My name is Bruce Agid. I am the President of the San Francisco Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club. I'm a native San Franciscan – live here in Mission Bay overlooking the Caltrain Station at 4th and King. Some of my passions are building relationships, community building and engaging in local politics. And I love sports, sports, and sports.
Sean Karlin – What do you love about San Francisco?
Bruce Agid - What I really love about this city is its excitement, its energy, and most importantly, having traveled throughout the United States, and quite a bit internationally, I really appreciate our diversity. How we embrace diversity, the diversity of our residents, visitors in our city, and all the diversity of our different wonderful neighborhoods.
SK - What is your role, and why did you create the Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club?
BA – I am one of the co-founders, and the current president of the Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club. What's important to understand about politics in San Francisco as well as other cities, is that it's often a matter of whose voices are heard at City Hall. Those voices shape the dialogue and influence what becomes the city’s narrative, the city's focus. I want this club to be a vehicle for our community members to be seen & heard.
SK - What are the issues you think are most important to San Francisco in general, and the eastern neighborhoods specifically?
Looking across the city, there are eleven districts, each with its own unique character. And in districts three, six, and ten we have a lot in common. The first thing is that we're the center of growth because this is where most of the development in San Francisco is and will occur. Over the next several decades, there's going to be around 40 to 50,000 units of housing built in San Francisco. Most of that housing is going to be built in districts three, six, and ten, most predominantly in 6 and 10. And ‘yes’ we need to build housing, especially affordable housing, but as important – or sometimes more important – we need to build community. Communities are about public safety, transportation, schools, open space. They are about our environment, our small business corridors, workforce development opportunities, and so on.
Let’s break this down a little. For example, the southeast sector of San Francisco is pretty much a transit desert. We know there’s some good work that's been done recently to address that, but a lot more work needs to be done. Next is schools. If you look at our city’s K – 12 schools, most of them are on the west side of town. Why is that? Well, that's where most of the housing was. And that's where most of the families were. Now that new housing is being directed to the eastern part of the city, you’ve got to build schools, so parents don’t have to stress & struggle to find a way to get their children out to 41st and Ortega. They can go to a school in Mission Bay, in Dogpatch, in SOMA or the Bayview. Those are some things that are critical.
Next, consider the commercial corridors; if you look at the eastern part of the city, you go to North Beach – lots of vacancies. Bay View/Hunters Point – an affordable grocery fresh food desert. When you expand development, you must make sure there are thriving commercial corridors. Where people have places to shop, to get together.
If we look at voter registration and turnout; Of the eleven districts in San Francisco districts three, six, and ten have the lowest voter turnout in the city. You have all these development and community challenges with the lowest voter turnout. Low voter turnout means less political influence. Community needs might not always be addressed or addressed in a timely manner.
To sum this up, the basic premise for starting this Democratic club is to find opportunities to engage the community, to ensure there's good voter registration, to make sure there's good voter turnout; ensure our voices here in three, six, and ten, get stronger and louder. So that as we build more housing, we also build community. Don’t get me wrong, there are many political and community organizations doing great work, however, based on the need, there are additional organizing opportunities.
August 2021 Environmental Day of Service - Community Clean Up in the Bayview
SK - What issue is the most important to you?
BA - For me, I think the most important thing is community engagement. That ties back to ‘why start the Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club’. There are already Democratic clubs in parts of districts three, six, and ten, and they do a fine job organizing, however, voter turnout is still low in these districts, so there's more work to do and opportunities to organize. The Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club is one of the few Democratic clubs that have a ‘policy development’ and ‘advocacy’ arm and that is our approach to organizing. Our desire is to get people engaged in community discussions and community building and make the tie to local politics. A majority of people in the eastern parts of the city have their hands full trying to keep a roof over their head, keeping their families safe and fed, focused on quality of life issues. If our organizing solely focuses on debating over “shades of blue”, nobody's going to show up. We build our programming around quality-of-life issues, whether we're talking about public safety, police reform, homelessness, in-person learning, or transportation. These are the issues that are at the heart of our community. If we want to bring 200 people together for a discussion or forum, we better talk about things that are important to the people who live here. The issues that people will put aside their daily tasks to make time for.
There are some political discussions that get very theoretical, and a lot of ideology gets batted back and forth. But, at the end of the day, what's important is that people have their voices heard. There’re a lot of voters out there that get out every four years, like clockwork, for the presidential election, while local or state-level issues seem less important. But those local and state-level issues are the things that are critical to our everyday lives. We want people to understand that if you're concerned about public safety, if you're concerned about affordable housing, or education, or commercial corridors if you're concerned about social justice issues, those are the issues our local elected officials can influence. They pass the legislation, they make the executive decisions that impact the quality of our lives. We want to make sure the community voices are heard. That's what we organize around and focus on. That's what's important. It’s a very practical and pragmatic approach to politics in San Francisco.
Amelia Linde – In the Eastern neighborhoods there are a lot of new people from outside of San Francisco who may be intimidated by how intense local politics are, how do recommend someone like that find their place?
BA - You’re right, it can be somewhat intimidating. We have a lot of passionate people in the city, and that's a beautiful thing because that just means people really care. As a newcomer who wants to take part, you don't want to shy away from that passion, you want to embrace it. Of course, there's that old saying about having “one mouth and two ears,” so we should probably do more listening and less talking – especially at the beginning as you get to understand the landscape. Find the folks that know the issues that interest you. Have some of those conversations off-line. They'll give you the background, you'll start piecing it all together and feeling more comfortable. Then, six months later, you're right in the middle of it with your perspective, as passionate and engaged as those around you.
But there's not really just one way to do it. Instead of sticking your toe in the pool, another option is to just dive right in the deep end. When you do, you're going to figure it out quickly. Get engaged with the neighborhood association in your area. Then there are your Democratic clubs, go on the website for SF DCCC – Democratic County Central Committee – all the Democratic clubs in San Francisco are listed. Whatever your interests are, whether you're looking for an affinity club, or you're looking more for a neighbor-centric club, get plugged in there. Check out the social media channels. What are the issues that you want to know about? You can dig into those. There are nonprofits that are advocacy organizations and publish a lot of information. From there, you'll make a lot of contacts. Very quickly you’ll begin to understand what the critical issues are, and you'll be able to dig in as deep as you have time for.
February 2019 - ENDC First Year Anniversary Celebration at “Piano Fight”
SK – What do you see for the future of the Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club?
Continue community building. As a leadership team of the Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club, we need to refine how we promote our programming and engage with all communities in Districts 3, 6, and 10. There are many communities and neighborhoods where we can improve our reach. We have to ask; do we have a presence in Visitacion Valley, Western SOMA, Hunter's Point, Double Rock, middle Polk, and Chinatown as examples? It's not because our narrative won't resonate, or our approach won't work. We’ve really got to refine our communications and outreach channels to connect with these communities. When we can look ourselves in the eye and say that we're engaging our whole community, and feel confident that everyone has the opportunity to be included, then we can say we're doing a good job.
Join us; if this organizing approach resonates with you, please consider becoming a member of the San Francisco Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club. If you're interested in taking a leadership role, contact me at President@sfendc.com; we can grab a coffee and talk more!!