Redistricting to divide S.F.’s J-Town


What is the impact of moving the voting boundary lines by dividing the Japanese community of San Francisco? That is precisely the intent of the new redistricting lines being drawn between District 2 (D2), Supervisor Mark Farrell’s district, which includes Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, Seacliff and the Marina. And if the people promoting this idea get their way, Japantown community interests north of Geary Blvd. will be thrown into this district.

For Japantown, the consequence of dividing it north and south of Geary, between District 2 and District 5 (D5) — Supervisor Christina Olague’s district — is to divide and dilute the votes of the Japantown community so their voice is basically ineffectual and may not have the majority of the D2 voters sympathetic to their needs. The division of Japantown between two districts may be the ultimate blow to Japantown and its interests. Perhaps Japantown is being played in a political scheme by D2 to fulfill the number of units of housing that need to be built to fulfill that district’s share of the state Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). Once the RHNA goals are met by D2, there will not be any real need for that district to undergo massive densification within it elsewhere.

The Japantown community of interest must stay together. That is the entire area from at least Pine Street on the north to at least Ellis Street to the south between Fillmore and Laguna streets. Japantown has always aligned itself with the Fillmore District, which is squarely in District 5. These communities of color have much more in common and can seek careful recognition by Supervisor Olague than is likely with Supervisor Farrell in protecting it from over-densification and from gentrification. Supervisor Farrell’s district is proposed to gain Japantown and lose Laurel Heights, Jordan Park and a few blocks east of Arguello Blvd. These smaller areas have more in common with D2 than Japantown does. It makes no sense at all to put Japantown in D2. It does make sense to keep Laurel Heights, Jordan Park and the few blocks east of Arguello in D2 just on the basis of commonality and so as not to divide communities of interest, especially when the population of the Japanese is even lower than that of the African Americans in this City.

In terms of history, there is a great deal of history south of Geary for Japantown at the Rosa Parks site. Japantown has always been in D5. All of Japantown needs to stay in D5. There is no other reason to justify the division of the Japantown community than to create a good basis to allow D2 to not have to build much more than is being proposed in Japantown.

Not only could D2 be involved in this shell game to move the lines of voting and thus to decide the ultimate fate and survival of J-Town, but also perhaps District 7 (D7) — Supervisor Sean Elsbernd’s district — which usually aligns itself with the more affluent D2 because it encompasses another very nice neighborhood called St. Francis Wood. Currently, D7 is proposed to be divided so D5 needs to shed itself of J-Town so D7 can stay intact.

The Japanese community of interest cannot be allowed to suffer another blow — the attempt to destroy J-Town through land use and planning decisions is one thing; but to have it destroyed via political maneuvering to fulfill deals made between the more affluent districts will be the ultimate blow to its survival.

Please voice your support to keep the Japantown community intact and not divided. Send an e-mail to to let the Redistricting Task Force officials know that you oppose the Japantown community being divided and separated from the Fillmore District. Many in the Japanese community are in the Fillmore area. Japantown cannot be sacrificed at the expense of another group who does not represent them. Dividing a group of people and isolating their voting power in two districts will lead to further loss in cultural, historical and economic viability. Say “No” to dividing and conquering. Thank you for your help.


Rose Hillson is a Japantown activist and a native resident of San Francisco. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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