Several kids play on a closed block of Turk Street Saturday afternoon. (By Sakura Sato/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Kids take over Turk Street for Play Streets Tenderloin

New event provides safe space in a crowded neighborhood

By Sakura Sato

Special to the S.F. Examiner

Kids in the Tenderloin got a chance to play in the streets Saturday.

One block of Turk Street was closed between Leavenworth and Jones streets from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the debut of Play Streets Tenderloin, an event for children and families that is planned for the next five Saturdays.

The event, which included art, music and wellness classes, along with COVID-19 resources, was presented by Livable City, the organization primarily responsible for previous Sunday Streets events, as well as the Tenderloin Community Benefit District.

The Tenderloin Museum provided a booth for art play. (By Sakura Sato/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Despite its dense population and crowded sidewalks, the Tenderloin has yet to see any streets closed under The City’s “Slow Streets” program, although the walking space on Jones Street has been expanded with the the use of some moveable barriers. City officials have said the neighborhood’s streets are too wide, busy or hilly to be well suited to the program.

Hunter Franks, director of Inviting Space with the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, said, “We really wanted to just give open space for kids and families and seniors to get outside. A lot of folks haven’t had many opportunities to come outside over the past six months with coronavirus and with the conditions of the streets in the Tenderloin. It’s been challenging to go out and walk for recreation even.”

Activities included a dry erase board where children could write messages and art. There was a drum circle and supervised art activities, and many kids rode bicycles and scooters up and down the block and played with hula hoops.

A dry erase board gave Tenderloin youth a chance for self-expression. (By Sakura Sato/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Kate Robinson, with the Safe Passage program of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, was acting as a Corner Captain, “to help create a culture of safety.”

“So we are to engage positively with everybody on the streets and we want to recognize that kids need a safe path,” Robinson said. “We also activate an emergency system of response when emergencies happen, so that kids, when they are going to and from school, don’t have to witness, or be in the mix, when a traumatic situation happens.”

Children draw with chalk at Play Streets Tenderloin. (By Sakura Sato/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Participating organizations included Code Tenderloin, CounterPulse, Tenderloin Museum and The Healing Well. Sponsors included the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, SF 2020 Census Counts and Dolby.

Attendees were encouraged to stay home if they were sick, wear face coverings and stay six feet apart.

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