UC Master Gardeners of San Mateo & San Francisco
University of California
UC Master Gardeners of San Mateo & San Francisco

The Tenderloin National Forest

Entrance plaque for the Tenderloin National Forest
Entrance plaque for the Tenderloin National Forest
In this high-density neighborhood where residents of many cultures and ethnicity live (including 3,500 children), community space, such as that offered by The Tenderloin National Forest, is of great value.   The Tenderloin National Forest is a green haven 23 feet wide by 136 feet deep, and is surrounded by multi-story residential buildings and hotels that house the formerly homeless, newly arrived immigrants and their families, as well as seniors, artists, and others. The Tenderloin Children's Playground is situated directly across the street.

Since 1989, The Luggage Store Co-Artistic Directors/Artists Darryl Smith and Laurie Lazer have been working to transform Cohen Alley into a vibrant community commons where people of all ages can gather for public art, performance, experimental art projects, classes and activities.

View from path into TNF
View from path into TNF
In May 2009, Cohen Alley was reclaimed as The Tenderloin National Forest.  With funding from the San Francisco Art Commission/Creative Space Fund and the Mayor's Office, as well as a Community Challenge Grant, a series of physical improvements were completed.

Driven by experimentation, volunteerism, inclusion, dialogue and food justice, Lazer and Smith have over the years:

  • organized murals to be painted on all sides of the Alley
  • produced and presented hundreds of performances and cultural events
  • built a small sustainable structure with a living roof
  • built a clay oven which is used to feed people in the neighborhood
  • ...and many other innovative projects

Murals lining the walls of the TNF
Murals lining the walls of the TNF
They planted a Redwood in 2002, which has now grown to 50 feet and they also have a cutting from a staghorn fern that has been in Smith’s family for a hundred years.  There are also a variety of succulents, herbs, and ornamentals in the Forest.

A new exciting project under way, in partnership with Hyphae Design Laboratory, is a 30’ vertical wall garden that will be watered with recycled gray and black water from a neighboring TNDC residential building.

The Tenderloin National Forest has been transformed into a dynamic green space, and is one of the most peaceful, quiet and inspirational areas in the neighborhood.

Learn more about the Tenderloin National forest at www.luggagestoregallery.org/tnf
Learn more about the Hyphae Design Laboratory at http://hyphae.net/journal/

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