S.F. redistricting process preserves Japantown in District 5

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The San Francisco Redistricting Task Force released the final draft of its 2012 Supervisorial Lines for the city’s 11 supervisorial districts in mid-April.

In initial drafts of the borders, the task force split Districts 2 and 5 at Geary Boulevard, placing a majority of Japantown in District 2. The Japanese American community partnered with the African American community of the Fillmore and Western Addition neighborhoods to successfully move the boundaries to keep the ethnic enclave in District 5 with its historical allies.

“In addition to keeping Japantown together as a politically recognized entity, the redistricting process was important in renewing and reinforcing our ties with the African American community,” Karen Kai and Bob Rusky said in an e-mail. “We consciously drew upon the long history of our communities and how they have lived, worked and faced political and social struggles together. The redistricting effort helped remind us of that history and sets the stage for future cooperation between Japantown and the Fillmore.”

According to community members Kai and Rusky, the Japantown community was introduced to Justin Morgan, a doctor practicing in the Fillmore District who became a leading redistricting advocate.

Kai and Rusky said that Carolyn Hsu from the Asian Law Caucus aided them in organizing an effort to move the northern district boundary to include key community organizations, such as the Japanese Community Youth Council (JCYC), which is located at 2012 Pine Street and the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center, which is located at 800 Presidio Ave.

Morgan said the boundaries incorporate all of the areas they wanted to keep in the district, and that the Fillmore and Japantown community were pleased by the outcome.

“The process, overall, was a excellent example of civic engagement,” Morgan said. “When our proposed map began to be included in both the Task Force map and in maps submitted by other organizations, I knew our message was being heard.”

Jon Osaki, executive director of JCYC, was particularly concerned when his organization was not included in the revised draft plan made Feb. 6. Initial feedback from the Japantown community convinced the task force to move the boundaries for District 5 from Geary Boulevard to Pine Street between Gough Street and Steiner Street.

JCYC, which was on the northern half of Pine Street, was not included in this plan and the Chibi Chan Preschool operated by JCYC was also not included in this plan.

According to Osaki the organization serves about 8,000 children and youth each year while Chibi Chan Preschool is licensed to serve 50 children.

“We have a leadership development program called Japantown Youth Leaders and we used this process as a community organizing experience,” Osaki said. “We educated the participants on the redistricting process and trained them to provide public comment at the D5 redistricting meeting.”

The task force included both entities in the revised draft. Osaki said he appreciated the task force’s sensitivity to members of the community.

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