Who organized the Doom Loop Tour?
That was the question on everyone’s mind as a crowd of spectators and media gathered in front of City Hall for what was advertised as a walking tour of Downtown San Francisco’s blight and squalor.
Curiosity about who put on the infamous $30-a-head walking tour of one of the most downtrodden pockets of the city drew dozens of people to the meetup. But after about 45 minutes of waiting past the expected 11 a.m. start time, attendees had no choice but to resign themselves to uncertainty.
Some debated who could’ve masterminded the event. Was it a grift? A stunt? A right-wing ploy to court controversy? A left-wing trolling operation?
The crowd dwindled until just a handful of people lingered, then just two. Eventually, a woman took matters into her own hands by offering to lead stragglers on a tour of her own—one that was ultimately much smaller than a counter-tour that offered to show people the best and brightest of the storied Tenderloin.
So, the mystery remains about who masterminded the much-ballyhooed doom-and-gloom tour.
But the self-appointed guide, who referred to herself as a journalist named Dr. Mia Morgan White and insisted she had nothing to do with organizing the Doom Loop tour, seemed eager to take the reins. A LinkedIn user under that name describes themselves as a Mensa member, broadcaster at Belle Media, “Master Mindset Coach” and alumnus of San Francisco State University who hails from Los Gatos and said she grew up on the San Leandro-Oakland border.
Earlier in August, news of the tour set the internet ablaze. It started on Eventbrite, where a San Francisco Anonymous Insider offered to take attendees from City Hall to SoMa to view open-air drug markets and abandoned tech offices and hear the tour guides' opinions on how the nonprofit industrial complex factors into these issues.
The guides were described as an “urban policy professional, card-carrying City Commissioner overseeing a municipal department with an annual budget over $500m, and cofounder of San Francisco's largest neighborhood associations,” according to the Eventbrite page where attendees could buy tickets.
In the absence of those advertised impresarios, however, White led one other woman and a San Francisco Standard reporter on a 45-minute walk through SoMa, where the Los Gatos-based guide espoused partisan bents about the city while deriding people with addictions and without homes.
The women walked down Polk Street and onto 10th Street before heading down Mission Street to the area of Sixth Street before turning up Taylor Street.
White—dressed in flowy dress pants and a sweater over a blouse—fielded questions and repeatedly referred to homeless people as “drug addicts” who are given narcotics by the city and are then refused care by a system meant to keep them on the street for financial gain.
White, who said she was a journalist, broadcaster and TV producer, didn’t want to be recorded or filmed. But she wasn’t shy about sharing her opinions, telling The Standard she believed a network of felons has conspired to make millions of dollars by pretending to be nonprofit workers with Urban Alchemy and other community groups while ignoring those they claim to serve. She even went so far as to say that the workers themselves sell drugs on the streets.
“It’s the new game,” she said, alleging that when formerly incarcerated people get out of prison or jail, they create their own nonprofits in order to get millions in city funds. “Now, we have a city with a $16 billion budget giving money where they want—the money always goes to criminals.”
What prompted White to go to the event was to support the organizer—called SF Anonymous Insider on Eventbrite—and to offer her services as a tour host should the need arise, which it apparently did.
“I was proud of Anonymous,” White said. “I sent them a message online telling them I support their tour. While I was meditating, I thought to myself, ‘I’ll do a tour at the exact same time that says this is how they created this Doom Loop,' in case anyone thinks that Anonymous is some kind of disgruntled city employee lying. I have the pieces to the puzzle, and I can support them.”
When asked flat-out if she was the SF Anonymous Insider, she said she was not.
While White regaled this reporter and the one other attendee about the ills plaguing Downtown, a counter-tour organized by nonprofit Code Tenderloin’s Del Seymour took off around the same time and drew about 80 people.
Seymour—who has hosted walking tours in the Tenderloin for the past 17 years—aimed to emphasize, and even celebrate, the history and diversity of the neighborhood.
He said turnout for this peripatetic protest of “Doom Loop” gawking was greater than his usual weekend tours and said the attention brought from SF Anonymous Insider's Event contributed to the popularity.
Some of the counter-tour attendees included organizers who are also involved in the Tenderloin community.
Mel Reyes, a Tenderloin outreach librarian, said the San Francisco Public Library system encouraged staff to participate in the celebratory tour to take the air out of the precipitating “Doom Loop” version.
The counter-tour was still forthcoming about the issues affecting the Tenderloin, including homelessness and drug addiction. But Seymour also highlighted the community’s small businesses and diverse makeup while pointing out city programs such as subsidized housing units in the neighborhood.
Shavonne Allen, who walked with the counter-tour and organizes her own guided walks with the Tenderloin Museum, called the “Doom Loop Tour” marketing heartless.
But, Allen added, she felt reassured to see community groups and the public come together for the “Best of the Tenderloin” tour to dispel the “negative narrative” pushed by the rivaling tour organizers.
Eventbrite and AllEvents—the websites where tickets for the Doom Loop Tour were sold—did not respond to requests for comment by publication time on what their policies are for when tickets are sold to an event that doesn’t happen.
Joel Umanzor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org