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Tenderloin leader organizes walk to counter San Francisco ‘squalor’ tour

Del Seymour, the community-identified “Mayor of the Tenderloin,” will host a rival tour to celebrate the city’s storied neighborhood. | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

After hearing about the so-called “doom loop tour,” which plans to highlight “squalor” in San Francisco, nonprofit founder Del Seymour resolved to stick it to the haters.

“How dare you come to my community, beat down my community,” Seymour said. 

The “doom loop” tour, which is advertised on Eventbrite and charges $30 a pop, claims to show off “the doom and squalor of San Francisco,” including open drug use and empty tech offices, and will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26 at City Hall. The tour guide is not identified by name, listed on the event page as “SF Anonymous Insider” and described as “a card-carrying City Commissioner overseeing a municipal department.”

Pedestrians pass people using drugs in the Tenderloin in San Francisco on Dec. 14, 2022. | Jason Henry for The Standard | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

In protest, Seymour plans to hold a “counter-tour” across the street at the same time—at no charge and with free lunch to boot.

“Just to stick it in their face,” Seymour said. 

Seymour, who founded Code Tenderloin, a nonprofit that provides job training and referrals, said his concurrent tour will highlight the best of the neighborhood. A free meal from a yet-to-be-determined Tenderloin restaurant will be provided as a part of the tour.

“We’re gonna meet to celebrate the goodness of the Tenderloin,” Seymour said.

Seymour said he started the Original Tenderloin/Mid-Market Walking Tour 17 years ago, which emphasizes the history and diversity of the Tenderloin. Seymour said some neighborhood gems include Boeddeker Park, the Cadillac Hotel and the Tenderloin National Forest.

READ MORE: Tenderloin ‘National Forest’ To Reopen in San Francisco by End of Year

An exterior of a green and white apartment building with a fire escape and a sign reading "Hotel Cadillac"
A Google Street View image shows the original Cadillac Hotel on Eddy Street. | Source: Courtesy Google Street View

Seymour’s counter tour will not deviate from the normal walking tours he has held for the last 17 years. He said the route is usually not preplanned because he has to survey the neighborhood in the morning to spot crime scenes or other street events. Seymour said he usually hosts three tours a week by appointment, often for academic institutions.

Frequent tour stops over the years include the Old German Embassy on Polk Street, the Phoenix Hotel, the Glide Memorial Church and the Tenderloin Hilton.

There is also a walking tour put on by the Tenderloin Museum every Saturday. 

While widely known as the city’s most notorious neighborhood for drug use and dealing, the Tenderloin has historically been a hub of nightlife and entertainment.

The neighborhood has been home to storied establishments such as the Ha-Ra Club, the Geary Club and longtime gay bar Aunt Charlie’s. It’s also known for its performance venues and music halls, such as the Golden Gate Theatre and the Warfield. The Tenderloin also played a fundamental role in the LGBTQ liberation movement, which culminated in the 1966 Compton Cafeteria Riot.

The Hotel Hartland, constructed in 1913, boasts a refurbished neon sign in the Tenderloin. | Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The “TL” is also renowned for its historic neon signs, which in the mid-20th century were often associated with nightlife and debauchery.

The neighborhood became a special district in October to preserve its illuminated heritage. In San Francisco, it is otherwise illegal to reinstall a neon sign removed during building renovations, a law from a time when neon signs were seen as undesirable due to their once-seedy reputation.

The organizer of the Doom Loop tour did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at