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Russian Hill neighbors memorialize homeless man as ‘concierge of Polk Street’

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A table inside Peet’s Coffee on Polk Street pays tribute to Don Jones, a homeless San Francisco man who died earlier this year. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/S.F. Examiner)
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One of San Francisco’s saddest truths is that some on our streets die forgotten.

But sometimes, as a community, we get it right. And so it was on Saturday that Russian Hill neighbors gathered together to remember one of their own, who just happened to be homeless: Don Jones, the “concierge of Polk Street.”

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It was a strong turnout. Nearly 50 souls stood outside Peet’s Coffee on Polk Street to remember Don. Peet’s whipped up Don’s favorite drink — hot chocolate — gratis for those gathered.

I only heard about the memorial after the fact, but Sean Britain, a barista at Peet’s, said neighbors spoke about Don for more than half an hour.

“He was a neighborhood fixture,” Britain said.

Don sold the Street Sheet outside the Real Foods on Polk Street since 1993, locals told me. He even worked at Real Foods for a time, until he figured out he raked in more bucks selling newspapers (go figure).

Street Sheet is the homeless-centric newspaper produced by the Coalition on Homelessness, and some from the paper paid their respects Saturday, too.

Scott Nelson, vendor coordinator for Street Sheet, said of the memorial, “What really struck me is a lot of people didn’t know each other, but what brought them together was Don Jones.”

Polk

Russian Hill neighbors gather outside Peet’s Coffee on Saturday to remember Don Jones. (Courtesy Street Sheet)

Don died Jan. 30 at St. Francis Hospital, the Coalition on Homelessness wrote in the same paper Don sold daily.

Britain said the neighbors noticed he was gone after a few weeks, and that’s when the news started to filter down, a rumor that morphed into painful reality.

In a 2014 interview with Street Sheet, Don talked a bit about himself:

He was a San Francisco native and raised his son here for a time. But when he separated from his fiancee, Don landed in the Tenderloin and had “mostly a bad experience.”

That’s when his son moved to Compton to be with his mother. Don’s son soon joined the Bloods, in their never-ending war with the Crips.

He was 15 when he was shot and killed by another boy, who was only 12.

“That was a turning point in my life,” Don told Street Sheet.

He started selling Street Sheet “professionally, like a job” to take care of his four daughters — and himself.

A table sitting in Peet’s still displays Don’s picture, surrounded by flowers and a note that gets it right:

Don was “a man that knew deep pain, and chose peace and joy.”

***

Polk

Supervisor Ahsha Safai represents District 11 in San Francisco. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Freshman supervisors are sometimes like actual high school freshmen — especially when they’re accused of copying someone else’s homework.

That seems to be the case with Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who represents District 11. In late February, his proposal to require more middle-income housing in new developments — by reducing the number of required low-income residents — caused quite a stir among housing advocates.

The supes themselves were left chuckling after Safai’s aide, Suhagey Sandoval, emailed the first draft of the legislation to key aides of the Board of Supervisors.

Each page had the stamp “Mayor Lee” at the bottom, instead of Safai’s own name, bolstering progressives’ claims that the legislation was pushed at the behest of the mayor.

Uh, whoops?

Sandoval immediately followed that email with another one, reading, “I want to reiterate what I said … it is being co-sponsored by Supervisor Safai and President Breed – NOT the mayor.”

For his part, Safai told On Guard that the mayor was “working on this prior to me getting on the board … once I engaged we made a lot of changes and took it in a new direction.”

Sure, Ahsha. And next week, I bet the mayor’s dog will eat your homework, too.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at Facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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