S.F. Chinatown Power Broker Rose Pak Dies at 68

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Rose Pak (CBS San Francisco)

Rose Pak (CBS San Francisco)

SAN FRANCISCO — Local politicians are reacting to the death of Chinatown power broker Rose Pak on Sunday at the age of 68.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee: “I join all of San Francisco in mourning the death of community leader Rose Pak.

“Rose and I have been friends for more than 40 years, and I am among a great many people whose lives were touched in a profound, positive way by this extraordinary woman.

“This is a great loss to the city as a whole, and the Chinese community in particular – a community that Rose served, supported and fought for, often fiercely, her entire adult life.

“From her time as a trailblazing reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle, right up to the present, with her fierce advocacy for renovating public housing in Chinatown, Rose battled on behalf of the poor, of immigrants, of women. Along the way, she managed to shepherd the transformation of the century-old Chinese Hospital into a gleaming new, $160 million, 21st-century facility, and to help make the new Central Subway a reality, connecting Chinatown with the rapidly expanding southeastern portion of our city.

“Rose was tough as nails; she swore like a sailor; she was fearless; and she was relentless, sometimes painfully so. But it was always in service of the cause she most believed in: uplifting her community.

“She could be rough-and-tumble, and in four decades of close friendship and civic work together, she could be tough on me, too. I have the bruises to prove it. But despite it, at her core, Rose was motivated by love. Love of family, love of friends, love of community, love of city.

“Nobody talked the talk like Rose Pak, but let’s not forget, nobody walked the walk like her either. I will miss her dearly, as will our city.

“There will never be another Rose Pak, and the city of San Francisco will shine a little less brightly as a result.”

The mayor ordered flags in the city to be flown a half-staff and City Hall was bathed in white light in Pak’s honor. (Her last name means “white.”)

San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim: “I could not imagine San Francisco without her. This is my first morning waking up to a San Francisco without Rose Pak.

“She is called a force of nature — she wielded influence and power without money or a position.

“But what is most misunderstood about her is what drove her. Yes, she is good at the sport — she’s tough as nails and relentless in her advocacy.

“But she wasn’t driven by the sport, she was driven by her heart. She loved thoroughly and hard, she was so in love with her community, she could only work and fight with every inch of her body. She pushed and exhausted her heart every day. What drove each call, fierce zinger, curse word was a deep-seated love rooted in every cell her body — for our fixed income seniors who live in SRO hotels, our immigrant families who survive on minimum wage income and the merchants on Stockton Street who labored to succeed and serve Chinatown.

“She fought for beautiful parks for our children to play in, she willed our new Chinese Hospital beam by beam and ensured a Central Subway for our many residents who don’t own cars and must take public transit, and she made the rebuilding of Ping Yuen, Chinatown’s only public housing, a monumental task, a reality against all odds. And she knitted so many of us together to ensure we all fought with her.

“As an Asian American woman, I am so lucky to be surrounded by women like Rose and my mom — they are the strongest and most passionate women I know. They kick ass every day and never take a day off.

“She passed away in her home in Chinatown by the hospital she helped to rebuild because it served those who have the least amongst us.

“She already rests in power — she knows no other way. She also rests in love. She gave her heart completely — she truly has left her heart in San Francisco.”

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi: “Rose Pak started her career in S.F. as a journalist for The S.F. Chronicle covering the Hall of Justice crime beat … and rose to one of the most feared, courted, intelligent, charming, funny and now revered San Francisco political powerhouses; deep down, in my experience, she cared deeply for her community and the poor and needy who benefited from her largess. RIP.”

Assemblymember Phil Ting: “Extraordinarily saddened and shocked by the loss of Rose Pak. I just sat down with her a few weeks ago. She looked tired but in much better health after her operation. She spent her whole life fighting for our community and those most in need. She leaves a huge void in the Chinese American community and will be missed.”

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