Community Voices

District 11 People’s Summit Draws Out Concerns of Residents

Courtesy of Michelle Lapitan

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District 11 residents convened at Balboa High School’s green room on Sept. 23 for the fourth annual People’s Summit, where youth speakers and some 200 community members gathered to discuss strategies to increase equity in the city’s most diverse and family-filled neighborhood.

The theme “My Existence is Resistance: We are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For!” guided the program, and many speakers echoed the sentiment with calls for to unite and engage friends, family and neighbors and join the community-based organizations that held the summit, including Chinese for Affirmative Action, Filipino Community Center, Poder!, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth and Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.

“We can’t just sit back and let others fight for us,” said Amparo Alarcon, a single mother and community activist who spoke during the Community Experts panel. “We need to rise up and defend ourselves. My dream for this neighborhood is that we are all leaders, and we are all fighting for affordable, dignified homes, so that all of us can stay in this community.”

The most-discussed issues of the day included the housing crisis, the need for affordable childcare, stronger support and more equity for the vulnerable immigrant population and the importance of engaging youth, whose lives have often been shaped by displacement.

“In the 14 years we’ve lived here, we’ve moved 15 times,” said Hong Mei Pang of her family, illustrating the struggles immigrant families go through to find adequate housing.

“The American dream is so individualistic. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a good life, but we need to stop basing our worth on what we produce, and think about it based on our humanity.”

Youth speakers kicked off the event with a presentation about the neighborhood, as well as a map of the city that showed nearby tech offices, whose workers compete with long-term tenants and families for the city’s limited housing units.

With its many single-family homes, the Excelsior has the highest rates of Owner Move-In Evictions and was recently the subject of a Business Insider article touting its affordability and hot real estate market and concluded that “it’s too soon to call [the] Excelsior an urban playground for hipsters and tech workers.”

While District 11 is often referred to as “one of the city’s last affordable neighborhoods,” rents typically start at $2,000 for studios and the median home price is $916,100, with rates expected to continue to rise next year.

The summit emphasized the voices of those with roots and family in the area. Retired teacher Ellen Belle Galang said she didn’t like public speaking, but came to advocate for the senior center and the need for similar resources.

“I feel I am forgotten,” she said. “The center is giving me the opportunity to be out in a group of people, because it’s very difficult to be isolated and old.”

After the panel, attendees met in smaller groups to discuss the need for support for caregivers of seniors, children and disabled people, improved services and after-school programs for youth and the importance of connecting citywide progressive movements with a strong platform and coalition of similar organizations.

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