Daly City residents go head-to-head with district officials over future of community garden

The current building plan set to be where the community garden stands is yet to be approved by city council.

By Karla Orellana

Signs reading “Save the garden” and “Stop the concrete jungle” greeted me as I pulled into the half-full parking lot off Campus Drive in Serramonte. I packed my belongings and walked across the makeshift gravel road.

The cold didn’t seem to phase Erick Campbell as he paced frantically at the edge of his shed— letting the wind pry at his arms sticking out of his sleeveless shirt. The local volunteer gripped a stack of papers. He greeted both myself and my company. 

“They’re threatening to sue me,” Campbell said.

Jefferson Union High School District had given Campbell an ultimatum: stop modifications or further action would be taken.

The Plan

Why does the school district care? Jefferson Union High School District is planning the development of their Serramonte Del Rey project, in which the district plans to build a 22-acre space for retail, affordable housing, restaurants, trails and parks. If approved, the district would build 1,100 housing units alongside the rest over the course of the next 10-15 years.

The project website states that only 20% of the housing will be affordable and the rest will be set at market-rate. However, at the Daly City Council Meeting in September, it was stated that they would only set 10% of the housing at affordable rates.

The district would make revenue by leasing the land to the developer that makes the housing, said Trustee Kalimah Salahuddin, who is on the project committee. 

The proposal hopes to be a solution to the desperate need for housing in Daly City and the district’s lack of funding. 

“We are a school district that is trying to educate some of the most vulnerable students with the highest needs in San Mateo County,” said Salahuddin.

Despite approval from staff, faculty and parts of the community, the project was met with widespread criticism. Garden volunteers, students and a local grassroots organization, 4 Daly City, demanded the preservation of the Daly City Community Garden. 

The project website says the space will be used as a parking structure for future residents.

“We want to preserve the spaces that we have here for the youth and the community, which need it the most,” said Jas, one of the main organizing members of 4 Daly City.

What Happened?

Campbell said that the district has been targeting the garden for about 5 or 6 years, citing ADA non-compliance, and calling it a hazard to students and visitors on the grounds of unsafe expansion. 

Despite efforts to comply with district demands, such as getting background checks and stopping the expansion, Campbell feared there would be no way to find a middle ground with the district. 

He knows the greenery as a safe haven for local students and others who enjoy gardening and has made efforts to preserve it, even as he and other volunteers were faced with a forced shut down of the garden in February. 

He moved the stack of papers he had been holding earlier and let me read from the field report. It had been filed by Rockridge Geotechnical and was stapled to the back of a district letter asking Campbell not to expand the land anymore as they did not want the modifications to develop into a global slope stability concern. 

The report stated that though they had not observed any notable slope stability issues caused by the recent modifications, they had to warn that these modifications “generally have the potential to decrease slope stability.”

“I plan on staying,” said Campbell. He plans to continue fighting for the preservation no matter what.

The Future 

Discussions regarding the future of the garden started 3 or 4 years ago. One of the original suggestions was to use the garden space as a place to keep construction equipment, said Trustee Nick Occhipinti. 

He said the garden space had always been open, public, cultivated green space for as long as he can remember. It was never restricted to just employees or any particular residents.

“It was always open to the community at large— to the public,” said Occhipinti.

The garden’s purpose after it’s reopening in the late 90s was to be a small plot of land to be shared by the school and the community. One of the main arguments now is due to the confusion on whether the garden was built on public or private property.

“There is no community garden currently,” said Salahuddin, “there’s a school garden.” She argues that as all school property is accessible to the community so is the garden.

The plan remains to use the space for retail and housing with a looming question: where is the district building going to go?

The district had originally told the public that the funding and the plan was to renovate the district building; however, without approval from the community or himself, the plan was changed, said Occhipinti. The building will be moved to what is currently known as Westmoor Park in Daly City.

A member of 4 Daly City, who chose to remain anonymous, recalled the moment many families found out Westmoor Park would be demolished to make space for the building. Parents and families were outraged at the thought that they were never informed, even going as far as to ask what they could do to help save the park. 

“The school board tried to say they had a town hall meeting but none of us knew about [it]— not even the community,” said the member. 

Trustee Occhipinti assured that the discussion wasn’t over yet. Both the board and the community needed to work together to come to a better compromise that would benefit everyone. 

“At the city council level, they have delayed the project discussion to be able to provide some more time and space for that discussion to happen,” said Occhipinti.

The motion was denied in a City Council meeting this last September and is scheduled to be revisited in January, 2022. 


  • This article was updated 12/13/21 to clarify percentage rate of affordable housing for the housing project.
  • We also corrected “Jaz” to the correct spelling “Jas”


Landon Smith talks creating the teacher-student relationship college students need

“You need somebody who’s going to be really high touch because a lot of the time folks like to struggle in silence,” Smith said. 

Listen to the podcast audio here:

Landon Smith

Alana Marcelino doesn’t remember the name of the book that her former professor Landon Smith recommended to her — but what she learned from it, she said, “literally changed her life.”

Alana Marcelino never thought she’d find classwork ready to reflect her life experiences as a third generation Philipino American after growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood until taking Landon Smith’s METRO class her freshman year at San Francisco State University and picking up the required text.

As a BECA (Broadcast and Electronic Communication) major Alana now finds herself reflecting on the Philipino American experience and how American media has influence reaching the Philippines. 

Alana said this effect manifests itself in the way Philipino people come to the United States hating themselves and their culture because America establishes a very specific beauty standard and way of living that goes against most things these individuals grew up learning at home.

It was a concept she wasn’t aware of before coming into contact with that piece of paper. It made her look at her life and family in a way that completely altered her perceptions of American life.

“For him to assign the article not knowing how important it could be to someone like me; it was really significant and [I’ll always remember that],” Alana said.

Landon Smith, a former SFSU METRO faculty member, has successfully cultivated professor-student relationships using the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, in which he centers his classrooms around deconstructing the power imbalance and bringing forward the individual needs of the student.

METRO, a program at SF State that describes itself as “a learning community with personalized in-class academic support, advising and tutoring,” enabled Smith to teach in a way that addressed a variety of minority experiences, which some students say is necessary to ease the college experience.

Rose Carmona, a program faculty member said the program is specifically for, “first generation underrepresented and or low income students to help them transition from high school to college. We focus on community building and infusing social justice into our curriculum.”

Mark Bautista, a current METRO faculty member and close friend to Smith said his classroom embodies the problem-posing pedagogy theory proposed by Paolo Freire in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 

Smith has created a teaching style based on the theory proposed by Paolo Freire, meaning that in order for the oppressed to regain humanity, the oppressed are to be led by others who have the same experiences. In this way their shared knowledge can “free” them from systems of oppression. 

He said the most effective way of teaching students is to think of teaching as a pure form of dialogue, growth and intellectual exchanges where everyone’s intent is supposed to be the same and being able to facilitate that has been the best part.

Smith believes not imposing himself on his students is the most effective way to cultivate teacher-student relationships and he sees this through the same way he views parenting. He has put into practice the concept of knowing your children come from you but are not yours, which allows him to develop genuine mentorships rather than creating a power disparity between himself and the students.

“I don’t walk into the space saying I know everything… There are a lot of things that folks can teach me,” Smith said.

Emily Navarro, a former METRO student that took Smith’s class, said that many students weren’t aware that they were experiencing gentrification and suffering at the expense of worldwide capitalism until they got to college, and having Smith break it down for her made it all the more easy to understand.

“It was great because you don’t see [professors of color] that often… and it’s not like [white professors] can relate to that. They belittle you and Landon never did that,” Navarro said. “That is what really resonated with me.”

Smith said one of the better success stories he had was of a student who struggled for a very long time to find what they wanted to do in college. 

In the few months they knew each other, the student was finally able to pick psychology as a major and even decided they were going to move on to get a PhD to achieve a career in counseling and psychology as a way to help others and in return help themselves.

To Smith, this is an example of a greater success story —being able to see people that struggle with having confidence in themselves get to that point is something not many people can do and is a process that takes much longer than most.

Smith said that teaching at METRO showed him that programs like that were necessary to help students stay and feel belonging in higher education institutions. 

“You need somebody who’s going to be really high touch because a lot of the time folks like to struggle in silence,” Smith said. 

Now as Smith is on track for tenure at Chabot College, in addition to teaching his regular classes, he is also involved in the RISE program, which is a transitioning program for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Eric Gentry, program coordinator for RISE said, “I [find the focus on] planning, mass incarceration and prison abolishment to [be] extremely important, especially working with our student population [and] being formerly incarcerated myself.”

Smith is the professor that educates students in the program about things all of them have experienced like prison overcrowding and ending the criminal justice system. All topics that not many professors have the knowledge of or cover in regular classroom curriculum, Gentry said.

But Smith wasn’t always so sure he wanted to continue on to get his masters. He said he was incredibly discouraged from taking on a higher education during his time at the University of Michigan— the biggest problem being the lack of guidance.

After a trip to London, Smith decided he would go back to get his masters and would attend Mills College instead. This time, the smaller classrooms allowed for more guidance as the professors knew their students more personally and were able to create relationships with their students.

The change of classroom environment made Smith realize what he had been missing at UM and drove him to think about what he wanted to represent as a future educator. 

In 2018, the opportunity of a tenure track position opened at Chabot College and Smith knew he wanted to take the position despite how much he loved working with the METRO program and students.

“I loved that experience and it was my ideal position, right? But I think other places need to kind of look at how it is that they can care for students genuinely in the way that we were able to Metro,” Smith said.

On one hand he would be leaving students he had created strong bonds with, but on the other hand he now has more creative freedom over what he wants to teach in his classroom and how he executes the curriculum. Smith hopes to bring that METRO structure into his future.

“As a person of color here in the Bay Area…  I know that he has a lot that he can provide and show guidance to the next generation of educators who follow us. So [I see his future to be] leadership, I see him steady stepping up in leadership [as his] career continues,” Bautista said.


Making an impact with Nia McAllister

Nia McAllister tells us the story of how she has made an impact through environmental activism

Nia McAllister grew up struggling to advocate for herself as a shy child, but through encouragement and drive for environmental activism, the poet found her own voice in giving others a place to share their own. 

After starting out in the visitor experience department and bookstore of the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco, McAllister was promoted to public programs manager and has since taken charge of creating an open mic series hosting international and local poets alike. 

The program has grown to see individuals from South America, the Caribbean, the continent of Africa and all over Europe, said Demetri Broxton, the senior director of education at MoAD. He added that McAllister created a space where participants could feel a sense of belonging and community. 

McAllister, a Redwood City native, always knew her life’s purpose would be to make an impact in the lives of those she meets. Her focus has always been to create space for the visibility of Black people and people of color. And, as a bookstore clerk, she wanted to make sure museum visitors could see themselves reflected in the book selection at MoAD.

“I haven’t been able to… fully do environmental work in my job at the museum but I’m still connecting the different communities that I care about,” she said. 

Poetry has acted a connector to her job at the museum, her personal life and her current projects. McAllister has seen herself published with the museum and featured as a poet and an editorial lead with Radicle Magazine, a project by Earth In Color — a multimedia creative studio organization meant to connect black people to the environment.

“There’s just an energy to everything that she does that just adds some depth to anything that we’re putting out… She just was like the perfect contributor for the team,” said Derel Scott, founder of Earth In Color. 

McAllister’s close friend knew others could find value in her words, said Aldair Arriola, a college friend. Sharing led to the much longer process of opening up to grow her poetic voice at Pomona College.

“I see her power translated [into] words so much and in… different types of expression,” said Isabelle Khoo-Miller, a poet and close friend of McAllister.

Much of McAllister’s poetry reflects her one true drive in life: environmental justice, a passion she developed alongside her poetry at Pomona College. 

It started with an environmental analysis class she had applied to on a whim. Noting that she was undecided when enrolling in college, McAllister said these classes opened her up to the multitude of issues that Black people were facing, in addition to other minority groups.

“And so I’m always trying to find ways to… advocate for my communities and advocate for the spaces that we live in. And I think environmental justice speaks [to that],” McAllister said.

Realizing there was a field of study where people could discuss the intersections of social, racial and environmental justice and could actively engage with the students to come up with solutions to larger problems was a deciding factor in throwing herself into the field the next semester.

“I think I’m always trying to be optimistic and thinking about how we can make change through collective power through organizing, through building new infrastructures outside of whatever we may have been given,” McAllister said.

With these ideas in mind, she decided to apply them to her work in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, while studying abroad. This experience allowed her to interview community organizers documenting human rights violations as a part of an internship with Catalytic Communities.

“I think I’m just lucky to be alongside so many friends that I’ve made, who we’ve been able to connect through our unique experiences, but also in that like mindedness, that curiosity about the world, and how we can make it in some ways a better place for all of us,” McAllister said.

McAllister recognizes and has lived through the difficulty that Black women face on a day-to-day basis in environments that are not set up or their success. 

“But being able to choose how I dedicate my energy towards advocating for myself is critical,” she said.

She is recognized by her loved ones as a balancing force— bringing emotional balance and peace in her daily interactions. 

“I reflect on all of the crossroads I’ve had in my life so far, and how the decisions I’ve made have led me to my current position now. While the journey has been one of uncertainty at many points, I know I am where I am meant to be now. And that new doors will be opening in my future,” McAllister said.


Car break-ins on the decline in San Francisco’s Financial District neighborhood

Car break-in reports fall 22% in the Financial District after pandemic but still lead in second place behind the Northern District.

Car break-ins have plummeted by more than half in the Financial District over the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the year before, falling from 1,038 in 2019-2020 to 307 in 2020-2021, according to city data analyzed by News With Karla. 

Reports of car break-ins dropped citywide by last July, a fall that experts attributed mostly to a significant loss of tourism due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety guidelines, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Car break-in reports have continued to fall citywide: Data shows that a year before the pandemic had started, there were a total of 28,396 car break-in police reports filed throughout all of San Francisco as we hit the one year mark of the pandemic in comparison to the 13,343 reports filed the year after.

However, the fall has been especially pronounced in the Financial District. From March 14, 2019, to March 14, 2020, the Financial District had accounted for about 30% of total reports filed specifying larson theft from their vehicle within District 3. This year the neighborhood only accounted for 8% of reports filed within the district. 

“Generally, car [break-ins] are very difficult to solve because the entire crime could… happen in seconds,” said Julian Ng, captain of the Central Station Police Department, in an email.

Captain Ng says that in most cases, these burglaries will happen in areas highly populated with tourists; however, the Financial District has not had as many issues as Fisherman’s Wharf and [the] department heavily relies on surveillance video and other physical evidence in order to solve cases. Car break-ins are one of the most common crimes aside from larceny (shoplifting).

“Public and private interests often invest resources into protecting consumers and privileged workers in high-end commercial districts like the Financial District, in ways that they don’t for working-class communities of color,” said SF State Professor Cesar Rodriguez in an email, adding that the furthest he could provide at this point was speculation taking a critical, social justice-based approach to studying the criminal punishment system.

The fall in car break-ins has come at a time when the pandemic has heightened the need for basic necessities, suggests local San Francisco resident and medical social worker Patti Resendiz, whose car was broken into in her own neighborhood within recent months.

“I’m not angry anymore. It’s just more upsetting… that someone actually broke my car, someone broke into my car and stole my property,” said Resediz.

Resediz said that though break-ins are to be expected as a part of life, it was still a disheartening situation to be in. Though she lost mostly replaceable material items, she is now afraid of leaving her car out in public and fears the possibility of being targeted.

Resendiz said she wished the police department could have done more. 

District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin declined to comment. 


Designated emergency programs: what does the future of Feed and Fuel look like?

Success of Feed and Fuel 2.0 brings overwhelming support from Supervisor Aaron Peskin and community-based operations.

As communities wonder if designated emergency programs will stick around after the state’s reopening on June 15th. Aaron Peskin promised to advocate for the continuation of Feed and Fuel post-pandemic at the virtual panel held Thursday. 

Members from the city’s Chinatown Community Development Center(CCDC), Human Services Agency(HSA) and a business advocacy nonprofit joined District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin for the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) sponsored panel to discuss the state of current emergency programs set to battle food insecure communities in San Francisco.

The program, which delivers food to at-risk seniors and single room occupancy(SRO) residents in Chinatown, is on its second interim, but it’s set to end by May. Peskin’s promise to support the continuation of the program was accompanied by unanimous support from the panelists — along with 186 of the 187 restaurants surveyed accepting to stay on the program post-pandemic. 

“[It’s an] entire ecosystem [of] people that need to be fed [and] restaurants that need to survive that give jobs to people in the community,” said Peskin.

Peskin explained how most buildings in Chinatown are single units with shared kitchen areas, therefore making them SRO residents in communal living settings. 

Rose Johns, Principal Administrative Analyst at San Francisco Human Services Agency, explained the reality of shared housing increasting contact rate was integral to the expansion you now see in the reach Feed and Fuel 2.0 has.

The current iteration, called Feed and Fuel 2.0, was a collaboration of community-based initiatives like the CCDC, government sponsored programs like SF New Deal and the HSA and the channeling of about 3.5 million dollars in government funding Peskin said. 

Jacob Bindman, Director of Service Operations at SF New Deal, talked about possibly expanding their work to other neighborhoods, making sure to mention that the best way to do so was through accommodating their program based on cultural sensitivity and community needs. 

“The most central [thing] is to continue centralizing… people who are closest to harm… People who are struggling now are people who have always been struggling,” said Bindman.

Feed and Fuel 1.0, introduced byCCDC community organizer Rosa Chen, was a voucher program entirely community funded meant to help feed the most vulnerable populations. The program originally worked with 34 restaurants in 2020 from mid-March to mid-July, serving 600 vouchers for Chinatown residents.

The community based program came as an initiative taken by Chen, a local Chinatown resident after seeing her own parents struggle as their restaurant was hard hit after the pandemic started. 

And, even if they’re only on the waitlist, restaurant owners and members of the community alike are grateful as knowing others are getting help is more than enough for them, said Chen.


School board clarifies reopening plan for San Francisco

Reopening timeline detailed as educators get vaccinated

With recent developments clarifying when schools may reopen, the San Francisco Board of Education recapped on how and when schools may host in-person classes. 

The presentation, held at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, came days after the school district announced a tentative plan for schools to reopen April 12. It also comes after the state’s decision to vaccinate educators, staff and students expected to go back to in-person classes, an initiative that began March 1. 

All the while, the pressure to reopen schools has heightened since Feb. 11, when City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued the school district for not providing in-person instruction. 

The Tuesday session revolved around the timeline, the tentative agreement regarding instruction, testing and vaccines and the family survey for students in Phase 2B.

Greg John, chief of labor relations at San Francisco Unified School District, led the conversation and noted that the in-person class shift would include pre-K through fifth grade and day class students regardless of grade level. Those uncovered in the agreement were middle through high school students.  

John said that accommodations for students choosing to continue online classes would be offered. To lighten the burden on teachers choosing to continue teaching students, the board has planned to assign in-person substitute teachers to fill in during the times educators would be teaching online. 

People would be required to stay 6 feet apart, follow public health guidelines and minimize contact between students and teachers. 

“[The plan is] not perfect, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride… but the important aspect that people keep in mind is that we are all doing this together,” said Vincent Matthews, SFUSD superintendent.

Local companies are also contributing to the effort to vaccinate educators. Daniel Menezes, the chief human resources officer, revealed that Walgreens had offered 1,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines in addition to Kaiser offering enough supply to vaccinate the entire SFUSD staff. 

Vaccinations for faculty would only be required if the county remains in the red tier but would no longer be mandatory if the county reaches the orange tier.

In order to move forward with a more concrete plan for reopening, the importance of the family survey was stressed by Myong Leigh, the deputy superintendent of policy and operations. The survey was meant to gauge how comfortable families were with their kids returning to school and how many were willing to try out the in-person format.

“Responses to the surveys will be used to design the schedule for spring and … to allow families to express their preferences for returning to in-person learning,” Leigh said. 

Though those presenting skipped over the day-to-day schedule shown in their PowerPoint, as the meeting went into public commentary, most individuals expressed concern over the district’s proposition.

“I think it didn’t feel like there was a connection between those who made [the schedule] and those who do the work,” said Megan Caluza, a behavioral analyst and special educator at the school district. 

Parents and members of the public can keep up with the school district’s progress toward reopening on its website.


Commonwealth Club of California on Anti-Racism

“We are sitting, as a society, in a time between trauma and transformation”- Dr. Shawn Ginwright.

Centering curriculum around Black, Indigenous people of color, and recognizing accessibility are necessary steps in combating anti-racism and addressing inequities throughout the education system, according to the Commonwealth Club.

The Commonwealth Club, a public affairs forum meant to hold space for impartial discussions on issues important to community, held a meeting on Friday to discuss how to create anti-racist classrooms. The hour-and-a-half-long meeting features prominent Bay Area educators, such as Dr. Shawn Ginwright, professor of Africana Studies at SF State, Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammel, superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, Dr. Natalee Kehaulani Bauer, program head of Ethnic Studies at the School of Education at Mills College.

The event’s conversations emphasized that school districts are starting to recognize the importance of recognizing systemic issues, such as poverty and hunger, and how schools can do their part in helping kids overcome those inequities. These issues, according to Johnson-Trammel, have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

According to a study done by the COVID Impact Survey and The Hamilton Project/Future of the Middle Class Initiative Survey of Mothers with Young Children, families with children already living in poverty saw increased rates of food insecurity after the pandemic began because of lack of income. 

Therefore, accessibility to food that students would usually get at school becomes an issue as parents will not have access to help needed to maintain their kids, Johnson-Trammel said. 

Johnson-Trammell said that despite a number of superintendents being at “fundamentally different levels” of understanding racism, and admits that people will make mistakes, it is courageous to actively combat racism.

“[Superintendents represent a] system made up of people… [trying] to step into a situation [where] you can’t necessarily see how things can look differently, but [know] that the current situation isn’t working.” 

Ginwright suggested having 10-minute check-ins for students at the beginning of class to know how they’re doing and allowing the teacher to be honest with them about how they felt to create a sense of community with students. He said this was important to do because it strengthened the teacher-student relationship that is needed to.

Bauer also suggested starting off kids young and implementing ethnic studies from K-12. 

This falls under the context of changing course curriculum on a larger level. Los Angeles Unified School District has already begun implementing ethnic studies courses, a requirement for students to graduate. Many argue that having textbooks and material that solely focus on European and Anglo-Saxon history makes BIPOC students feel isolated and unseen.

As panelists, comments in the live chat spoke both highly of the content as well as some criticism.

“Curriculum needs to change so that it’s not dividing everybody by [race, gender and accepting that in absolute truth we are all equal]. You don’t care about actual equality.” YouTube user Big Sammy commented in response.

Ethnic studies, however, is credited by some scholars as being the gateway to combating racial violence. 

In addition to teaching how to create actively anti-racist curicullum, speakers voiced a hope to teach teachers with a social justice aspect and how to tackle equity through maintaining accommodations made to help students during socially distanced learning and taking that into the regular school sessions. 

However, many families are worried about exposure from sending their kids back to school.

Bauer cited her own experience as a mom, saying that many families that are predominantly ready to go back to school are a part of communities that have been largely unaffected by COVID-19 infection rates — typically, wealthier and communities more equipt for precautions — and that merely see the shut-down as an inconvenience. 

Bauer said that school districts have yet to figure out how to prioritize students who are already behind as a result of the pandemic before rushing them back into in-person learning. 

“If we are to create a society of belonging and inclusion it can only happen through schools,” Ginwright said. “And schools have to be the center point if we recondition the culture and the values of our young people so that they have a different view in how to create belonging.”


Vaccine Availability: How Are Retail Workers Holding Up?

Despite garnering widespread praise early in the pandemic, many frontline workers have largely felt left behind in the statewide effort to vaccine vulnerable populations.

Starting February 24, San Francisco will have moved to Phase 1B, Tier 1 of the state’s population prioritization plan and begun vaccinating people who are eligible as supply allows.

All this to prioritize at-risk populations — yet, for workers in retail, it’s unclear when vaccines will become accessible. 

The California Department of Public Health released a plan in January detailing which workers would be considered eligible. As released on February 13 phase 1A and 1B prioritize healthcare workers, long-term care residents, individuals 65 and older, workers in education and childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture.

The California website has not included retail workers under phase 1B. All the while, COVID-19 vaccine availability seems to be scarce as city officials report frustration with accessibility and knowing when exactly shipments for the vaccine will arrive. 

After many retail workers were furloughed in March of 2020, some were faced with the challenge of going back to work despite the ongoing pandemic.

“I went back…when they called us back [in June] simply because I had to make the hours for my medical [insurance],” said a 73-year-old employee at Nordstrom in SoMa who chose to remain anonymous. 

Many full-time employees, like the Nordstrom employee, felt that they had no other choice but to go back after they found out through a corporate newsletter that their medical insurance would only be extended until June 2020. 

Being forced to face the pandemic head-on since stores began reopening in June now leaves many frontline workers in the community frustrated, feeling uneasy that they will not get a vaccine in time. 

The Nordstrom worker added, “[The government] didn’t really say whether retail workers were ranked the same [as grocery workers]….We were exposed to the general public, even though Nordstrom had strict guidelines. It was still in question. Like, when can we get the vaccine?”

Feeling lost and forced to navigate complicated information by themselves, the Nordstrom worker was ready to give up multiple times until eventually finding a program through Safeway’s partnership with the San Francisco State University campus and was finally able to get vaccinated as their age met the requirements. 

When asked to clarify if there would be a concrete timeline in which frontline workers that did not work in healthcare would receive the vaccine, Darrel Ng of the California Department of Public Health said that frontline workers such as grocery store workers, restaurant workers, law enforcement, farmworkers and those who work in food processing plants or the educational sector are already included in the statewide guidance. 

“Counties have the freedom to modify this guidance as they see fit to reflect local priorities,” Ng said. “Inquiries about who is eligible in your county should be directed to your local public health department.”

Meanwhile, the San Francisco vaccination timeline refers to the state website — where frontline workers do not appear listed on the vaccination timeline.

As stated by the San Francisco COVID Command Center, “Many of the decisions regarding vaccination are being driven by the state and federal government, including the [number] of vaccine a county or healthcare provider receives, as well as when and who to vaccinate.”

At this moment, prioritization seems to be the elderly population, as the San Francisco COVID Command Center recognizes, “ In San Francisco, people 65 years of age or older represent only 15 percent of COVID cases, but 83 percent of our COVID deaths.”

In the business-oriented Financial District and South of Market Area, the impacts are hard-felt.

Austin Yuen, a 22-year-old Nordstrom employee focused on being worried about his family. He knows that what other employees do on their own time could potentially affect those he cares about. “But at the same time, I’m more concerned about the people around me like my grandparents, or like my sisters, or my brother and my little cousins, because they’re like, really little. So I feel like they are [a] priority.”

Austin is patiently waiting for the vaccine as he sees those in his home that are more at-risk receive theirs first. 

SF District 6 Supervisor, Matt Haney said in a Twitter post on February 23, “No one knows what will happen right now post 1B, and every county moving differently. It makes no sense. There’s still mass confusion and inequities.” 
Aaron Peskin, SF District 3 Supervisor declined to make a statement in regards to giving the public a timeline of when all frontline workers would be eligible to receive the vaccine.


About the Author

Welcome to San Mateo Updates!

This website is run by me, Karla Orellana, a local San Mateo resident.

I currently attend San Francisco State University as Creative Writing major and Journalism minor. This is my fourth year and I hope to finish off strongly considering the circumstances we see ourselves in.

A few things about me:

  • I love writing
  • I have two dogs (German shepherd and a mutt) and a leopard gecko
  • My favorite writer is Pablo Neruda
  • The person I look up to the most is Angela Davis
  • My favorite food is chicken tikka masala

If you have any questions please visit the Contact page