Housing, pedestrian safety top to-do list for Jane Kim

From the world of nonprofits to City Hall, the new representative of the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods wants to stamp out bedbugs and improve pedestrian safety for her constituents.

Supervisor-elect Jane Kim’s impressive November victory in the crowded District 6 race is the latest step in the seemingly promising political career of this former tenant-rights organizer.

Observers are watching to see how the 33-year-old starts voting when she is sworn in to office Jan. 8. Some of the attention is simply because she is filling the seat long occupied by progressive Supervisor Chris Daly, who has become the symbol of far-left politics often maligned by moderates.

At this point, Kim can still choose her political destiny to determine if she will be a true progressive “lefty,” in the Daly style, or more to the center. For instance, Supervisor David Chiu, Kim’s friend of many years, is a progressive whom many moderates say they can live with.

Kim beat out 13 other candidates in a decisive victory in November. With ranked-choice voting, Kim’s 8,865 votes beat more progressive candidate Debra Walker’s 7,528.

She rose to prominence by working in several San Francisco-based nonprofits, including the influential Chinatown Community Development Center, then won her first elected office in November 2006, a seat on the Board of Education. She ultimately became president of the school board.

During her first year in office, Kim has two main goals to work on — housing conditions and pedestrian safety.

“Probably one of the first pieces of legislation I will be working on will be around the enforcement of bedbugs and healthy housing,” she said.

Crossing the street in Kim’s district might soon be less of a precarious situation. She said pedestrian safety is “a huge issue throughout District 6” and there needs to be “traffic calming and to make pedestrians a priority.”

Also, Kim has carved out a more general role for herself. 

“Really important to me is getting things to happen,” Kim said. “If there is existing legislation that is not being implemented or enforced, my role is really to hold people accountable to a lot of policies that are already in place and making things happen and connecting constituents to public resources.”

Days before her swearing in, Kim is keeping her opinions to herself about who should serve as San Francisco’s interim mayor to replace Gavin Newsom, who will be sworn in as lieutenant governor in early January. Another big challenge she will face is helping to close The City’s $380 million budget deficit.

“I don’t think there can be any sacred cows,” Kim said. 


Jane Kim

Year of birth: 1977

Neighborhood you live in: Civic Center

Occupation: Board of Education president, civil rights attorney

What’s your favorite thing to do in your district? I love hanging out in District 6 — from attending graffiti shows at 1 a.m. to eating lunches at Turtle Tower, Moya, Tin, Burmese Kitchen to late-night dinners at Ler Ros Thai and Farmer Brown. I enjoy hot chocolate at Hooker’s Sweet Treats and Four Barrel, teas at Cafe Jebena, whiskeys at Rye and Nihon and wine at Hotel Biron.

What’s the best-kept secret about your district? The residential community of the Tenderloin is one of the warmest and most open communities in San Francisco. I really enjoy walking around the TL and talking to people. Oh, another great secret is the Tenderloin National Forest on Cohen Alley off Ellis Street. It’s a green oasis in the TL.

What’s your mantra? I really don’t have a mantra. I could make one up, but it wouldn’t be my real mantra. I hope that’s OK.

What was the last book you read? The last book I finished is “Game Change” by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, but that was six months ago. I have been reading a few books in the last few months together, but have not finished them — “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” by Diane Ravitch and “The Trouble With Black Boys … and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education” by Pedro Noguera.

Supervisor Chris Daly looks back

What are your top three accomplishments?
1. Being part of the transformation of San Francisco politics. Before I arrived, the doors were locked. Entire segments of San Francisco were shut out. I’m really proud that I helped open the doors of people who live in residential hotels, poor people. My office is the one that has been open to community folks to organize.
2. Saving the community at Trinity Plaza.
3. Forcing the school district to build the new Bessie Carmichael.

How do you want to be remembered?
As a fighter for the disadvantaged, because that’s what I am.

What are the biggest challenges facing The City?
The disparity of wealth, the fact that San Francisco is really two cities.

What is the biggest challenge facing District 6, which your successor needs to deal with right away?
The abject poverty and substandard living conditions faced by such a large part of my district. Jane brushed on those issues, but her campaign wanted to speak for new condo residents. What Jane’s challenge is going to be, is can she keep the conciliatory rhetoric alive while finally getting pinned down on actual votes?

What is your favorite moment on the board?
The first budget that I delivered [in 2003]. The election of [Matt] Gonzalez to board president.

What is your worst moment on the board?
I got a really funny joke about that, which I will be delivering at my roast on Jan. 5.

What is your biggest regret?
I voted the wrong way a few times. But I have no regrets. There is nothing I would have wanted to do but didn’t potentially, except to run for mayor in 2007. I knew I was going to lose, and by double digits, and I knew it was going to be messy. But for me to stand on your feet and struggle and fight for what you believe in is always the right thing to do. And so me taking a pass in ’07, that was one of the most difficult decisions I made.

Who should be interim mayor?
Tom Ammiano. Aaron Peskin. Art Agnos. David Campos.

What do you plan to do next?
I’m planning on staying in The City. There’s a mayor’s race next year. I have been involved in every mayor’s election since 1999. I will be involved next year.

Any words of wisdom for Jane Kim?
Good luck.

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