Making ‘Auntie Rose’ proud: Breed swears-in Chinese commissioners

Also: Dennis Richards has a few caveats he would like to share

On Guard column header Joe

It appears Chinatown’s fears that it would lose power after the deaths of political organizer Rose Pak and Mayor Ed Lee were unfounded.

Long-time readers of this column may remember those concerns cropping up among some of the Chinese community’s leaders after the death of those long-time stalwarts.

But they probably needn’t fret. Mayor London Breed seems to be every bit as keen as Pak and Lee to keep the neighborhood, and Asian leaders citywide, represented under the gilded dome of City Hall.

In a show of political force Wednesday, politicos and city leaders of all stripes sipped tea, gulped pork shumai and speared delectable, buttery shrimp gow at the Far East Cafe in Chinatown, watching as Breed swore-in three new Chinese city commissioners. A fourth who was honored awaits the Board of Supervisors’ stamp of approval.

It was certainly a who’s-who in the banquet hall — Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency director Ed Reiskin attended, Da Mayor Willie Brown spoke, San Francisco Police Department command staff displayed their shiny shields and power players from across the Asian community sat and dined.

The three people who were sworn-in, Ivy Lee, Jenny Lam and Malcolm Yeung, were appointed to the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees, the Board of Education and the Airport Commission, respectively. The potential appointee is Frank Fung, who is awaiting appointment to the Planning Commission.

“There was no Asian representation” on some of these commissions, Breed noted, but these folks “stepped up to serve.”

Yes, some have served for awhile now. Ivy Lee, for instance, has served on the City College Board since last July. But there was no “community celebration” previously, said David Ho, a for-hire political consultant.

He’s the mover and shaker who arranged Wednesday’s Chinatown shindig. While yes, he’s right, there was no public ceremony for the politicos’ famlies, the event was also a display of power for Ho, who ran an independent expenditure campaign to support Breed’s mayoral race.

He brought the money and people power to Breed’s aid last year. Now he’s also shoring up her relationship with Chinese community leaders, which will certainly spook any potential future mayoral challengers.

That’s one big voting bloc, though it certainly remains to be seen if these politicos ultimately fulfill the wishes of the community. That’s their game to lose.

At the ceremony, Lam told the crowd she struggled in school at an early age because her first language was Cantonese. Now she’ll focus on early childhood literacy efforts on the school board. Ivy Lee, who worked for former Supervisor Jane Kim, said she would champion her former boss’ Free City College program and work to make it permanent. And Yeung, a longtime ally of Ho’s, had long championed naming a San Francisco International Airport terminal after Lee.

Oh, and did I mention Ho is working as a consultant for Ivy Lee and Jenny Lam’s campaigns?

When I reminded Da Mayor, Willie Brown of this, he smiled and laughed.

Yes, he told me, much of this display of political power is the result of the community strength the late Rose Pak helped build.

But Ho was there with Rose every step of the way, Willie added.

“He’s probably the best organizer around” these days, he said of Ho, but “he might have also been when Rose was alive, too.”

* * *

My dearest readers, apparently some of you were mighty broiled after last week’s column. Planning Commisioner Dennis Richards told me he was besieged on his vacation by angry San Franciscans displeased he voiced support with his fellow commissioners for exploring the dismantling of single-family zoning.

He wanted me to amend the record, so here you go, Dennis: the commissioner has big ol’ honkin’ caveats to his support.

“Indeed it’s time to look at all zoning and I’m on board with that. Couple of things I’d like to point out,” he wrote me.

SF needs a “community based planning process completely independent of Scottocratic (my new invented word) Sacramento mandates,” he said, referencing state Sen. Scott Wiener’s efforts to remove local barriers to denser housing development.

And “we need value recapture for affordable housing and infrastructure.” Also, he added, any development needs to be “sensitive” and contextual “with the fine grained nature of SF’s current building patterns.”

Lastly, “we need a plan to bring infrastructure to keep pace with the growth, otherwise it’s a non-starter. We don’t have to kill the city to improve it.”

OK now, with that all clarified, the YIMBYs can start sending Dennis angry letters instead.

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


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