Dean Preston walked the streets of the Tenderloin on a recent morning and spotted a few familiar sights: a residential hotel where he helped tenants sue their landlord two decades ago, the school where he got his law degree, the bus route he sought to preserve during the pandemic.

The San Francisco supervisor is no stranger to the neighborhood. But he must now get to know the long-troubled area in a whole new way.

For Preston, the Tenderloin is suddenly part of the district he represents after the city’s Redistricting Task Force approved its final map of new supervisorial districts last Thursday.

While updating the boundaries to reflect ten years of population changes, the task force took the controversial step of moving the Tenderloin from District Six to District Five. The new map took effect immediately.

Now Preston must play a leading role in confronting the Tenderloin’s homelessness and crime and rampant public drug dealing and use. He will do so amid a tense battle over how best to improve the neighborhood, with many moderates advocating for tougher law enforcement and progressives like Preston saying the focus must be on addressing the causes of crime, poverty and addiction.

Preston takes over the Tenderloin from former Supervisor Matt Haney, who vacated his District Six seat this week to join the state Assembly. It’s a big change for Preston, a democratic socialist and tenants rights activist first elected to the Board of Supervisors two and a half years ago. His District Five also includes the Western Addition, Fillmore, Haight-Ashbury, Alamo Square and Hayes Valley.

Exactly how Preston will tackle problems in the Tenderloin —which has been under the microscope in the national media and is now one of the most closely watched neighborhoods in the country – isn’t yet clear. But speaking to The Chronicle in the Tenderloin on Wednesday, Preston said he would not shy away from his staunchly held views on key issues such as policing and affordable housing as he tries to address the neighborhood’s challenges.

“Twenty-nine thousand people who didn’t have the opportunity to vote for or against me have been told overnight by a political gerrymandering process that I’m their supervisor,” Preston said of the district boundary change, which he vocally protested. “Part of my task is to earn the trust of the community, and that starts by listening.”

Preston has not always seen eye to eye with Haney. Preston was one of two supervisors who voted against Mayor London Breed’s recent three-month state of emergency to address the neighborhood’s fatal overdoses and street crime. Haney supported the emergency, but Preston objected to the mayor’s call for a greater police presence, which only materialized as the emergency ended.

“It’s no secret that I’m not convinced that merely turning to increased policing every time we have struggles in low-income communities is productive,” Preston said.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.