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Linda Vista’s not like most of the rest of the newly defined San Diego City Council District 7.
The community’s made up of residents from all corners of the globe, from Mixtec-speaking Oaxacans, to Laotians, to Vietnamese and Sudanese immigrants. Some of the first U.S.-bound refugees from the Vietnam War were settled here, and the local grocery store carries such delicacies as chicken hearts, fresh goat and various varieties of dried shrimp.
Tierrasanta, it isn’t.
I sat down with six local community activists at the Bayside Community Center yesterday afternoon as part of my week-long coverage of City Council District 7. Over a few dishes of northern Thai specialties from the nearby Sab-E-Lee restaurant, we talked about the issues concerning Linda Vistans and about how the new boundaries of District 7 will impact the neighborhoods nearby.
Here are three things I learned at those meetings:
• The group was concerned about whether Linda Vista will have a voice in the new district.
Much of the rest of District 7 is predominantly white and middle-class, whereas this community is, on the whole, marginalized financially and ethnically diverse.
“The problem is that our voice is less,” said Rick Bussell, president of the Linda Vista Town Council.
“We’re not a wealthy community, and our kids that need the services more than, say Tierrasanta, don’t get them because we don’t have that voice. We don’t have a lot of people that donate a lot of money. Politicians don’t look at the voters in this community as a group, there are so many different groups and they’re hard to reach.”
• Linda Vistans are also upset about the fact that their community has been cleaved in two.
I didn’t realize this, but the University of San Diego sits within Linda Vista, as do the wealthy neighborhoods surrounding the school.
But under the newly drawn district boundaries, USD disappears into District 2, while the northern three-quarters of Linda Vista move into District 7.
Initially, the plan was to split Linda Vista into three different districts, but activists, including the people I met with, challenged that before the Redistricting Commission. Still, the final decision clearly annoyed all the people I spoke to yesterday
“We’re the product of probably the worst social engineering this Linda Vista has ever gone through” said Jorge Riquelme, executive director of the Bayside Community Center. “We’ve been districted out of our council member and we fought like crazy to not have our community divided.”
Riquelme said Linda Vista has traditionally enjoyed close ties to Clairemont, which, like Linda Vista right now sits in the current District 6. The community has had good relations with the District 6 City Council office, and now it will to reinvent those relationships with the new district, he said.
• Engaging local Linda Vista residents in the political process is an ongoing challenge.
Bayside staffer Monica Fernandez was my angel in Linda Vista. She organized an afternoon of meetings for me there, took me on a guided tour of her community (she was brought up here) and showed me where to get the best Thai food.
Fernandez said one of the main challenges she and other community workers have is getting local residents engaged in the political process.
She and her colleagues have a number of stumbling blocks that make this task difficult. They have to overcome language and culture barriers, and have the unenviable task of convincing people who are trying to make ends meet that being a part of the local political process is a valuable way to spend one’s time.
“Usually, a lot of the families we talk to are just trying to make ends meet,” Fernandez told me.
These three interlocking issues will all have an influence on the City Council race.
Linda Vistans will be looking for assurances from the four main candidates that their neighborhood won’t be overlooked because of its demographics or the relative lack of political engagement from its residents.
So far, however, only one of the three main candidates for District 7 — Mat Kostrinsky — has visited the Bayside Community Center.
That will all change on April 24, between 12:30 and 1:30 when the community center will host a District 7 candidates’ forum.
Residents of Linda Vista are encouraged to come along and meet the candidates.
Will Carless is an investigative reporter at voiceofsandiego.org currently focused on local education. You can reach him at email@example.com or 619.550.5670.
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