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What Asian Americans want from San Francisco’s next mayor

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San Francisco City Hall. (Courtesy photo)

The Asian Pacific Islander Council of San Francisco sponsored a Mayoral Town Hall Forum last month that was attended by more than 600 residents representing the ethnic and geographic diversity of our member organizations. We won’t attempt here to rate how the four candidates did in addressing the issues raised in the forum, but we do want to share our view of key needs and issues facing the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community with all San Franciscans.

We want the next mayor of San Francisco to embrace policies and programs (and the budget commitment to implement them) that will help preserve and strengthen the survivability of all communities of color in The City. A recent study by Policy Link estimated that San Francisco’s racial diversity will decline from its current 58 percent minority population to less than 45 percent by the year 2040. The report estimated that the API population may decrease from 34 percent to less than 28 percent if current trends of displacement, housing costs and income inequality continue.

We want the next mayor of San Francisco to recognize and address the growing poverty in the API population. Many San Franciscans are quite aware that more than one third of San Francisco’s population is Asian and Pacific Islander, but the API population has experienced the largest growth in poverty of any ethnic group. This is largely due to the persistent problems of housing overcrowding and displacement, unemployment and income inequality, educational inequities primarily among English language learners, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and marked health disparities of Hepatitis B, tuberculosis, diabetes, alcohol abuse and mental health.

We want the next mayor of San Francisco to understand the tremendous diversity within our larger API community. For instance, Pacific Islanders have the lowest median incomes of any group after African Americans in San Francisco. And more than one third of the entire undocumented immigrant population in San Francisco are part of the API community.

We want the next mayor of San Francisco to support the API-serving community organizations in The City’s budget at a level commensurate with the needs and magnitude of the API population.

We want the next mayor of San Francisco to develop place-based strategies targeted to those heavily populated API neighborhoods most in danger of displacement: Chinatown, Tenderloin, Japantown and South of Market. This, of course, involves affordable housing and small business retention strategies, but it also includes commitments to improve and expand key parks and playgrounds in areas including Portsmouth Square, Bessie Manalo Draves Park and the Japantown Peace Plaza. True neighborhood preservation must also include arts and culture, and we want the next mayor to fully support resources to create cultural districts in API communities.

We want a commitment from the next mayor of San Francisco to fully embrace the involvement of API community leadership in the governance of San Francisco, in appointments of city department heads and city commissions.

As May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month in San Francisco, the API Council hopes that we, as San Franciscans, can do more than just celebrate our culture but also seek to better understand our growing API community. We hope the next mayor of San Francisco will help lead that effort.

Gordon Chin is a consultant for the API Council, a coalition of 48 of the largest community-based organizations serving the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in San Francisco.

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