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Riding Shotgun With Superstars: Running Late with Jane Kim

Andrew Dalton | December 9, 2014 | Lifestyle Story City Life

Part One: Brian Boitano
Part Two: Heklina
Part Three: Michael Mina
Part Four: Jane Kim

A world away from her usual commute, a walk down seedy-as-ever Sixth Street to City Hall, District Six supervisor Jane Kim is taking breakfast in an air-conditioned parlor at the Battery, the exclusive, tech-heavy social club on the edge of Jackson Square. The gathering is a benefit for 826 Valencia; its founder, Dave Eggers, is giving a speech about the organization’s youth writing workshop. This isn’t Kim’s district—she typically spends her days zipping back and forth between City Hall, SoMa, the Tenderloin, and Treasure Island—but she has her reasons to hobnob with the famous author at the Battery: 826 soon plans to open a new youth writing center in the Tenderloin, a major coup for Kim.

Kim’s own speech—in which she talks about the yins and yangs of her mega-rich, mega-poor district—runs a little long. By the time she slips out of the Battery and into a car-share that her aide, Sunny Angulo, is idling outside, she is already behind schedule for her next appearance: a flag raising and champagne reception at the Mayor’s Office for Korean National Day. Angulo plies Kim with updates from the office as she navigates past Union Square and the Tenderloin toward City Hall. The consul general has been alerted to the supervisor’s tardiness, and apparently Mayor Ed Lee has already made one of his bad jokes about it.

Once there, Kim strolls through security, chatting with sheriff’s deputies. But before she can settle in, City Hall’s emergency sirens blare to announce a planned emergency drill—alarmingly named the “single-shooter exercise” but apparently routine. The entire government of San Francisco calmly files out of the building and gathers idly under the hot sun in Civic Center Plaza. Making the most of the interruption, Kim initiates an impromptu discussion with Supervi- sor John Avalos about an amendment to the controversial Airbnb legislation that would require the company to limit rentals to no more than 90 days per year. (Kim and Avalos both came out in favor of the amendment, but it failed at the board’s vote the following Tuesday.)

By 11:30 a.m., the District Six staff are finally back in the office. Kim meets with the director of the Treasure Island Development Authority, Bob Beck (it’s a strange quirk of San Francisco politics that the sleepy, windswept island is part of Kim’s dense urban district), to look into providing free public Wi-Fi to the island. Wi-Fi has already been made available in city parks by Google, but the island, which is getting a new on-ramp in 2016 and a bike lane connecting it to the East Bay sometime thereafter, is still plagued by power outages caused by everything from falling palm trees to wild geese.

After walking to lunch at Burmese Kitchen, Kim meets with stakeholders in the Transbay Joint Powers Authority. Much of her effort today has involved transit in one form or another: getting kids safely to school in the Tenderloin; transporting hundreds of thousands of daily commuters in and out of SoMa, one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the city. It is work that touches every person in Kim’s district, and, unsurprisingly, not all of them are supportive. Just the night before, while attending a neighbors’ meeting in a luxury SoMa building, she’d received complaints from residents about construction around 280. “Sorry,” she recalls telling them, “but I can’t tear down the bridge.”

Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco

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