Community fine-tunes city redistricting draft


A little more than a dozen people met at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) on the evening of Feb. 15 to discuss the redistricting process in San Francisco’s 11 city districts.

Japantown community members first became involved in the redistricting process when early drafts of the district boundaries drawn by the city’s Redistricting Task Force (RTF) proposed running the border between District 2 and District 5 down Geary Boulevard, splitting the ethnic enclave in two and thereby moving most of Japantown from District 5 into District 2.

An ad hoc committee of concerned community members affiliated with Japantown met on Feb. 3. During a meeting held on Feb. 6, the task force moved the proposed District 5 border up to Pine Street, between Gough and Steiner Streets, Robert Rusky said in an e-mail. The ad hoc community group later met on Feb. 15 to field thoughts from the community to fine-tune the boundaries the task force proposed during the Feb. 6 meeting.

Ryan Kimura, the programs director at the JCCCNC, helped moderate the meeting. Karen Kai and Rusky, both active community members, along with Jon Osaki, executive director of the Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC), attended the meeting. Carolyn Hsu and Carlo De La Cruz of the Asian Law Caucus also attended. De La Cruz was involved with the redistricting process for the state last year. Also present was Justin Morgan, a family physician employed by the city and a candidate for Democratic County Central Committee, who has taken a leading role in consolidating community input for District 5’s boundary lines.

While the district boundary line currently sits at Pine Street, Kai and Osaki said the line should be drawn at California Street, one block north of the current boundary. Kai, who has worked on the Japantown Better Neighborhood Plan, said, “We defined an area that is Japantown, and it goes up to California Street.”

The current task force boundary leaves out JCYC, the Nichiren Buddhist Church and the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. While the churches and the JCYC are located on Pine Street, they are situated on the northern side of the street and beyond the District 5 border.

“This is not gerrymandering — this is not to keep a political party or person in power — this is to keep a community together,” said Kai. “We need to keep JCYC” in District 5.

Osaki added that JCYC’s headquarters took years of planning. He emphasized that his nonprofit “should stay in Japantown.”

The current draft map from the RTF does not include JCYC’s Chibi Chan Preschool, located on the southwest corner of Pine and Pierce streets, and the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center on the southeast corner of Presidio Avenue and Sutter Street. The Westside Courts public housing, the Western Addition Public Library Branch and the Hamilton Recreation Center are also not included in the current District 5 boundaries. The community discussed new boundaries to include these resources that serve the Japanese American and African American communities residing in District 5.

According to Kai, Supervisor Mark Farrell’s assistants said during the Feb. 6 meeting that Japantown should stay in District 5, instead of Farrell’s District 2, which includes the Marina, Pacific Heights and the Presidio neighborhoods.

Supervisor Eric Mar had previously said at the meeting held on Feb. 3, however, that he would welcome hosting some of the Western Addition neighborhoods, including the Booker T. Center, Westside Courts Housing, the library and Japantown in his District 1, should District 5 be unable to accommodate them.

According to those present at the Feb. 15 meeting, the general consensus among community members indicated that Japantown and other Western Addition community resources should remain in District 5.

The task force is committed to finding rational district lines, according to De La Cruz, of the Asian Law Caucus. Unlike the redistricting process for the state, he said the city is small enough to focus on all districts at once. According to De La Cruz, the task force will accept citywide maps until Friday, March 2 and district specific maps until Thursday, March 22.

“I think their rationale will allow them to do a balancing act with all the maps,” said De La Cruz.

The citywide maps would create a foundation, while individual neighborhood maps would help fine-tune the citywide maps. The final draft of the map is due to the City Board of Supervisors on Sunday, April 15.

By order of the city charter, the city of San Francisco redraws the boundaries to its 11 city supervisor districts after the decennial national census. The 2010 Census showed an increase of more than 24,000 people in San Francisco’s District 6, and an overall growth of more than 28,000 people across San Francisco, the city said in a memorandum dated May 23, 2011.

The members of the San Francisco Redistricting Task Force, assembled by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the mayor and the city’s Elections Commission, are charged with splitting the city into 11 equally sized districts. By city charter, each district should contain a mean of 73,202 residents, with a deviation up to one percent. The deviation, however, can go up to five percent to preserve “communities of interest,” a vague term that is not defined by the city, but is understood as a neighborhood sharing similar cultural, socio-economic and historical ties, according to De La Cruz.

Morgan said he had drafted multiple citywide maps for District 5. The district maintained the same shape in all of the maps. “This way, no matter what else happens (in other districts) D-5 stays intact.”

Ultimately, the meeting’s leaders asked for community support to secure the boundary lines.

“(The task force) is very receptive to community input,” said Hiroshi Fukuda, a community member, who has been advocating for the inclusion of Japantown in District 5. “Some meetings have two to three people, some six to 10 — if we can have 20 people attend a meeting, we would really make a difference.”

Morgan added that every redistricting meeting is important, and an opportunity to push for lines that favor District 5. “We have to go to all the meetings,” said Morgan. “The more people see the map we agree on, the better.”

Haruka Roudebush of nihonmachiROOTS, who also attended, said he hoped to start a “Week of Action” campaign through the group, which is comprised of young leaders in the ethnic enclave. The lobby campaign would target the task force with different forms of media pushing for the proposed map boundaries by the Japantown community. He said they successful in lobbying then-Mayor Gavin Newsom to prevent funding cuts to the JCYC in 2010.

There will be a Redistricting Task Force Meeting focusing on District 5 on Saturday, March 17, at 10 a.m., at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center, 1050 McAllister St. The next task force meeting will be held at the Old First Presbyterian Church, located at 1751 Sacramento St. on Thursday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. Morgan said he would organize community members to encourage the inclusion of the Westside Courts public housing at the Feb. 23 meeting.

For a full list of task force meetings, visit’page=2622.

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