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Redistricting Mobilizes San Francisco Filipinos

Posted: Jan 05, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO—Worried over the potential erosion of political leverage, leaders from San Francisco’s Filipino community have been meeting to solidify their response to the upcoming redrawing of the city’s voting districts.

At stake is the electoral strength of the community, particularly in two areas—District 11 and District 6—where most of the city’s Filipinos reside. These districts are deemed “overpopulated” and must “give up” substantial numbers of residents to other electoral districts.

Filipinos numbering 34,347 make up nearly 5 percent of San Francisco’s 805,235 residents.

“There’s been a keen response from Filipino Americans, with more than fifty leaders attending our past two working meetings—it’s a pretty serious and committed group,” reports Marily Mondejar, president of the Filipino American Women’s Network. In a show of force, community leaders have formed a coalition to advocate for this effort, comprised of about a dozen Filipino-American organizations all over the San Francisco Bay Area.

Mayor Ed Lee appointed Mondejar to the nine-member Redistricting Task Force he created with the Board of Supervisors and the elections board. The task force must present a final plan outlining the new supervisorial district lines to the Board of Supervisors no later than April 15, 2012.

Mondejar says Filipino American leaders are fired up not only by the community’s stake in the redistricting process, but also by Mayor Ed Lee’s recent election in a race between three Asian candidates, as well as that of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. The rise of Asian Americans as a political force, she adds, has been “validating for the Filipino community.”

Some Filipino-American news media, many of which are based in the Bay Area, have joined in this call to action, including major broadsheet Asian Journal and 24/7 global news wire INQUIRER.net.

Asian Journal [AJ] ran the critical points of the coalition's press release regarding this series of forums, quoting the organizers as stressing that the strategy meetings and resulting recommendations will help "not split up the Filipino American community in San Francisco and thus silence the Filipino American voice."

The AJ Press report adds, organizers are specifically appealing to community members "who have expertise and knowledge in neighborhood mapping, census analysis, voter statistics and Filipino-American demographics" to attend the meetings scheduled through January and share vital insights.

INQUIRER.net's piece alerted Filipinos, especially San Francisco residents to the scheduled community outreach meetings of the SF Redistricting Task Force for both Districts 6 and 11 --- one slated on Monday, January 9th and the other on Saturday, January 21st; with more meetings running until March. The article cited the Fil-Am coalition's point that the community's participation in these meetings is crucial as it will "help lead to the adoption of redistricting plans that provide communities a meaningful opportunity to elect candidates who represent their interests on issues that are crucial to their daily lives and livelihoods."

Redistricting is the constitutionally mandated adjustment of local, state, and federal political boundaries following the U.S. census conducted every ten years. It is done to equalize the populations in the electoral districts, using various criteria, including: equal population, compliance with Sec. 2 of the Voting Rights Act, preserving recognized neighborhoods, and preserving communities of interest.

According to 2010 Census figures, San Francisco gained 28,502 residents from the previous count in 2000. The increase, however, was not uniform across the city’s 11 electoral districts, meaning that a redrawing of boundaries is needed to balance potential voting strengths.

Filipinos are especially worried about the redrawing of District 11, which must give up more than 6,000 residents to other districts.

Of the city’s Filipinos, 28 percent live in the district, comprising southern neighborhoods bordering Daly City -- Cayuga Terrace, Crocker Amazon, Excelsior, New Mission Terrace, Outer Mission and Ocean View/Merced Heights/Ingleside. It also has the most number of Filipino registered voters, with 10,361 —13 percent of its nearly 80,000 residents – comprising a substantial voting bloc that could play an important role in the election of the district’s supervisor.

District 6 is also deemed overpopulated and must give up 21,000 voters to other districts. Comprising the Tenderloin, South of Market (SOMA), North Mission, Civic Center, South Beach, Mission Bay, Treasure Island, Yerba Buena Island and Downtown, District 6 also has a relatively large Filipino concentration.

Community leaders fear that plans to officially declare parts of SOMA a “Filipino Social-Heritage Special Use District” could be scuttled by the redistricting process.

Mondejar notes that Filipino American “working teams” have been set up and are working to draw proposed maps that could keep Filipino concentrations intact based on redistricting guidelines.

Other tasks include researching the majority-minority status of Filipinos in District 11, tracking evidence of Fil-Am neighborhoods that the city’s planning and elections authorities might recognize, monitoring citywide redistricting meetings and arguing for the community’s recommendations.

Additional reporting by Odette Keeley.

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