Newly-formed Tenderloin merchant's association sets sights on safety goals

Over the decades, San Francisco's Tenderloin has earned a reputation as one of the the city's most challenged neighborhoods. A large homeless population lives in alleys and street sidewalks, while open-air drug sales and use are common.

But, a newly-formed Tenderloin merchants and property owners association is hoping to change that.

The vote to create the association took place inside Z Zoul Cafe, the city's only Sudanese restaurant, sometime in the last month.

Restaurateur Aref Elgaali is the association's first president. He said the goals for the association are simple first and foremost: Make sure the streets are safe for businesses and residents.

"We want to make it more safer, to change the perception in the minds of the people that come and to feel free to come to the place and feel safe," said Elgaali.

The other goal, creating an incubator for new small businesses to thrive. His message to potential customers and business owners the Tenderloin is open for business. "To make a clear message for investors that the place is ready,' said Elgaali.

Supervisor Matt Haney said it's been more than a decade since the Tenderloin has had a thriving merchants association.

"As the supervisor for the area, I couldn't be happier," said Supervisor Haney.

He welcomes the association and says together they can lobby the city to get the resources necessary to help the area thrive. "If we can be working together to have small businesses say 'these are the changes we want to have,'  and working with me as their representative, I think it's a fantastic thing," said Supervisor Haney.  "I think it's overdue."

So far more than a dozen businesses have expressed interest in joining the association. The association president told KTVU they will be meeting with other neighborhood associations to learn how to put best practices in place.