Tenderloin National Forest

(April 25, 2011 – Directed by Jonathon Angelini)

Luggage Store Co-Artistic Directors/Artists Darryl Smith and Laurie Lazer of the luggage store have been working to transform Cohen Alley since 1989 from a place emblazed in a health-hazardous cesspool of bodily fluids and other dumped items, non-supervised open-air chemical experiments and illicit “ criminal activities — to a vibrant ommunity commons where people of all ages can gather for public art, performance, experimental art projects. and classes and activities… Driven by experimentation, cooperation, volunteerism and inclusion, dialogue and food.

in May 2009 The Alley was reclaimed  as œThe Tenderloin National Forest.” With recent funding from the San Francisco Art Commission/Creative Space Fund and the Mayor’s Office, Community Challenge Grant, a series of physical improvements were completed.

One of the very few open spaces in our high density neighborhood of over 40,000 culturally and ethnically diverse residents, TNF  lies adjacent to two heavily trafficked inner city streets (Leavenworth running north and Ellis running est); and it is roughly 23 feet wide by 136 ft. deep. It is surrounded by   multi- story residential buildings and hotels that house formerly homeless, immigrant individuals and families, as well as seniors, artists, active drug users, dealers and others. The Tenderloin Children™s Playground is situated directly across the street.

In 2000, Lazer and Smith negotiated a lease with the City of San Francisco for $1.00 per year, which permanently closed the alley to traffic. A sculptured gate, commissioned by the luggage store and built and designed by Bay Area artist Kevin Leeper was installed.

Over the years, Lazer and Smith have organized murals to be painted on all sides of the Alley, produced and presented hundreds of performances and cultural events, planted trees, vegetables, herbs, flowers, built a small œ green structure with a living roof, a staging area, seating, a clay oven, and upgraded lighting.

The Tenderloin National Forest is now dynamic, and is one of the most peaceful, quiet and inspirational areas in then neighborhood.

The name “Tenderloin National Forest” came from Marco Crescenti, a student at  SF State University during  Sarah Lewison’s residency in the alley…The alley’s original name is Cohen Place.

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(Please Note:  We are in the midst of transferring over 100 images and information  from our old “corrupt” website to this new site and are experiencing technical  difficulties, please bear with us for awhile, ,many thanks…)

Lead Artists:  Darryl Smith/Laurie Lazer

“Cultural Geometry” stone walkway in TNF by Rigo 23, funded by Creative Work Fund

Lighting Design:  Elaine Buckholtz

Tell Your Stories:  Mary Conrad

Wood burning oven:  Becca LaFlor

Wattle and Daub House:  Julia Glanville with Darryl Smith and many others

Seating:  Darryl Smith, Gregory Smith, Yarrow Lazer Smith

Murals:  Guardian:  Johanna Poethig

Lives:  Brett Cook/Dizney

Other Murals:  Gestalt Collective, Andrew Schoultz, Ricardo Richey, Nome, Sirron Norris

Trust Your Struggle Collective

Landscaping:  Jeff Brown, Darryl Smith

Bird Houses:

Photographs in Wattle and Daub House: Sixth Street Photography Workshop

Gate:  Kevin Leeper

Monthly Events:

Mending Library:  Michael Swaine

Fresh from the Oven: Amara Tabor Smith


Community Housing Partnership

City and County of San Francisco

Tenderloin Economic Development Project


KALW crosscurrents