Fil-Ams, APIs seek voice in San Diego

/ 02:56 PM August 16, 2011

Census 2010 revealed a rapidly changing community for San Diego and the topic of redistricting as a result of the changes has spurred a hot debate. Over the last 10 years, Asian Pacific Islanders (APIs) saw the greatest growth in the Southern California city, even more than Hispanics. According to the most recent census data, APIs compose 16 percent of the San Diego population (about 204,000), yet they have no representation in local government.

To compare this situation with the Bay Area, consider this: CNBC named San Diego the fifth most diverse city in America; San Francisco, it reported, trailed at ninth place.  But in contrast to San Francisco, where there are quite a few local leaders representing the API community, San Diego has absolutely none.


“That really says something and San Diego APIs don’t feel empowered,” said Asian & Pacific American Coalition (APAC) organizer Cindy Chan.

For this reason, APAC has been working to create an “API-empowered” district in San Diego over the last several months. Their plan would unify neighborhoods of northern San Diego where large API populations live and work, such as Rancho Penasquitos, Mira Mesa, Miramar, and Kearny Mesa.


APAC stresses that other communities of interest, who represent a smaller percentage of the city, have been granted their own districts, but APIs still have not. The African-American community composes 6.2 percent and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community makes up 4.8 percent of the San Diego population. The Hispanic community has two districts and has gained a third.

“That’s great for them, we have nothing against that!” Chan said, “The commission has been working hard to empower groups. We just want that same fair opportunity as well.”

But Chan says there have been challenges along the way. And now, there are only three public meetings left in which Filipino Americans can participate before another decade goes by, leaving APIs without proper recognition and representation in San Diego.

“Filipinos are the largest group within the [San Diego] API community…so the Filipino community has the most to gain and the most to lose,” Chan emphasized.

One major point of contention is the joining of Rancho Penasquitos with Mira Mesa. Rancho Penasquitos is home to a vibrant Fil-Am community. And if any Pinoy has visited San Diego, they most likely have heard of Mira Mesa because it houses the major supermarkets, restaurants, stores, businesses, and neighborhoods that many Fil-Ams visit.

There is a major road — Black Mountain Road — that serves as a main artery of both towns and connects them uniquely to one another. Economic data has also shown that residents of Rancho Penasquitos have much more in common with Mira Mesa than with the other town they are attached to, like Rancho Bernardo.

APAC has produced more than 2,000 petition signatures advocating the unification. No other group in San Diego has been able to achieve those numbers.


Florfina “Boodgie” Arce is one Filipina who has articulated her support of uniting the two communities. She is active in such organizations as the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of San Diego County and Council of Philippine American Organization of San Diego County. She was also chosen as a speaker during her naturalization ceremony a couple of months ago.

At a recent public hearing, Arce approached the podium and addressed the Redistricting Commission: “This is my first chance to exercise my right to petition and I am here with the APAC community and the Asian Pacific Islanders, especially the Filipino Americans who live in Mira Mesa, sometimes called ‘Manila Mesa,’ and Penasquitos as ‘Pinoy-squitos.,’ Perhaps the Asian Pacific American community would like this equal representation…now, not [wait] for another 10 years.”

A member of the Rancho Penasquitos Planning Board, Charles Sellers, infuriated many APIs in attendance at that meeting, including Chan, with the comments he made regarding APAC’s efforts.

Claiming to represent the residents of Rancho Penasquitos who are against unification of the town with Mira Mesa, Sellers said, “I would ignore the size of the group for purposes of considering the merits of their argument especially since the groups claim to speak as one voice so as a practical matter they’re just one person. APAC claims to speak with one voice so in essence they’re just one person. Their request doesn’t carry anymore weight than mine or the guy from Kensington…”

The purpose of redistricting after the census data is released is to re-draw district boundaries. This allows for adjustments in representation to be made according to the changes in population. The City of San Diego’s website dedicated to redistricting explains the process as such:

“The San Diego City Charter requires that the City be redistricted at least once every 10 years. It calls for creation of a seven-member Redistricting Commission, which has the sole authority to adopt a redistricting plan that sets boundaries for City Council districts. This year, in response to a vote of the people, a new ninth Council district will be added.”

Chan feels the new District 9 should be in the northern area of San Diego where many APIs reside.

“The north area had the greatest population growth… and half of that was API,” she said. “So we thought it would be very natural and very logical for District 9 to be ours.”

The preliminary map proposed by the Redistricting Commission, however, does not indicate that. It has the API area labeled as District 6, which by being an even number means they will have to wait until 2014, instead of 2012, to elect a representative to City Council. It also does not significantly change the density of APIs within a district (in fact divides them more), reflecting inaccurately with what census data revealed.

To get involved with APAC’s efforts for fair redistricting, visit www.apacsd.org. where more can be learned more about redistricting in San Diego, visit www.sandiego.gov/redistricting.

The last working meetings open for public testimony for the decade are as follows: Monday, August 15 4:00 p.m. Silver Room 2nd Floor, San Diego Concourse 202 C Street, San Diego, 92101; Thursday, August 18 4:00 p.m. Council Chambers/ Committee Room, 12th Floor, City Administration Building, 202 C Street, San Diego, 92101; Thursday, August 25 4:00 p.m. Council Chambers/Committee Room, 12th Floor, City Administration Building, 202 C Street, San Diego, 92101.

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TAGS: California, Fil-Am, Filipino-American, Immigrants, population, San Diego
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