South San Francisco’s Commission on Racial and Social Equity, formed more than a year ago to identify issues of racial and social injustice, provided its final report to the City Council Wednesday and outlined direction for meaningful change.
The commission was tasked with identifying tangible steps to reduce inequalities felt by potentially marginalized residents in South San Francisco — a city which has been experiencing shifting demographics and the effects of gentrification as lucrative new industries continue settling onto the Peninsula.
“This was not an easy conversation to have, but it was an important conversation to have,” said Vice Mayor Mark Nagales during Wednesday’s meeting. “I kept reminding myself that I had to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Chaired by Councilmember Buenaflor Nicolas, the commission included 14 volunteers from community leadership, city government, education, social welfare, youth and public safety.
The report, which was adopted by the City Council, outlined four main goals for the city: to ensure ongoing oversight and accountability to advance racial and social equity; ensure the safety of community members of color by eliminating racist practices and policies in the criminal justice system; target resources and support to residents of color to reduce gaps created by structural inequities; and ensure local land use planning increases access to resources and opportunities for people of color and other historically disenfranchised community members.
To facilitate meeting these goals, several recommendations were made, among them to establish a staff position to “advance equity initiatives, and monitor equity-related outcomes,” to create a “community wellness and crisis response team for mental health crises, substance use, and homelessness” and to establish a community safety and equity advisory board.
The report further recommended leveraging available land assets to expand housing affordability to people of color and other historically disenfranchised community members, as well as expanding linkage and navigation support, housing information and educational resources.
“Our community has called for the city to take meaningful action to address and reverse racial and social inequities through intentional practice and policy changes,” said Commissioner Kayla Powers. “The commission’s recommendations and action plan are necessary if we want to see lasting change for our community.”
Some steps recommended by the commission have already begun, including approving a minimum income program, establishing an easily accessible resource center downtown, creating and hiring two new City Council fellow positions, and establishing an agreement with the county to assist police with calls and outreach.
According to the report, the commission held meetings with up to 228 participants, received 164 survey participants and gathered 55 public comments during its process to form their reccomendatoins.
“At our last meeting, it was bittersweet,” said Commissioner Bobby Vaughn, who said it seemed wrong to celebrate after spending months being educated on the evils of racism.
“But what we can celebrate is that the city is taking a very important first step,” Vaughn said. “I’m happy that the city is actually implementing, and has already implemented, parts of this plan, which to me shows that the city staff, the council, city manager, really gets it, and seems to get it in an authentic way.”
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