Amy Cohen

Amy Cohen is Director of Neighborhood Program Development at the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development. Amy brings expert teams, resources, and creative, community-centered activation approaches to places that are holding back neighborhoods.  Amy’s current portfolio includes the Civic Center Initiative, a collaborative cross-sector effort to unify and activate the public spaces linking Market Street and City Hall; the Citywide Public Space Initiative, a $2 million effort to improve public spaces throughout the City, and a citywide storefront vacancy strategy.  Amy has worked on public-private partnerships to revive abandoned buildings and led the first phase of a multi-year effort to revitalize Mid Market from 2011 to 2016.  Amy is a graduate of a Masters program in community development at University of California, Davis and has a BA from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.  Amy lives in the Portola district of San Francisco with her husband and two school-aged children.

Mark Ellinger (1949 – 2019)

Mark Ellinger founded the recording studio Truth and Beauty in the Mission District of San Francisco. He wrote the music for many San Francisco underground films, and was  a noted photographer and documenter of the Tenderloin area of San Francisco with his website and blog, Up From the Deep.

Sylvester Guard

Sylvester Guard is a cartoonist, animator, teacher, skateboarding advocate, and volunteer at Hospitality House’s Community Arts Program in the Central Market Street neighborhood. He also volunteers with the Central City SRO Collaborative. Sylvester’s art has been exhibited across the Bay area and internationally. He recently completed murals outside Central Market Street’s Seneca residential hotel, and in San Francisco’s Tenderloin.

Elvin Padilla

Elvin Padilla is Director of Food Security at the Stupski Foundation in San Francisco. Living in the Tenderloin in San Francisco, Elvin was a regular at the beloved Heart of the City Farmers Market in the Central Market Street neighborhood. He served as executive director of the Tenderloin Economic Development Project where he worked extensively with neighborhood arts and youth development organizations on capacity development, advocacy, facilitating collaborations, and program space development and stabilization.

Elvin is a graduate of Haverford College and completed a University of Pennsylvania fellowship on best practices in urban redevelopment. Food security is personal to Elvin. He remembers as a child standing in the food line waiting for the USDA’s Commodity Food Program’s giant cans of peanut butter and blocks of cheese. He hopes to help “shorten the line” in collaboration with the Bay Area community’s food security practitioners.

Ellyn Parker

Ellyn Parker is a self-described accidental bureaucrat who works to advance the notion that creativity and the arts are catalysts for creating connection, healing and building strong thriving cities and neighborhoods. Ellyn spent 9 years working as a community and neighborhood development specialist in the Mayor’s Office of Economic Workforce and Development (OEWD) for the City of San Francisco. During her time at OEWD, she was on the team that created the Central Market/Tenderloin Economic Strategy- a comprehensive cultural and economic strategy that was recognized for its excellence with a American Planning Association Award. Her efforts to create equitable public space in San Francisco included bringing Sunset Piano street pianos to the Tenderloin and Market Street, numerous public art installations and support for small businesses and arts groups.

Ellyn has worked in the arts in many incarnations including gallery owner and youth arts educator and is an occasional musician, artist and writer herself. Ellyn is a Virginia native who resides in Richmond, VA, after spending 20 years in San Francisco.

Carey Perloff

Carey Perloff is a director, writer, producer and educator who recently completed an acclaimed 25-year tenure as Artistic Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco (1992 to 2018). Perloff inherited an earthquake-destroyed theater, a huge deficit, a struggling MFA program, and a need to completely re-imagine the future of A.C.T. In addition to rebuilding the Geary Theater, reanimating ACT’s educational programs, and creating decades of vigorous, culturally diverse programming that has seen ACT’s audiences grow and its work presented around the country, Perloff oversaw the creation of ACT’s second stage, The Strand, a multi-venue performance space that provides a home for new artists, new work, new audiences, and the many aspects of A.C.T.’s training programs. Her highly acclaimed book Beautiful Chaos: A Life in the Theater (City Lights Press, 2015) explores many of the ideas and issues that emerged during her tenure at A.C.T. and shares the journey of a woman in a leadership field often dominated by men.

Jasper Rubin, Ph.D.

Jasper Rubin, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in Urban Studies and Planning at San Francisco State University. Before joining the University, Jasper worked as a planner and senior policy analyst at the San Francisco Planning Department. There he was the manager of the Central Waterfront Neighborhood Plan, a part of the Better Neighborhoods and Eastern Neighborhoods planning and rezoning programs. Much of his work involved negotiating a balance between protecting some of the city’s remaining industrial land and identifying areas that could be developed to accommodate housing and commercial uses. He was also deeply involved in community-based planning efforts in the Showplace Square/Potrero and Mission neighborhoods. Rubin has also been a planner in a (now defunct) San Francisco environmental consulting firm, where he was involved in CEQA analysis for large redevelopment projects including Mission Bay. Rubin’s academic interests have remained focused on San Francisco and the politics of development. His major publication is the award-winning book “A Negotiated Landscape: The Transformation of San Francisco’s Waterfront Since 1950,” now in its second edition. He regularly teaches classes on Land Use Planning, the History and Theory of Planning, and Research Methods. Rubin holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Urban Geography from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Tim Redmond

Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Executive Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, San Francisco’s leading provider of housing for formerly homeless single adults. Shaw’s new book, “Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America,” highlights the pricing out of a new generation of working and middle-class residents from the nation’s most progressive cities. Shaw offers a roadmap for cities to end exclusionary land use policies and build the infill housing necessary to expand affordability and combat climate change. Shaw’s prior books include “The Activist’s Handbook,” “Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century,” and “The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco.” Shaw has been an attorney since 1982 and is editor of Beyond Chron.

Mikkel Svane

Mikkel Svane is the CEO, chairman, and founder of Zendesk, a global company that builds software for the best customer experiences. He has driven the vision, culture, and growth of the company for the last 10 years. Under his leadership, the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014 and currently helps more than 125,000 organizations around the world better help, engage with, and understand their customers. Originally from Copenhagen, Denmark, he is a published author of the book “Startupland,” a father of three, and a lover of handcrafted cocktails.

Jeffrey Tumlin

Jeffrey Tumlin, San Francisco’s Director of Transportation,  built his career helping organizations define their values and put them into action. A globally renowned leader, Jeff leverages limited resources and restructures transportation agencies to elevate sustainable planning, including social, environmental, and economic factors. His work is seen as transformative and has won many awards.

Prior to joining the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Jeffrey served as a Principal and Director of Strategy at Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc., a firm specializing in holistic planning for all transportation modes. There, he led the transportation component of a dozen detailed neighborhood plans throughout San Francisco, including the Market/Octavia, Balboa Park, and Central Waterfront specific plans; the Glen Park and Visitacion Valley community plans; and the Ocean Beach Master Plan. Together, this work helped accommodate nearly 50,000 new residents while mitigating traffic and making walking more delightful, bicycling safer, and transit more reliable.

Tania Zapata

Tania Zapata is a Colombian-born entrepreneur that has gone by many professional titles – Co-founder and CEO of Voice123, co-founder and Chief People Officer of Bunny Inc., and angel investor. She is a proud people geek, with a love of learning that runs deep with topics such as neuroscience, behavior, organizational culture, and lately deep learning and coding.

Tania is currently the CEO of Akily, an app that provides developmental activities for parents, nannies, and at home daycares to experience with their children face-to-face. Akily’s mission is to democratize children’s development. Tania believes that all children deserve to live up to their full potential with love and support in their lives, and her passion is to see that more of them do so.

Panel/Q&A Moderators

Michael Fox, Film Critic & Journalist, KQED Arts

Michael Fox has covered the Bay Area film scene for dozens of publications since 1987, and currently writes for KQED Arts. He curated and hosted the CinemaLit film series at the Mechanics’ Institute for 14 years. Fox is an instructor in the OLLI programs at U.C. Berkeley and S.F. State, and a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle.

Douglas Fruehling, Editor-in-Chief, San Francisco Business Times

Karen Topakian, Activist/Former Board Chair, Greenpeace, Inc.

Karen Topakian is a writer, speaker, social change activist and communications consultant who draws on more than 35 years of experience in the nonprofit world. Karen holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the San Francisco Art Institute and a BA in Sociology and Theater from Clark University.

During her 16-year tenure as the Agape Foundation–Fund for Nonviolent Social Change’s executive director, Karen learned about the communication needs facing grassroots organizations. While working as a Greenpeace nuclear disarmament campaigner, she witnessed the importance of a well-designed and executed communications plan and strategy. When she consulted at Abernathy Anderson, a public relations firm, Karen discovered the value of story pitching and clear messaging.

Karen served as board chair for Greenpeace, Inc. from 2010-2018. She is also the subject of Arrested (Again), a 2017 short film by Dan Goldes, which has screened at 55 film festivals around the world.