At lunchtime on the first Monday of every month, The Tenderloin Museum hosts a guest speaker. Former Mayor Willie Brown led off the series in March, while yesterday, it was Sup. Jane Kim's turn. In the hour-long discussion (moderated by Randy Shaw, with a Q&A), Kim got into the nitty-gritty of policy specifics while articulating her vision for the Tenderloin — which she represents — in an era of rampant gentrification and change. Here are 10 of the choicest tidbits Kim uttered.
Note: The next scheduled speaker is Sup. Aaron Peskin on Monday, May 2.
[jump] Skeptics Told Her She'd Need “Four Different Platforms” to Win Office
While initially running for District 6 supervisor in 2010, she “didn't get endorsements from the Democratic Party, labor, the Chamber of Commerce, the Examiner, the Chronicle, or the Bay Guardian. If people voted for us, it's because they met us,” Kim said. Determined to meet more of the district's voters than any other candidate, she stood in line “at St. Anthony's and then at Blue Bottle and Four Barrel,” getting kicked out of almost every condo building on Rincon Hill. (To applause, Kim said “there is no neighborhood as generous, accepting, and full of love as the Tenderloin.”)
She Fought a Bond Measure for New Parks Because It Didn't Include Green Space for Her District
Frame that tactic as you will, but it's certainly brave to say no to additional parkland on principle. District 6, including the greenery-starved Tenderloin, possesses 0.17 acres of park per resident. So without “park equity,” Kim couldn't let districts like Mark Farrell's (which contains the Presidio) get still more.
The Amount of Political Engagement in the Tenderloin Surprised Her
Calling the idea that you need middle-class activists to move an issue forward a “myth,” Kim said the level of political engagement among T.L. residents — including SRO-dwellers — impressed her. Noting that while well-educated S.F. residents pay closer attention to national and foreign affairs, the residents of the Tenderloin followed the Board of Supervisors avidly, and “I would go to South Beach and people didn't even know who [her predecessor] Chris Daly was.”
She Supports a Second Navigation Center In Her District — Kinda
“I believe in more services,” Kim said of the Homeless Navigation Center in the Civic Center Hotel, “but it has been a crisis on our streets. I absolutely want to pitch in, but every single shelter is in the district I represent — and we have to be thoughtful about the entire city. I’m happy to accept another Navigation Center, but every district should have one. This is not a problem just for our neighborhood, and if that’s the perspective, we’ll never solve it.”
She Eats at Turtle Tower a Lot
Shaw asked her about places she frequents, noting that “if you name one place, you've just lost the votes” of residents from other neighborhoods with strong partisan leanings toward certain restaurants. Kim cited Turtle Tower's pho as a favorite, along with the house special clay pot at Golden Era and chocolate from Hooker's Sweet Treats. (She lamented the loss of Lahore Karahi at 612 O'Farrell, and said that the proprietor had since opened Guddu de Karahi in the Sunset, but that restaurant has since closed as well.)
Getting a Full-Service Grocery Store Is an Ongoing Challenge
The Tenderloin lacks even one, and Kim conceded she was “unsuccessful at getting anyone to commit” to opening one. So the Healthy Corner initiative, which aimed to convert some of the neighborhoods 72 liquor stores to corner groceries, has been the next best thing.
On Homelessness, HIV, and the LGBT Population
When asked about the idea of “housing as health care” — the idea being that if evicted, people living with HIV/AIDS who move to cheaper locations like Fresno or Bakersfield forfeit their access to high standards of medical care as well — Kim said that the fact that 29 percent of the homeless population identifies as LGBTQQ initially surprised that community's established activist base. She noted that most Ellis Act evictions don't come from “mom-and-pop” landlords, but from speculators, adding of her critics that, “People say 'you’re infringing on my right to make money.' It’s so interesting that that’s a right in this country, but housing is different. It’s not like buying toothpaste in the store — although I want toothpaste to be regulated. Every time people say, 'You’re over-regulating, you’re over-regulating,' I have to disagree with that. There is a very strong government interest in regulating housing.”
She Advocates That Arts Organizations Plan to Buy Their Buildings in the Next Downturn
When asked about the pressures squeezing cultural organizations out of SoMa and the Tenderloin, Kim called for better institutional planning: “We should be thinking about saving money and buying property, to stabilize arts and nonprofits during the next downturn.”
She Believes the “Zendesk Model” of Philanthropy Is Better Than “Days of Service”
Confronted with naive-yet-sincere pledges from tech companies to hire 50 or more people from the surrounding community, Kim says she often tells them to start with one or two, and allow those employees to bring on their own networks. She singled out Zendesk for its dedication, consistently sending several tutors to work with Tenderloin Elementary and work with the same struggling students. “If Zendesk is sending three or four employees every week, that’s more than sending 300 to 400 volunteers every six months to flood soup kitchens,” Kim said.
Pit Stops Have Reduced 311 Requests for Heavy-Duty Sidewalk Cleaning, But Larkin Street Will Stay Two-Way
Implemented beginning in July 2014, the Pit Stop program has reduced steam-cleaning requests to the city by 60 percent, Kim said. Asked about the possibility of converting Larkin Street to a two-way thoroughfare, Kim expressed skepticism, noting that attempts to do the same with the even-wider Howard and Folsom Streets became a lane-shrinking “road diet” coupled with dedicated bus and bike lanes. “Two-way is very expensive,” she said.
Lunchtime Speaker Series, first Monday of the month, noon – 1 p.m., at the Tenderloin Museum, 398 Eddy.