stores, as well as homeless people, and other seedy characters. Also as mentioned above avoid HP or Hunters Point, and Potrero Hill at night since these areas are know for high crime, and homicide. In the Mission try not to wear red or blue since you might be mistaken for a rival gang member, by one of the two gangs in the area. Overall enjoy the city by the bay, stay safe, and use common sense. If you are uncomfortable in a certain area ,leave immediatly, and don't put your life at risk for no reason at all. Some places in the city are not meant for siteseeing, and are better left alone. Take care and enjoy tha 415.
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El Mission.... explained
Okay people.... Lovely San Francisco's Mission district.... It has the biggest Latino population in the city so if are looking for good Mexican food and what not this is the place to go... but as said before this isn't the greatest area... Nortenos and Surenos, the two Hispanic gangs that are in The Mission... Nortenos claim red and the number 14, X4 and also seen as XIV, and Surenos claim blue and the number 13, X3 or XIII... through out the Mission there is gang violence but I believe that certain streets are more heavy with certain gangs, from what I've seen and heard Surenos gravitate more towards the lower streets... for example 10-19... where as the Nortenos gravitate towards the higher numbers for example 20-25... 16th and ______ is heavily populated with Surenos... 22nd and 24th are Norteno territory especially 24th... Whenever going into the mission no matter your race do not wear any clothing or such that is red or blue because there is a chance violence may be directed towards you in many ways such as drive bys etc...
Remember San Francisco is a Lovely City and this is not to scare you away... it is just to inform people so that you can stay safe...
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If you’ve got a hostel in the area, the Tenderloin district can be somewhat dodgy after dark so be aware and do what you’d usually do in any big city. Like most places though – if you’re confident and know where you’re going generally you shouldn’t have to worry too much. But just be aware once you’ve peeled off into the smaller streets in the district, it is rather seedy to say the least.
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Use caution during the day, cabs at night
When visiting San Francisco it pays to realize that the people who live here are most dishonest with themselves and others about how bad the crime problem here. It is NOT a safe city. The police are not responsive or particularly interested in preventing or solving crime. In fact, I challenge you to even find one - unlike any other US city I've ever visited the SF cops can rarely be seen. If you have a problem, they generally don't care and won't help. If you walk down Market Street any time of the day or night or walk around the streets of Union Square (God forbid, the Tenderloin, which abuts the area) you will see and be aggressively approached by homeless people, career criminals and addicts. Many of them will have stories and will engage you in short cons. If you walk out the back of Macy's department store after twilight you will see a large number of people hanging out in the park selling and smoking crack, meth, you name it. Drive-by shootings happen in this area on a frighteningly regular basis.
I have lived here for a few months and had to find out just how bad it is for myself. I am a small woman and am hassled and approached constantly. Although I'm from Brooklyn I have never been so afraid as I am in this city taking public transportation. The major EXTREMELY bad neighborhoods have been mentioned by others:
Tenderloin (enormous amount of violent addicts and violent/frightening homeless, drug dealing, prostitution, drive-bys) Union Square (Use great caution, career criminals prey on tourist dollars), Hunters Point, SOMA (mostly ok by day but at night the scene of drug deals gone wrong, drive by shootings and people being victimized inside of and outside of clubs), Haight Ashbury, the beginning of Golden Gate park, Portrero Hill, Bayview, Excelsior, Mission - (Gang territory, drug dealing, drive-bys), Western Addition (drive bys, drugs)Most of Market Street downtown and any BART station in the east bay or downtown SF.
Seriously. Don't walk alone, and try to walk with a man if possible. Don't befriend people on the street, no matter how "helpful" they may seem. Look at a map before you leave and take one with you - don't let people see that you are consulting a map. The places that are ok include Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 38, the restaurants and shops on Ebarcadero, Chinatown, Japantown (though surrounded by projects and lots of random violent crime - take a bus or cab), the Richmond and Sunset districts (great Asian restaurants)
The sorry fact about San Francisco is that tourist dollars keep the city afloat, but there's no reason to do anything about crime unless they stop coming. Think of a trip here much like you would a trip to Vegas. Same people, same dangers.
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This part of San Francisco is naturally set up to take advantage of its 'fame' in tourist lore. It was interesting to actually be there and see the area, but it did seem to be very oriented towards milking the tourists for what they are worth. That being said, you do not have to walk very far to return to normality in downtown San Francisco. The hustle and bustle of this area is interesting but you will pay more if you actually stop and shop here!
- Family Travel
Being from little old New Zealand, we arrived into San Francisco one night December 2003 and stayed at the Ramada Plaza in downtown San Francisco. We had never seen the homeless on the streets at this level - any level is bad as we just dont really have homeless in NZ - just street people (there is a difference). Us and the two boys went out to explore the downtown shopping at 4.30pm. All was sweet, I was walking in front of my partner and the oldest boy (then 18yrs - with a headful of dreads) with my young son and when we walked out of a shopping mal, this big dude stepped in behind me - totally freaking out my oldest son who thought he was about to witness his mum getting mugged. Ya see, the dude thought me and my youngest were on our own. It was only when we got to the crossing lights that I turned around to talk to the others and the dude freaked when he saw I had male friends and bolted. I didnt see nothing - totally naive but seeing the look on my sons face was enough to slap me round abit to the fact that I wasnt in NZ and needed to be more aware. We walked to the large mall a couple of blocks away where there were heaps of people but made the mistake of walking back to our hotel at 8.30pm. It was amazing how the whole town was deserted of normal people and the three blocks we had to walk was lined with homeless people standing in the doorways of the shops. We felt really intimidated but stuck to the footpath and walked fast. We mustve created a bit of humour for the locals but man, were we ready to bolt. Market St - definitely a no-go at night unless you can blend in with the crazyies.
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