Visitacion Valley

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A visit to another neighborhood that supposedly went "wild" for the 49er stadium deal


The residents of Visitacion Valley, like those in Bayview-Hunters Point, are purported to have been so wildly enthusiastic about the 49er stadium deal that 70% of the voters there said "Yes" to it. And just as in Bayview-Hunters Point, the turnout was remarkably high, up 35% - on a rainy day no less - over the Presidential election and the baseball stadium proposition vote (which the neighborhood rejected) the previous fall.

A different neighborhood

Visitacion Valley is different from Bayview-Hunters Point in a number of significant ways, the most important being that the majority of residents are Asian or Pacific Islanders. According to 1990 census figures, this ethnic groups makes up 44.9% of the total population. Whites make up 25.9% and blacks 21.8%.

A surprising number of the neighborhood's residents are from rural mainland China. The reason for this is simple. Many low income Asian men do not have the financial means to begin families until they are well into middle age. In order to find wives, they go to rural areas of China where being "wealthy" and American overcomes the handicap of their age and low socio-economic status in the US. Once they have brought their new wives to the U.S., the understanding is that the rest of the family will follow as quickly as immigration rules permit.

Most families pool their resources to buy their own homes and there are usually many people living under a single roof. All able bodied family members work. Many have two and three jobs with restaurants, laundries, and garment factories being the main sources of employment.


Asian residents of Visitacion Valley are doubly disenfranchised. Not only are they not part of the dominant culture and ethnic group, but also many do not have sufficient English language skills to avail themselves of normal city services or otherwise lobby for a fair apportionment of the tax fund they pay into.

Though the neighborhood generates a significant amount of tax revenue through real estate and income taxes, it is among the last to see the benefits. For example, here is the neighborhood's only public park. My guides told me the "recreation center" has been in this condition (boarded up) for over ten years.

The neighborhood also suffers from a lack of basic services. For example, most residents do their food shopping in Chinatown, a good 20 minutes away by car (assuming no traffic), because there are no stores that offer a healthy variety of fresh produce.

Then there is the issue of crime and racially motivated violence. In public housing, where the federal government has gotten involved, Asian families have been actually moved from housing projects for safety reasons because they appear to have been singled out for harassment and attack.

Indeed, it's difficult to find an Asian family in Visitacion Valley that has not been victimized multiple times by criminal elements. Lacking English fluency - and indeed fearing government authority because of conditions in their country of origin - many of these crimes go unreported. The police department lacks a sufficient number of bilingual officers.

Intimidations at the polls

This polling place in Visitacion Valley is the source of several reports of voter intimidation. The voting booths were in a public meeting room just a few steps inside these doors.

The area in front of the fencing was occupied by at least four young African-American men, each wearing a 49er jacket. Of course, electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place is illegal. To add to this strange picture, many voters would stop and talk with these men before and after they voted.

Inside the polling place, several Asian American voters have reported that poll workers took the ballots from their hands and looked them over front and back. Like electioneering, this is another clear violation of election law, as privacy of the ballot is an essential part of the right to vote.

As in other parts of the city, a number of voters expressed concern as to whether or not their vote ever made it to the ballot box. One woman saved her voting receipt and the three receipts of her family members and asked if I could check for her to see if her vote had been counted. Sadly, I had to report to her what investigative reporter Peter Bryne learned from the Department of Elections. Even though every voter gets a receipt with a number matching the number on his or her ballot, the department claims it is "impossible" to match receipts with ballots and apparently cannot be compelled to even try.

I did urge her to hold onto the receipts because "you never know, things may change." The irony of her coming to this country from a totalitarian regime and then experiencing this travesty of justice in an American election was not lost on either of us.

70% voted "Yes" when the marjority of the rest of the city was voting "No," a 35% higher-that-last-year turnout on a rainy day, and a population of hard working, low income home owners voting to give a football team owner $100,000,000 in tax dollars.

That's what we're supposed to believe happened in Visitacion Valley on June 3rd.

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