Three women, Katy Tang, Jane Kim and Malia Cohen, are leaving San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors Jan. 8 after years of service.
Cohen and Kim, a moderate and a progressive, are both termed out after eight years, while Tang, a moderate, decided not to seek re-election after serving for five years. Their departure will change the makeup of the board, leaving it more male, more white and more tilted toward the progressive political camp.
Before they leave, the San Francisco Examiner asked them to discuss their top achievements and reflect on their time in office. This is the third of three interviews.
Worried about the survival of a program she pioneered making City College of San Francisco tuition free for residents, Supervisor Jane Kim made a last minute push while in office to place a measure on the November ballot to extend the program for another decade.
For Kim, whose last day as District 6 supervisor is Jan. 8, Free City College ranks among her top accomplishments. The effort also speaks to the larger progressive platform to address inequity in a tech-fueled economy.
“Expanding universal free public education is something I’m really proud of,” Kim told the San Francisco Examiner in a recent interview.
Kim has represented one of The City’s most challenging supervisorial districts, which includes the Tenderloin and SoMa neighborhoods as well as Treasure Island. The district shoulders the highest percentage of The City’s development and its residents are a mix of the highest and lowest incomes. There is also a high concentration of social services.
Toward the end of her eight years in office, Kim waged highly competitive but ultimately unsuccessful citywide campaigns, one for state senate in 2016 against moderate challenger Scott Wiener and for mayor in June 2018 against London Breed. What’s next for Kim, who has demonstrated she can energize a progressive base and draw voters to the polls, is unknown. But she has ruled out a run for district attorney and doesn’t have any plans to run for mayor again in November unless something unexpected happens.
In addition to Free City College, Kim can boast of a number of legislative accomplishments.
She worked with Supervisor Norman Yee to pass a June 2018 ballot measure that will raise $146 million annually to fund affordable child care, although it is currently subject to a lawsuit. “Although it hasn’t been implemented yet, I’m just really excited about what that means for our city,” Kim said.
She also became known as a tough negotiator with developers, raising the bar for the amount of affordable housing projects have to provide.
Another highlight, she said was renovating Boeddeker Park, once unflatteringly nicknamed “Prison Park.” She pushed to fund the park’s renovation along with programming that has kept it an oasis in the Tenderloin.
Cleaning up the district’s streets, which have had no shortage of embarrassing coverage in national media, has remained a challenge for Kim. But she helped launched in 2014 an innovative Pit Stop program placing portable toilets with attendants in key location that has made a difference. But she said one of the reasons she ran for mayor is because the executive branch of government is best positioned to address street cleanliness.
“Yes, I am frustrated as well that we weren’t able to move the needle as much as we wanted,” Kim said. “But I do think I earnestly worked on this issue.”
The toxic cleanup scandal at the Shipyard also raised issues for Kim’s district, since the same contractor whose employees pleaded guilty to faked soil samples did clean up work on Treasure Island.
Kim acknowledged the “troubling stories” around Tetra Tech but said when it comes to the man-made island’s health risks, she is relying on the experts.
“I’ve been told over and over by our local [Department of Public Health], by the state, that we are cleaning the island and that it’s happening the right way,” Kim said. “On a certain level you have to be able to rely on these experts.”
One of the most controversial moves of Kim’s career was supporting a tax break along with then Mayor Ed Lee in 2011 for Twitter to move into Mid-Market offices. She has no regrets for that decision.
“At the time, when we were in depths of the recession, and we were cutting to the bone and jobs was the number one issue, not housing, in the voters mind, I did think that I had made the right decision,” she said, noting that no one could predict how the local economy would come revving back.
Kim said she wants to be remembered as “someone who worked really hard” and as a “very strong policy maker,” even wonky, and as “someone who really cared about our community and city and was fighting for greater equity for our constituents.”
She leaves behind a great deal of work for her successor Matt Haney. She noted that the development on Treasure Island is “moving very slowly” and decisions need to be made around vehicle tolls and transportation. The Central SoMa plan she helped pass in her final months in office has opened the area up to major development, but includes strategies to combat displacement that Haney will need to oversee to make sure they are implemented.
Asked what advice she has for Haney, Kim said: “I would tell him to be courageous … and to not be afraid of losing.”
As for how she thought Breed was doing as mayor, Kim said that “it’s too early to say.”
“I don’t think a clear agenda has been laid out yet,” Kim said. “There is a lot of work to do when you get into the Mayor’s Office and I’m sure there’s a huge learning curve.”
Kim also provided some parting advice for San Francisco.
“We do have to build more housing,” Kim said. “I don’t agree with the state telling us in how to do it. But I think locally, we need to step up and come up with our own local plan on building additional density throughout the city.”