Wednesday, May 7, 2014

An evening with Supervisor Jane Kim

By Erik Cummins
First Vice President

Facing a capacity crowd of City Democratic Club members at the Chancellor Hotel in April, Jane Kim, the city’s Sixth District Supervisor, focused on four broad legislative agendas.

For starters, the district, which encompasses the Tenderloin, South of Market, Rincon Hill, Treasure Island, Middle Market, South Beach and Mission Bay, is experiencing rapid change. As evidence, she noted the new construction in areas like Mid-Market and Mission Bay.  Eighty percent of the recent development has occurred in 20 percent of the city, with the majority happening in her district. As a member of the board’s Land Use Committee, “I get to help shape some of our most emerging and newest neighborhoods,” Kim said.

At the same time the economy is propelling growth, District Six is still grappling with one of its enduring problems: the lack of neighborhood parks. In fact, the district has the fewest and smallest parks, with just 0.6 acres per resident. With a dearth of open space to develop, “We’ve had to be creative,” Kim said. That means rehabilitating existing parks, working with real estate brokers to acquire new land and considering unusual locations, such as the area beneath the Octavia Boulevard freeway off-ramp which is slated for a skateboard and dog park. Transbay Park, which will be above the now-under-construction Transbay Terminal, is another example.

Kim’s third priority is pedestrian safety. “More people get hit by cars in the district than in any other,” she said. Working with the Vision Zero project, the goal is to achieve zero fatalities in the next 10 years.

Finally, the former youth organizer said that the city is increasingly tasked with filling the state’s vast public education gap, at least locally, as California ranks 49th in the U.S. in per-pupil spending. To that goal, Kim is supporting a ballot initiative statement that would encourage the city to set aside a portion of its general funds to support schools.

Homelessness remains a major issue in District Six, so Kim recently spent a night in a neighborhood shelter to better understand the problem. “I didn’t anticipate the immense boredom,” she said. “There were no classes, no programming, no counselors.” The homeless population, she said, was also older than she expected: the vast majority were between 40 and 55 years old. Saying that shelters “should act as medical centers,” Kim recently helped arrange for two full-time nurses and an on-site yoga instructor.

Answering a question about lingering concerns over radioactive materials in Treasure Island, Kim said that she has been told that the island has no more contaminants than any other areas of the city. But given the concerns, Kim said the city is working with residents who want to relocate.

In her answer to a query about the Warriors’ recent purchase of a Salesforce property in Mission Bay for a planned stadium, Kim said the team was one of the few professional clubs “to purchase their own dirt” and that the new location – as opposed to prior plans for Pier 30-32 – should be “simpler and more straightforward” to execute.

Affordable housing is one of the most pressing issues facing the city, Kim acknowledged. Setting a 30 percent baseline for affordable housing units in future construction projects is one option and has been “sparking a wonderful debate.” Another option is for the city to purchase existing affordable housing so that “they don’t fall into the Ellis Act.”