In a meeting of about 40 people, Yee, who represents the area, said he saw only a couple of Asian residents, who make up 35 percent of the district, according to Planning Department data. Furthermore, 24 percent speak only an Asian language at home.
Yee also noticed that because of the low turnout of Asian attendees, the associations usually did not translate their meetings.
“This is an issue that has been bothering me for a while,” he said at a meeting with Chinese media on Wednesday. “I keep thinking, if these groups are not getting represented in their neighborhoods, they’re not getting the information. So I’m pretty motivated to bring that voice into the discussion.”
Chinese people form the majority of the district’s Asian population, many of whom live in the Ocean, Merced and Ingleside areas, so Yee plans to hold what he believes will be the first meeting in Cantonese and Mandarin that his district has ever had.
Taking place Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Ingleside Library, the meeting will feature presentations on the Affordable Care Act and pedestrian-safety issues, and give residents an opportunity to give feedback in their language. Translation into English will be provided if needed.
Yee didn’t know what to expect when he passed out fliers in Chinese at association meetings.
“Sometimes the attitude from many groups is immigrant Chinese don’t seem to care, they don’t talk,” he said. “But leadership was so grateful.”
Lee Hsu, president of the Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association, said providing translation during meetings would encourage Asians to participate.
“It gives them more confidence that they will be heard,” he said.
Anni Chung, president of Self-Help for the Elderly, which no longer has an information and referral center in the neighborhood, said of the district: “There’s diversity but sometimes people are not as tolerant of other people’s culture and our seniors feel that way.”
The most effective way to reach the Asian community is through word of mouth, Yee said, and he hopes that the outreach effort will gain momentum with this first meeting.
“If five people show up, then five people show up,” he said. “The more information gets out there, next time we’ll have more people.”