Millbrae has put in motion a plan to create a social equity committee tasked with identifying tangible steps the city can take to address institutional racial and social inequalities via policy, outreach and obtaining funding from grants.
The city of just over 22,000 has seen substantial demographic shifts in recent decades, and despite Asian Americans now accounting for nearly half the population while whites make up roughly 40%, the City Council remains majority white with only one Asian American member.
“Many of our committees and commissions do not look like our town, and there are some cultural groups that are rarely heard from,” said Karen Chin, a Millbrae resident in support of the committee. “Not everyone’s voices are being heard and represented, and I doubt it’s because they have nothing to say.”
Councilmembers Anders Fung and Gina Papan are set to make recommendations for the establishment of an ad hoc social equity committee during the council’s next meeting, which could lead to the creation of a permanent committee. The committee will be similar to the Commission on Racial and Social Equity established in South San Francisco, which after a year of work recently made several policy recommendations to the city.
Papan, who introduced the recommendation for a committee, emphasized the need for a permanent body during last week’s meeting.
“The emphasis about bringing this forward as a committee is really based on the possibility of grant applications,” Papan said. “And that becomes problematic if it’s only an ad hoc committee.”
The council elected to first establish the ad hoc committee, which could give direction to an eventual permanent committee. The ad hoc committee could include members from the Millbrae Anti-racist Coalition and Millbrae Cultural Committee, Councilmember Reuben Holober said.
Other members could be from the Millbrae business community, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, San Mateo County Health and Human Services, the San Mateo Union High School District and Millbrae School District, according to the agenda report.
In addition to policy and funding, the committee would also work to strengthen partnerships with local community-based organizations and provide community outreach, education and forums for discussion.
“The opportunity to form a commission, something that can actually effect some influence around policy change and making Millbrae more inclusive, more equitable for everybody that’s here, I think is a fantastic opportunity,” said Michael Kelly, a member of the Millbrae Anti-racist Coalition.
Mayor Ann Schneider raised concern that a committee should also address environmental justice, citing increased noise and air pollution from San Francisco International Airport expansions in Millbrae neighborhoods. According to Schneider, the city has been unable to obtain grant funding to address such concerns due to the high home value in the area.
“There is a great deal of work to go through, not just obviously for equity, bullying, diversity issues, but environmental justice, and I need your help,” Schneider said. “If you cannot get a good night’s sleep, you cannot do well in school, you cannot do well at work, and you have a greater chance of diabetes, heart attack.”
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