- Eat & Drink
- News & Features
- City Life
- The Hamptons
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Orange County
- Palm Beach
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- Silicon Valley
- Washington, D.C.
The Dragon and the Dome
Chris A. Smith | Photo: John Ritter | March 30, 2015
How a ghettoized minority cracked the San Francisco establishment—and then became it.
Editor's Note: This is one of many stories about the Chinese-American city that San Francisco is publishing over the next month, all part of the April 2015 Chinese Issue. To peruse the rest of the issue's contents, and to read stories as they become available online, click here.
It’s a winter afternoon in Chinatown, and three lushly tressed Golden State Warriors cheerleaders stand at attention near the door of a rec center gym. In the bleachers, dozens of kids squirm excitedly: The Warriors are here! Up on stage, Harrison Barnes, the soaring 6-foot, 8-inch small forward, and Draymond Green, the 6-foot, 7-inch defender extraordinaire, loom over the proceedings, swathed in NBA-branded swag. They are here for the unveiling of a special Golden State uniform celebrating Chinese New Year, a sleek, slate-gray number bearing the team’s name in Mandarin.
A decent slice of the city’s Chinese-American political class has turned out, looking no less delighted than the kids. Carmen Chu, assessor-recorder, is here, as are west of Twin ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Peaks supervisor Norman Yee and longtime Chinatown power broker Rose Pak. Mayor Ed Lee sits next to Green, looking like a one-story bungalow in the shadow of a skyscraper. A former pickup player himself, the mayor dips into his bottomless reservoir of goofy jokes and comes up with a quip: “I used to dunk—of course, with Dunkin’ Donuts, right?”
The event is, at bottom, a transactional affair. It aims to build the team’s brand in China, the next great global basketball market, and stroke a key part of its local fan base. There are roughly 1.7 million Asian Americans in the Bay Area, and more than 20 percent of the population of San Francisco—future home of the Warriors arena on Mission Bay—is Chinese-American. In its mix of genuine goodwill and ruthless self-interest, substance and symbolism, the unveiling of a Chinese-themed uniform offers a useful way to think about relations between Chinese Americans and San Francisco’s traditionally white-dominated political and business establishment.
Once well outside the political mainstream, the Chinese-American community has become an electoral powerhouse, able to provide friendly candidates—increasingly Chinese-American themselves—with votes, money, and small armies of campaign workers. Ed Lee’s election in 2011 as the city’s first Asian-American mayor is just the most obvious example. Chinese Americans currently hold 3 of 11 seats on the city’s Board of Supervisors, both of San Francisco’s state assembly seats, and a host of other positions, from the local school board to the state controller’s office.
This community is anything but monolithic: It is American-born and immigrant; English- and Chinese-speaking; made up of west-side homeowners, San Bruno Avenue shopkeepers, and Chinatown tenants. Nevertheless, it now constitutes 18 percent of registered voters—a tick below its share of the population but more than enough to swing elections. Last fall, Chinese Americans gave David Chiu the crucial margin over David Campos in the east-side assembly race, and they voted overwhelmingly against Proposition G, San Francisco’s proposed real estate transfer tax, ensuring its defeat. Demographic and voting trends suggest that moderate-to-conservative Chinese-American and other Asian-American voters may soon dominate the districts along the city’s southern rim—from the Bayview to Crocker-Amazon to west of Twin Peaks.
Demographics is destiny, as the saying goes, but that’s just part of the story. This political transformation is also the result of a decades-long give-and-take between the establishment and Chinese-American activists, politicians, and fundraisers. Since the 1980s, if not earlier, conventional political wisdom had held that the Chinese-American electorate was a “sleeping giant.” Ed Lee’s election confirmed that the giant had, at long last, awakened. While that history is well known, the story of the formative early years—in which each side worked out exactly how it could be of use to the other—is less so. “It was always just a matter of ‘who’ and ‘when,’ not ‘if,’” says Vincent Pan, executive director of the Chinatown nonprofit Chinese for Affirmative Action. “But the ‘how’ is a curious thing.”
For roughly the first century of its existence, Chinatown was a neighborhood apart. A latticework of racist laws prevented the Chinese from attending schools outside Chinatown, holding government positions, or living west of Powell or north of Broadway. The city fathers, who saw the neighborhood as a breeding ground for vice and filth, periodically tried to make it disappear—after the 1906 earthquake, in fact, they attempted to exile the community to the remote and far less valuable real estate of Hunters Point.
At least at first, though, Chinatown was also isolated by choice. Early on, many Chinese who had migrated to Old Gold Mountain—as San Francisco was known—saw themselves as temporary residents, so-called sojourners, who were just here to make money before rejoining their families in China. Some of the immigrants saw to it that their bones would be shipped back home when they died.
Clustered together by both necessity and inclination, the Chinese governed themselves. An institution called the Chinatown Six Companies Benevolent Society acted as a quasi-government, controlling commerce and providing some social services. The tongs, mafia-like organizations with old-world roots, ran the opium and prostitution rackets and kept a rough sort of order. “For my father’s generation,” says Wayne Hu, a 70-year-old real estate consultant who helped run the Chinese New Year parade for years, “it was ‘Keep to yourself.’”
Up through the mid-20th century, a few Chinese political bosses handled interactions with city hall, which tended toward the baldly quid pro quo. Because the 1943 Magnuson Act capped Chinese immigration at a mere 105 souls a year, wealthy Chinese were forced to pay fixers like attorney Albert Chow up to $5,000 a pop to procure visas. For white pols, engagement with Chinatown consisted of little more than showing up to collect a check. “You’d go to Chinatown, there’d be a big dinner, and you’d pose with the leadership of the Six Companies,” says Doug Chan, past president of the Chinese American Democratic Club (CADC). “That was the deliverable.”
Such was the situation when Phillip Burton arrived on the scene in the 1950s. An ambitious young progressive who’d been shut out of office by the Irish political machine, Burton was the first white politician to see Chinatown as something other than an exotic ATM. As John Jacobs recounts in his biography of Burton, A Rage for Justice, Burton joined forces with a well-connected political organizer named Lim P. Lee, who introduced him to all the right people. Burton schmoozed the editors of the Chinese-language newspapers, knocked on doors, and wooed the leaders of the Six Companies.
Most important, Burton championed issues that mattered to the Chinese-American community. During the McCarthy era, in 1956, federal attorneys subpoenaed membership records held by Chinatown’s traditional organizations. Few Chinese had come here on wholly legal terms, and the community was terrified. Burton was the only politician to raise a stink, and eventually a federal judge ordered an end to the subpoenas.
It was the right thing to do. But it was also the smart thing to do. Burton, a pioneer in voter analytics, understood that the city’s ethnic complexion was changing. Harry Low, who became the first Chinese-American judge in Northern California, says that while Burton genuinely cared, “he was, of course, counting votes. He probably ate voters’ lists for breakfast.”
In the race for the city’s east-side state assembly seat that fall, Burton took down “unbeatable” Tommy Maloney, the longtime incumbent, by winning 84 percent of the Chinese-American vote—a decisive total in an election decided by just 659 votes. Burton would go on to build the Democratic machine that ruled Northern California for decades to come, and Chinese Americans were part of it. With Low, Lee, and Lee’s wife, Catherine, Burton founded the CADC—a key first step into the political mainstream. The club would help train a generation of operatives over the years, but progress would be slow. In 1960, Chinese Americans made up just 5 percent of San Francisco’s population, and they didn’t have the money to compensate for the lack of bodies. As Phil Chin, a former Chinatown activist who worked for both Art Agnos and Willie Brown during their mayoralties, says, “The number of people who played in the sandbox was very small.”
Eight years later, on a quiet Saturday evening in August of 1968, a few hundred Chinese-American students marched down Grant Avenue, under the gilded eaves and past the throngs of tourists. It was the first such protest Chinatown had ever seen. The students carried signs proclaiming “Equality for Chinese” and “Chinatown Is a Ghetto,” indicting both the slumlords and the predatory business owners who made up the Six Companies, along with their partners in the white establishment. For once, as one of the organizers, William Poy Lee, later wrote, “Chinese Americans actually outnumbered tourists on Grant Avenue.”
“The Six Companies went ballistic,” says Ling-Chi Wang, an activist who cofounded Chinese for Affirmative Action and chaired UC Berkeley’s Asian American Studies department in its earliest days. “They were humiliated. They always bragged that they could take care of their own problems, so they felt a loss of face.” According to Lee, someone put out a hit on four of the activists. Luckily, the would-be assassins were nabbed at SFO with guns in their bags.
The student protest was a measure of how much had already changed in the Chinese-American community. In 1965, the federal government relaxed its immigration laws, allowing 20,000 Chinese to enter the country annually beginning in 1968. The resolution of one problem, however, created another: The rush of immigrants, many of them poor and monolingual, overwhelmed Chinatown, and the old system—never that reliable to begin with—began breaking down. By the late 1960s, the neighborhood’s run-down tenements were filled to bursting, the tuberculosis rate had skyrocketed, and immigrant youth gangs clogged the street corners. The journalist Ben Fong-Torres wrote, “People were being killed in the streets, merchants were being extorted; gangs were at war not only with each other but with community leaders and cops.”
Meanwhile, the Asian-American movement was rising at colleges across the Bay Area. At San Francisco State in 1968, students held teach-ins and marches and shut down the campus, demanding an ethnic studies program and a more diverse faculty and student body. There were firebombs, mass arrests, and busted heads, but five months later, the school caved and rolled out the nation’s first college of ethnic studies.
Even in victory, though, the activists recognized that campus protest wasn’t enough. The strategically foulmouthed spokesman George Woo pressed students to put their ideals into practice by serving the community. Identity without action, he thundered at a “Yellow Symposium” at UC Berkeley, was just “mental masturbation.” Students heard the call. Sue Lee, a Chinatown-born activist who has worked for five different mayors and now runs the Chinese Historical Society of America, was one of them. “People came out of college and thought, ‘I’m going to make a difference in Chinatown.’”
Chinatown storefronts soon sprouted a constellation of nonprofits devoted to social justice, legal aid, and elderly care. Fueled by federal grants, the new organizations became farm teams for the Chinese-American political class, launching the careers of future leaders like Ed Lee and Phil Chin. Most of the current crop of Asian-American politicians, from Phil Ting to Norman Yee to Jane Kim to Eric Mar, came out of the nonprofit world. “[The nonprofits] shaped the way we see our mission,” Ting says. “It’s like the roots of a tree—they all go back to that.”
North Beach patriarch Joe Alioto occupied Room 200 during these turbulent years. In 1973, he appointed George Chinn, a lawyer and former Board of Education member, as the city’s first Asian-American supervisor. Chinn was no revolutionary, and he lost his election bid nine months later, but his appointment was a concession to the times. As former Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin puts it, “Alioto was old-school, but he paid attention.” Greater victories were coming. Activists pushed for Chinese-language balloting and sued the city over discriminatory practices, including height requirements, that effectively excluded Chinese Americans from the police department. With the help of activist lawyers like Ed Lee, the tenants of Ping Yuen, at the time a dangerous and decrepit public housing complex on Pacific, launched the first rent strike against the S.F. Housing Authority in Chinatown’s history.
In 1975, George Moscone, one of the most liberal members of the state assembly, ran for mayor. He had the strong backing of the Burton machine, run by Phillip and his younger brother, John, and most of the Chinese voting bloc. Activists from both the nonprofits and the CADC walked precincts for him, worked the phones, and turned out the vote. In turn, Moscone included a Chinese American, Betty Lim, in his kitchen cabinet and helped usher in district elections for supervisors, which gave minority candidates a better shot at beating well-funded establishment pols. He also appointed Gordon Lau, a lawyer active in the civil rights struggle, to a supervisorial seat in 1977, and Lau won election later that year—a first foan Asian American. Gordon Chin, cofounder of the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) and author of the forthcoming memoir Building Community, Chinatown Style, remembers those years fondly: “It was this whole upsurge of optimism, like with Obama.”
The CADC, meanwhile, began vaulting candidates into lower-profile offices with regularity—one year the school board, another year the community college board. The club’s proprietary Chinese-surname database helped: Operatives cross-checked voter lists with the 6,000-name database and precisely targeted Chinese voters, sending out Cantonese mailers and boosting the Chinese vote. Doug Chan, who helped develop the database, describes the increase in Chinese-American power as “a building by accretion.”
In Chinatown, this accretion was due in no small part to the efforts of Rose Pak, who has loomed over the area’s politics for more than 30 years. Arriving from Hong Kong in the 1960s, she worked as a reporter for the Chronicle before moving into her current role as general consultant to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and all-around neighborhood fixer. She quickly got to know everyone who mattered in Chinatown, from the old bosses to the activists to the politicians in City Hall and Sacramento. And she wasn’t afraid to fight. “Over the years I’ve stepped on a lot of toes, made a lot of enemies, and a lot of people stabbed me in the back,” she says.
Whatever the case, Pak racked up the wins. In 1987, she helped save 176 poor tenants in Chinatown’s Orangeland tenements from eviction. The next year, she persuaded the city’s Planning Commission to pass the Chinatown Master Plan, which, among other things, prohibited developers from building high-rises among the tenements. Peskin, whose relationship with Pak over the years has oscillated between close ally and bitter foe, says, “She is a major reason why that reservoir of low-income housing still exists.”
When Art Agnos ran for mayor in 1987, Pak and the Chinese community were right beside him. As chief of staff to Assemblyman Leo McCarthy more than a decade earlier, Agnos had worked with Pak to prevent the closure of Chinese Hospital, which served the neighborhood’s poorest. That made Agnos a VIP in Chinatown. Community organizers turned out bodies to vote, phone-bank, and canvass for him, and Pak raised heaps of money. “She’d raise and package tens of thousands of dollars,” Agnos says. “And then when [the donors] needed help from the government, she’d deliver it.”
With Agnos’s victory, the nonprofits again had an ally in City Hall. Under the new mayor, Chinese Americans began snagging appointments to commissions with juice: health, the port, public utilities, and the police. (That last post went to Pius Lee, a Rolls Royce–driving realtor who had made a fortune selling houses to Chinese immigrants. He celebrated the appointment by supplying the cops with a horse.) And most of them were recommended by Pak. “She pushed hard,” Agnos says with considerable understatement. “And she never brought me stiffs.”
All the while, the Chinatown nonprofits continued to graduate activists into the city bureaucracy. The strategy was simple, Pak says: You teach them how politics works, and “then you push them out to the city.” Ed Lee came up through this minor-league system, landing his first city job—as the investigator for the city’s new whistle-blower program—under Agnos.
The honeymoon ended after the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, which badly damaged the Embarcadero Freeway. Chinatown merchants, convinced that the freeway was crucial to their livelihood, were livid when Agnos announced that he wouldn’t rebuild. When Agnos ran for reelection in 1991, most of the community abandoned him. Worse, the fast-growing west-side Chinese-American neighborhoods turned out en masse for his opponent, the more conservative former police chief Frank Jordan, who received 70 percent of the vote in some precincts.
Jordan’s landslide in the avenues was no fluke. The west side had become a force in Chinese-American—and San Francisco—politics.
This emergence, however, had been many years in the making. As whites departed the Richmond and the Sunset for less foggy climes in the 1970s, Chinese families filled the gap, trading up from Chinatown or immigrating from Hong Kong. Chinese-American citizens outside of Chinatown quickly came to outnumber those within it—today, there are about 64,000 Asian Americans in the Richmond and the Sunset, compared with some 12,000 in Chinatown. As the years passed, some activists remained loyal to the Burton machine. Others, like Harold Yee, began building their own.
A suffer-no-fools civil rights veteran from East Los Angeles, Yee was the founder of scores of nonprofits. Sometimes his efforts intersected with those of his counterparts in Chinatown—everybody, after all, wanted to see more Chinese-American faces at City Hall. Over the years, though, Yee came to believe that Chinese Americans could do better by charting a course independent of the Burtons, Pak, and her Chinatown allies. “All too often,” Yee said in 1987, “we have allowed political brokers, yes, even from our very own communities, to fraudulently sell their candidates to Asian-American communities without any return or accountability.”
As Yee and his compatriots saw it, the existing political players didn’t pay enough attention to the issues that got west-side pulses racing: affirmative action quotas that, ironically, shut high-achieving Chinese-American kids out of neighborhood schools, and laws that would have restricted the building of so-called Richmond specials—boxy, multiunit apartment buildings often occupied by multigenerational Chinese-American families.
Such issues had little in common with civil rights–era identity politics. The new ethnic politics had a moderate, homeowner-centric twist that differentiated the growing Chinese voting bloc (east and west) from its allies in the progressive community and the Democratic machine. Chinese identity was front and center, but so were taxes. Naturally enough, west-side political organizations began to reflect this more conservative orientation.
Using the CADC’s Chinese-surname database, west-side activists registered voters and targeted them with direct mail. Instead of trying to win over the Anglo media, they focused on the growing number of Chinese-language outlets—the principal news source for 80 percent of the city’s foreign-born Chinese. Cable TV proved especially useful: Advertising on Chinese-language stations like KTSF allowed candidates to get their message out to a precisely targeted audience of Chinese-American voters.
“Right in the middle of that Cantonese newscast, I’m gonna do my media buy,” former CADC president Doug Chan says. “It is very cost-effective—we aren’t paying for anyone else.” It’s difficult to overstate the value of Chinese- language media. Phil Ting, a state assemblymember since 2012, says that when he’s recognized in public, it’s almost always by a Chinese speaker who “might only know me by my Chinese name.” (For the record, it’s 丁右立, or Dīng Yòulì.)
Eventually the CADC splintered, and other groups emerged. By then a new cohort of leaders was on the rise, drafting off the west-side currents. Most of them started out progressive but tacked right when their constituents in the Chinese community began voting in greater numbers. Mabel Teng, a community organizer who worked with Jesse Jackson in the 1980s, played down her activist bona fides during her tenure on the Board of Supervisors in the 1990s, supporting pro-landlord legislation as well as police actions to clear the homeless out of Golden Gate Park. As an aggrieved 1998 Bay Guardian piece put it, Teng played “both sides of the fence.”
Most prominent among the new leaders was Leland Yee, a psychologist from the Sunset who for more than two decades won every race he entered, from the school board to the Board of Supervisors to the assembly and state senate. Yee goes to trial on racketeering and weapons trafficking charges this year, so nobody is eager to claim him now. But before his downfall, he was the embodiment of a local boy made good, the first Chinese American to win a state legislative post on the west side.
Demographic trends and voter-registration rates, meanwhile, more or less ensured that once Chinese Americans started getting elected out west, they would continue to do so like clockwork. According to David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee and a political science professor at San Francisco State, it was largely the same voters who elected Yee to supervisor who went on to put him in the assembly and then the state senate. Fiona Ma, now a member of the Board of Equalization, followed in Yee’s electoral footsteps (with support from the Burton machine). In due time, Ting assumed Ma’s seat. “My opportunities don’t come from me,” Ting admits. “So many folks have built the foundations.”
Those foundations have proved remarkably durable despite the dubious merits of certain individual players. Indeed, the west side has seen more than its share of crooks and liars. Besides Yee, whose legal trouble surprised exactly zero political insiders, there was Ed Jew, the supervisor and former Yee volunteer who did nearly five years after getting busted for shaking down Sunset bubble tea shops in 2007. There was also Julie Lee, the housewife turned power broker who, at the height of her influence in the late 1990s, commanded the allegiance of thousands of west-side homeowners. In 2008, Lee was convicted of witness tampering and mail fraud, and was sentenced to a year in prison.
The scandals came and went, but the west-siders had built a system that they could rely on to raise money, recruit voters, and get them to the polls—a system, in other words, much like the one built by the Chinatown activists. The Chinese political infrastructure had gone citywide.
Viewed through that lens, the following years assume an air of inevitability. Willie Brown, a longtime Pak ally, won the mayor’s race in 1995 with the full backing of Pak’s Chinatown apparatus. Once in office, he more than repaid that debt, appointing more Asian Americans to city jobs and commissions than any previous mayor. Some of those jobs were big ones, too, such as Fred Lau’s appointment as police chief. Brown threw his weight behind new affordable housing projects in Chinatown and changed the way that city contracts were awarded, breaking the largest ones down so that smaller, minority-owned businesses stood a chance.
Brown also reached out to the west side, which had been suspicious of both his liberalism and his ties to Pak during his first run. By the time his reelection bid rolled around, Brown had convinced one of his noisiest critics, the aforementioned Julie Lee, to support him. She became one of his biggest fundraisers, and Brown won easily on the west side. In return, Brown appointed her to the Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners and proclaimed October 13, 2001, Julie Lee Day. Identifying community leaders and leveraging their support is fundamental to any politician’s success, but as political consultant David Latterman says, “Willie did it better than anybody.”
After that, the Chinese share of the voting public continued to grow, providing Brown’s successor, Gavin Newsom, with his margin of victory in 2003. Newsom would prove less solicitous of the Chinese community than Brown, but by then it hardly mattered. The wheels were turning faster. The return to district elections in 2000 (replacing at-large elections, which had been in place since the 1978 assassinations of Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk) yielded a bumper crop of Chinese-American supervisors within the decade. And, of course, when Newsom ascended to Sacramento, he helped engineer the installation of Ed Lee as interim mayor—the new, extravagantly mustachioed face of the establishment.
Today, there are few parts of San Francisco where politicos can ignore the Chinese-American vote. “Ten years ago, people didn’t care about translating their campaign materials, let alone sending out Chinese mailers or doing ads targeted at bilingual voters,” says David Ho, a former CCDC community organizer who has run field campaigns for Ed Lee, Supervisor Jane Kim, and Assemblymember David Chiu. “Now the first thing you talk about is, ‘What’s your budget for the Chinese community?’”
The next step for the Chinese-American political community, many say, is to reach the point that ethnicity matters less than ideology. There are signs that this is beginning to happen. Chiu became the first Asian American to win the east-side assembly seat by presenting himself as a techie as well as a Chinese American.
“It’s more and more true that being Chinese isn’t enough,” says David Lee. “You have to align with the issues, like with any other group.” That said, ethnicity still matters. Look at District 7 supervisor Norman Yee, who, despite being slightly more liberal than his constituents, narrowly beat out a slate of white candidates in 2012. (Some pollsters even suggested that name confusion with Leland Yee gave Norman the leg up.) Or take Ed Lee himself. The onetime progressive lawyer has governed as a business-friendly moderate and remains relatively popular citywide—so much so that he’s unlikely to face any real opposition in his reelection run this fall.
In January, though, Lee appointed Julie Christensen, a white moderate with ties to the development community, to replace Chiu as District 3 supervisor. In doing so he snubbed Cindy Wu, the progressive Chinese-American city planner from the CCDC. The reaction in Chinatown was equal parts rage and astonishment. Pak, the mayor’s friend and booster, has been especially vocal. “It took us 160 years to elect a Chinese American from this district, and he gives it away!” she fumes. “He’s afraid that people said he’s for the Chinese. So he has to bend backward to show he’s not for the Chinese.” For his part, Lee emphasizes that putting a Chinese American into office wasn’t his highest priority.
These questions of ethnicity and ideology seem set to play out in wholly unpredictable ways this fall as Christensen tries to hold her seat during a general election. If Wu runs, she will have the support of Pak and the Chinatown nonprofits. If Wu declines to run and former progressive supervisor Aaron Peskin jumps into the race, he may get Pak’s backing despite his recent history as Ed Lee’s most persistent and quotable critic. Peskin, Pak, and David Ho met in January for a long, exploratory lunch to discuss the possibilities, but as of press time, nothing was definite.
How Chinatown voters will break is anyone’s guess, but Pak seems to relish the prospect of a showdown with the mayor. “He thought we’d just grumble and then go away and support his candidate,” she says, then laughs. “Ain’t gonna happen.” (Nevertheless, in January, Pak organized a reelection fundraiser for the mayor that raised $250,000.)
Beyond the Sturm und Drang, Vincent Pan of Chinese for Affirmative Action wonders exactly what the rise of all these Chinese-American politicians will amount to. Will it be business as usual, just with more Chinese faces? Or will they transform the old system? “It begs the question not so much of whether demographics are destiny,” he says, “but what does that destiny look like?”
Back at the Warriors event in Chinatown, everybody’s focused on a simpler, feel-good brand of politics. The mayor is asked how the uniforms make him feel as a Chinese American.
I have to say, I have an immediate sense of pride,” he says. “To be able to come out and have the community very much respected and regarded in this way is truly, truly changing.” When photo-op time comes, the crowd jockeys for position around the Warriors players. Grinning madly, the mayor poses between Barnes and Green. Afterward, Barnes lopes over to one of the baskets and starts playfully swatting kids’ jump shots out of the air. The mayor moves slowly toward the exit, dutifully gripping and grinning but probably wishing that he could stay and shoot with Barnes.
Off to one side of the stage, a reporter for KTSF, the local Chinese-language TV station, does her stand-up next to a mannequin draped in the new Warriors merch. Later that night, her viewers will get another measure of just how influential they have become.
Originally published in the April issue of San Francisco