Halfway House: Tenderloin Police Captain Sees Partial Progress Now that Hibernia Bank Is Only Partially Derelict

The Hibernia Bank building in 1894, back when the folks milling about it today might be referred to as 'Hobos'
For eight long years, the derelict Hibernia Bank building was the tarnished jewel in the Tenderloin's crown of thorns. The grandiose structure, barred off like a crime scene, was reduced to playing host for teeming crowds of drinking, drugged-up derelicts, a number of whom were dealing drugs or tossing soup kitchen food to the pigeons -- who coated the building with thick layers of guano.

But all that has changed -- by half, at least. "Right now, it's like half a vacant storefront -- that alone relieves half the problems," says the Tenderloin station's veteran, been-there, done-that Captain Gary Jimenez.

After years of gathering dust, criminality, and birdshit, the Hibernia -- at 1 Jones Street -- was sold last September. Enough time went by without the new owner stepping forward that locals began speculating the $3.9 million sale was just an insider deal gauging the market by the previous owner -- His Holiness Grandmaster Professor Thomas Lin-Yun, the founder and supreme leader of the contemporary Black Sect Tantric Buddhism at its fourth stage (we are not making this up -- the man who sold Feng Shui to America owned a building that contributed to a neighborhood's chaotic and criminal nature. Ironic, no?). In October of last year, however, The Dolmen Property Group announced that it was the buyer -- and has since communicated to neighborhood groups that it plans to sink $17 million into restoring the 117-year-old building and bringing it up to code.

Since October, workers tromping in and out of the building -- and, even more importantly, power-washings of the building's exterior -- have discouraged loitering.

"The steam-cleaning, the owners and people involved with developing the property being around the building, it's a discouraging influence on people who want to hang around," Jimenez says.

Of course, this being the Tenderloin, many of these folks just moved right across the street. 

"It gets bad. it was pretty [steadily bad] there -- but now it has its hits and misses. There are people who smoke crack in the area, but most of the offenses are drinking and some marijuana smoking. We've arrested some drug dealers down there and there have been some shootings and stabbings."

The nexus of drug dealing isn't at 1 Jones anyway, notes Jimenez, but over on the 900 block of Market (he blames East Bay commuter dealers). "The 496s" -- that's the code for possession of stolen property -- are over on McAllister and many operate out of a local doughnut shop after police pushed them out of U.N. Plaza. Getting rid of freewheeling mobs at the Hibernia Bank Building is a little like stomping in a puddle; you create a number of smaller puddles, but all the water is still there.

Meanwhile, another sort of problem is brewing over at 1 Jones. Earlier this year, a bus stop was moved over from McAllister to Jones at the behest of one neighborhood activist group -- and a petition is now under way to move it back where it was spearheaded by another neighborhood group. Is it a relief for Jimenez to be dealing with these sorts of issues rather than out-and-out criminality? He laughs. No, it isn't.

"I'm an old street cop," he says. "It's easier for me to deal with [that] than the politics and everything else."

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