Show Your Love By Voting

by Rev. Norman Fong

November 4, 2019

norman fong

I love the newly renovated Trenton Alley! New lights were put in and there’s beautiful art everywhere. Did you know that these alleyway improvements were inspired by youth at Chinatown CDC? It was their dream in the 1990s to help clean up and beautify Chinatown alleyways. I first met with the students from Galileo High School and asked them “What changes do you want to make Chinatown better?” These eight students said they hated our run down, smelly and unsafe Chinatown alleyways. So we started the Chinatown Adopt-An-Alleyway youth program! At first they graded the alleyways from A – F, F being the absolute worst. They said since they get graded in school, they wanted to grade the conditions in our alleyways, ha! ha! For example, they gave an F grade to alleyways where they saw numerous problems which included: furniture dumping (big thanks to the DPW workers who helped us pick up the heavier mattresses and furniture if we brought them to the corners of the alleyways), pot holes, rat infestations with rats jumping out of the garbage bins… In addition, many alleyways had cars parked on the sidewalks but using bollards. Then we discovered the REAL PROBLEM! Which was… the city did not CLEAN and MAINTAIN most of Chinatown Alleyways! Wow! It was a learning experience for me! I went down to City Hall to meet with the Department of Public Works staff and was surprised to learn that Chinatown did not receive fair treatment for OUR alleyways!!

Luckily, Chinatown CDC hired a graduate student from UC Berkeley named Jasmine Kaw who wrote her master’s thesis on Chinatown alleyways. She came into my office to look through all the files we had on alleyways. Ultimately, Jasmine created the Chinatown Alleyway Master Plan at Chinatown CDC along with our staff and the community! Did you know that 50% of all the owners ON EACH ALLEY have to sign off on any alleyway renovation plan? It takes a lot of organizing to get these improvements made. Once the plan was passed, DPW has been working hard to implement beautiful changes to our alleyways.

trenton alley improvements ribbon cutting

trenton alley improvements

Trenton Alley is the 15th alleyway that has been beautified since we created the master plan. Many newcomers to Chinatown never saw the old beat up smelly dirty alleyways! I am so proud that our youth and the community worked so hard to get City Hall to listen to our dreams of fixing up ALL the alleyways! We still have a long way to go. Each year we have to advocate for more funding. Supervisor Peskin and other supervisors have been very supportive of our efforts to show more LOVE FOR CHINATOWN. I’m hoping that the next alleyway renovated will be Joice alley because an Asian homeless person was killed there. They need more lighting there. Adding BETTER lighting to ALL OUR ALLEYWAYS will make our alleys safer! Joice alley is near Gordon J. Lau school, Cameron House, and the Chinese Historical Society. When I first came to Chinatown CDC, I was surprised that the organization had to pay the lighting bills for a couple of alleys! What! I couldn’t believe we were paying the bills ourselves…not the city!

trenton alley improvements

trenton alley improvements

As we celebrate the beautiful new Trenton Alley, remember that who we place at City Hall counts. Voting for good elected officials and good ballot initiatives is SO IMPORTANT!!! If you love the community, if you care about alleys, housing, our parks, YOU HAVE TO VOTE. The biggest affordable housing bond in the history of San Francisco is what I hope everyone will take the time to vote on in the next couple of days! We need your love in action! Because without funding at City Hall, there won’t be new housing or new alleyways or new social programs! One of the best things about working for Chinatown is seeing young people and our seniors understanding more about how our government works in San Francisco. PROP A is probably the best thing EVER to support our seniors, youth, SROs, low-income families, and teachers. If we don’t show enough love by taking the time to vote, we could lose the greatest opportunity of our lives because of inaction.

vote yes prop a 2019 san francisco

If you have an absentee ballot at home just mail it – TOMORROW - Monday or YOU CAN drop it off at any voting location on Tuesday! It has to be done by Monday and Tuesday!!! Please take the time to show up and support Chinatown and San Francisco by voting YES ON PROP A! Vote for LOVE.

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on November 3, 2019

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