The battle for the forgotten district - Page 3

The future of San Francisco will be written in District 10. Who's ready to be the next supervisor?

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The Bayview's attractive to developers, but some fear the price will be the community's diversity and affordability.
PHOTO BY JUDITH CALSON

In 2007, Mayor Gavin Newsom and Maxwell convened an African American Outmigration Task Force that didn't get a public hearing about its findings until August 2008. The timing angered some, who questioned why the report's findings and implications for urban planning weren't released before June 2008, when the residents of San Francisco voted for the Lennar-led Proposition G, a proposal to build 10,000 market rate homes at one of San Francisco's last remaining black communities, which Newsom and Maxwell endorsed.

The taskforce didn't publish its recommendations until the end of 2009, allegedly because of insider squabbling. Meanwhile, gentrification was going on actively, and many blamed Newsom, and by extension Maxwell, for failing to do anything with the group's findings as D10 residents continued to suffer from high rates of asthma, cancer, unemployment and an ongoing black exodus.

It wasn't always this way. In the 1940s, the district's black population exploded when migrants from the south and World War II veterans came to work at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Some moved to Alice Griffith Public Housing complex, or Double Rock, which was built as military housing in 1962. Others relocated to the Bayview when the Redevelopment Agency took over the Fillmore/Western Addition in the '60s and '70s as part of a controversial urban renewal effort.

But when the Navy abandoned the shipyard in 1974, unemployment hit the black community hard. Today, hundreds of the city's lowest income residents live in Alice Griffith's crumbling units and endure sewage backups, no heat, cloudy drinking water and leaking ceilings, as they wait for the projects to be rebuilt.

"Generations have been trapped in the silo of public housing and cannot get out, because of lack of opportunity and education, so when we legislate, we need to take that into consideration," said candidate Malia Cohen, whose grandfather came from Texas to work at the shipyard where he met her grandmother, whose family came from New Orleans.

"My grandfather's father was a longshoreman. He worked with the infamous Leroy King [a commissioner at the city's Redevelopment Agency] and he has fantastically vivid stories of racism," said Cohen, who works for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, previously served on the executive staff of Mayor Gavin Newsom, and has already raised over $18,000 in the D10 race and qualified for public matching funds.

"My family came here to work hard, they lived on Navy road in the projects, and then they bought a house here. My parents were born here, and we were all public schooled," Cohen recalled as she took me on a tour of D10 that ended up in Visitacion Valley, an increasingly Chinese-American neighborhood that reflects a district-wide trend.

Census data show that by 2000, Asians were the largest racial group in the district (30 percent), followed by blacks (29 percent), whites (26 percent), and Latinos (19 percent). By 2003, according to the California Urban Issues project, the trend continued. Asians were the largest racial group (32 percent), followed by blacks (27 percent), whites (21 percent) and Latinos (17 percent) of the population.

This means that D10 candidates will have to garner support from more than one ethnic group to win. Over a dozen candidates have already filed papers in the race, but so far there is no clear front-runner.

Also frustrating the prognosticators is that fact that D10 has had the lowest voter turnout in the city, so the winner will also depend on who goes to the polls.

D10 candidate Geoffrea Morris, who is the grand daughter of longtime Bayview activist Charlie Walker, has been knocking on doors and participating in voter registration drives.

"We need new blood," Morris said