The Tenderloin may someday be gentrified, but for now the TL has the city's highest concentration of intravenous drug users. It's probable that most of the 12,000 to 15,000 people in San Francisco suffering from hepatitis C — a liver-destroying disease that disproportionately affects people of color — live in the city's densest neighborhood. So it makes it a perfect place for a supervised injection site: a clean place where users could acquire safe needles and find a vein under the supervision of a nurse.
While the only safe injection site in the hemisphere is in left-coast city Vancouver, it's hardly a wacked-out idea — the notion has the support of a Hep C task force organized by former Mayor Gavin Newsom, and was supported during the fall election races by Jane Kim, who recently called the Tenderloin “one of my favorite neighborhoods” on her Facebook page.
But it appears a safe injection site is now not one of her favorite ideas, and “isn't something we're going to touch anytime soon,” a Kim aide told the news media last month. Now Kim is receiving heat from former supporters for abandoning poor people's needs in favor of, for instance, potential tax breaks for Twitter.
“They've dropped [safe injection] like a bad habit,” said Richard Marquez, a Tenderloin activist who spent 10 months working on the Kim campaign. Other far-left ideas floated by Kim during the campaign, like a “personal income tax,” appear to have been buried just at the moment they could be furthered, with Kim now in good stead with Mayor Ed Lee.
Kim says of the shift-to-center accusation: “It's incredibly unfair to judge me based on what I've done in six weeks in office, based off of a vote on one piece of legislation” referring to the Twitter tax break, a sweetheart deal Newsom originally promised the company. Safe injection is a low priority for Kim now, as community leaders have been silent on it and there's plenty else to do. “Our plates are full,” she says.
It could be just a sign of the times: Other Kim supporters like Randy Shaw of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic say safe injection sites should be located outside the Tenderloin, if used at all. Other Kim supporters are now silent on the issue. Kim's stance on the notion is winning her accolades from moderates like political analyst David Latterman, who said safe injection “is an idea pushed by lefty wingnuts. Good for Jane for not listening.”
And now Marquez, an S.F. native, is leaving the city — to, of all places, Vancouver.