As the name implies, the Civic Center is the primary center of government within San Francisco, housing many important civic institutions. Aside from its official duties, it also moonlights as a cultural center with many fine museums, theaters, opera houses, and symphony halls located here. Over the years however, it has developed a reputation for attracting many of the city's drug-addicted and homeless to its open plazas. Next door is the Tenderloin, one of San Francisco's lowest income neighborhoods with an unfortunate reputation for poverty, drugs, and crime, particularly violent street crime. However, it also has a rich history and an eclectic community, with treasures for those who know where to look. The Civic Center-Tenderloin area is bounded roughly by Market St to the southeast, Taylor St to the east, Franklin St to the west, and Sutter St to the north.
The Civic Center is on Van Ness Ave, north of its intersection with Market St. The city began developing the area in 1913, and most of the buildings there are of a "Classical Style", with their development being heavily influenced by the "City Beautiful Movement". Most of the city's integral governmental institutions are located here; like City Hall which dominates the Civic Center with its impressive "Beaux-Arts" style dome. There are two main plazas in the area; Civic Center Plaza and United Nations Plaza. The Civic Center Plaza (in front of City Hall) has been a popular place for holding rallies, protests, and festivals. As well as being a hub for city government, the area is also a serious cultural center. "Culture vultures" flock here at night to see performances of the San Francsico opera, symphony, and ballet, as well as to attend theater, galas, concerts, plays, and special events. During the day you can get your "culture fix" by visiting one of the many excellent museums and galleries such as the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum, and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. There are also several other smaller private galleries in the area.