Breaking news Sunday afternoon is that longtime Chinatown community leader and City Hall power player Rose Pak has died. The Examiner has word via Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who was at Pak's home this morning.
As many may have heard, Pak returned to San Francisco in May after about six months in China where she had reportedly been seeking treatment for a kidney problem. And a little over a year ago she told a reporter she was suffering from kidney failure.
Wielding the power of the Chinese-American vote in San Francisco and able to get out the vote for issues and candidates important to her neighborhood, Pak has long had a potent voice in City Hall. She's credited with helping to re-elect Peskin last year, who had previously been a termed-out supervisor in District 3, but returned to run again after a hiatus of several years.
Pak is also credited with aiding the successful mayoral campaigns of Art Agnos and Willie Brown, and helping get Mayor Ed Lee into office, first as the Board of Supervisors-appointed replacement for Gavin Newsom, when he took office as Lieutenant Governor in 2011.
Upon her return to the city in May she was met with a hero's welcome at SFO, with a contingent of multiple supervisors, the mayor, former mayor Willie Brown, and many others.
The Chronicle has posted her obituary, noting that Pak was never fond of the moniker "power broker." "If I was white, they’d call me a civic leader," she would say.
She began her career as a journalist in the 1970's, and only later would begin her community involvement and activism, beginning with an effort to save Chinese Hospital, a cause to which she remained devoted until the end.
The paper notes that she was a central force in spearheading the Central Subway project, having been a vocal opponent of the demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway because of the impact it would have on Chinatown transportation.
Just as recently as July, as the Ex reported, Pak was using her power to shut down all discussion of making lower Stockton Street a pedestrian-only thoroughfare for Union Square.
Ever fond of the f-word, Pak was "often profane and always outspoken," as the Chron puts it, and "she was a fighter for her causes, unafraid to mix it up with anyone who got in her way."
In a 2012 cover piece in San Francisco Magazine Pak talked about her first lessons in SF politics coming from hanging out in the offices of congressmen John and Phil Burton. "They called everybody under the sun ‘motherfucker,'" she said. "I thought it was a term of endearment."
She was also a great lover of gossip, and took pleasure in publicly dishing the dirt of anyone and everyone in power.
She will no doubt be missed, both by the neighborhood she championed and lobbied for for over four decades, and by her legions of political friends. And the local media, too, will miss covering her and her inability to mince words.