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Friday, February 11, 2011

Hisashi Sugaya's Tenderloin Walk of Shame

Posted By on Fri, Feb 11, 2011 at 2:47 PM

Put on your walking shoes
  • Put on your walking shoes

As promised, the shame-faced planning commissioner Hisashi Sugaya traversed the streets of the Tenderloin Friday afternoon to atone for an earlier remark suggesting a neighborhood grocery store peddle drugs.

After making his comment publicly, Sugaya, who was reappointed to the Planning Commission last year, followed up with an apology to the neighborhood. But upset residents said they would only accept on one condition: That he tour the Tenderloin to see for himself what the planning issues are.

The tour took place Friday afternoon, starting at the Central City SRO Collaborative at 48 Turk St. Representatives with the Collaborative led the hourlong, which included Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the Tenderloin. The group walked two blocks past the controversial Tip Top Market, which has been trying to get its license to sell wine and beer. It was there that they showed Sugaya how the area had very few pedestrian safety lights and many, many liquor stores in every direction.

It was a debate over whether to allow Tip Top to sell alcohol that got Sugaya into trouble. On Jan. 20, the Planning Commission was holding on the debated Tip Top Market. Neighbors were adamantly against having another liquor store in the Tenderloin. During the hearing, a planning commissioner, suggested that the market find something else to sell to make money That's when Sugaya busted out with his comment: "Maybe he should just sell drugs or something."

The comments hit a nerve in the community, especially among advocates who have been working hard to turn around a neighborhood that has long been a hot spot for drugs, prostitution, and strip clubs.

Sugaya, who was also taking heat from Kim, gladly accepted to walk with residents through the neighborhood.

Friday's 12-block walk wasn't all about pointing out the bad -- residents took Sugaya to parks, showed him art, and stopped to hear jazz at the Cadillac Hotel on Eddy Street.

"It was a beautiful walk -- nobody was passed out and drunk, and we

didn't see any drug deals going on," said Stephen Tennis, who led the


The whole point was to give Sugaya some perspective on the planning needs for the area; to show where there has been neglect, and to prove that the last thing the area needs is another liquor store.

Jeff Buckley, director for the Central City Collaborative, said Sugaya, after taking the tour, seemed to have a better grasp of what the Tenderloin is all about.

But did Sugaya understand it enough for residents to finally forgive his remark?

"The proof will be in how he votes when a planning issue comes up." Buckley said. "And we will be watching."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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