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Another bad joke, another apology by city official

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The city official who made an ill-considered bribery joke about Sicilians publicly last month apologized again Thursday for suggesting that a storeowner applying to sell alcohol in the Tenderloin “just sell drugs or something.”

After saying he knew the remark would come back to haunt him, Planning Commissioner Hisashi “Bill” Sugaya said he was “very, very sorry” before public comment at the group’s regular meeting.

His apology was accepted by some people he offended under the condition that he actually take a tour of the neighborhood.

“The Tenderloin is in a really fragile state,” Central City SRO Collaborative Executive Director Jeff Buckley said during public comment. “All we ask is to be treated fairly.”

However, during the commission’s public comment period, a handful of residents asked that he step down.

Sugaya made his latest tone-deaf attempt at a joke last week after dozens of Tenderloin residents protested a wine-and-beer permit for the new Tip Top Grocery Market at 90 Turk St. The permit was denied in a 4-2 vote, with Sugaya being one of the two voting in favor of the permit.

In December, Sugaya was forced to publicly apologize after making a comment about Sicilians and cash bribes in brown paper bags. Former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier had issued a resolution to publicly condemn him.

During a hearing on a North Beach Italian restaurant’s application to have an opera-singing waiter, Sugaya said, “I’m supportive, but I was kind of waiting for my brown paper envelopes to come from the Sicilians. But I never got anything so, you know, I may vote against it.”

When it came to the Tenderloin fumble, new Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the district, said she called him Monday politely advising him to apologize so her office would not have to issue a condemning statement.

“I think if you don’t spend time in the Tenderloin, it’s easy to stereotype the neighborhood,” Kim said. “We want to go on a tour with him.”

Christina Olague, who served as vice president of the commission at the time of the comment and was appointed as president Thursday, also said she was sorry. “I should have called a recess,” she said.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com