After a friendly exchange of banter about the Giants and Dodgers, Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-17, San Francisco) and Jimmy Gomez (D-51, Los Angeles), began discussing similar community challenges they both face and the concept of swapping legislative districts was born.
The three-day swap starts today. Their itinerary includes meeting with local leaders such as Mayor Eric Garcetti, Mayor Edwin Lee, meetings with industry experts, touring affordable housing developments and global businesses including Google and Sony Pictures, a ride with the SF Bicycle Coalition and kayaking down the LA River. Some baseball field action will also be thrown into the mix.
“Although we have a heated baseball rivalry, Los Angeles and San Francisco have many shared challenges in housing, transportation and workforce development,” said Gomez.
“I’m looking forward to learning how our neighbors in the north are approaching some of these issues and how we can work together in the legislature to achieve shared successes.”
Gomez and Chui are paving an innovative path that blurs distinct boundary lines. They will have the opportunity to view issues through a different lens, assessing community issues that are not exclusive to local districts, but impact several regions statewide. Housing affordability is the hot topic to review during this swap. Transportation comes in as a close second.
The cities have visible differences, but there are some strong similarities. Chiu and Gomez represent unique urban districts with parallel challenges including, historical vibrant communities, diverse immigrant populations, emerging industries and both have a commitment to preserve diversity.
Chiu shares that affordable housing is his top policy in SF, but believes it is the case for most of Los Angeles and other regions throughout the state. He shares that “13 out of 14 most expensive metropolitan areas [in the US] are located in the state of California.”
Both assemblymembers represent Chinatown. Chiu’s district includes the eastern half of SF, and Gomez covers the East LA and northeast LA including the communities of Highland Park, Eagle Rock, and Echo Park. Chiu also represents the Castro neighborhood, while Gomez represents Silverlake, which has a large LGBT population.
Neighborhoods in the Districts 17 and 51 have diverse immigrant populations experiencing gentrification and an influx of emerging industries in tech, film and television.
Meeting the housing demand and protecting the community is no easy task. Gomez emphasizes that “there is a need for more housing across the board with different levels of income.”
He shares an example of a community where there is affordable housing in LA’s Chinatown, and the challenge there is they don’t have the disposal income to keep businesses in that corridor vibrant. Additional market-rate housing is needed in order to support the businesses. Gomez notes that “housing is not all black and white.”
The assemblymembers share concerns on transit issues. Chiu states that SF transportation “is severely challenged… and is second to LA with number of hours residents sit stalled in traffic.” Other issues include pedestrian and cyclist safety on streets.
Gomez explains that LA has both advantages and disadvantages of a large city that is “30 miles wide and 60 miles long, it’s a massive city 6,000 miles of roads, with a sprawl mass transit system. In comparison to SF, there are more opportunities to build at a more affordable rate.”
Will this start a trend for elected officials to swap districts to learn more about other regions in the state? It is uncertain, but both assemblymembers discussed that they will take what they learn from the swap to help improve policy and decision-making on a local and regional level.
All seriousness set aside, a more important question arises now that the Dodgers and Giants’ records are neck and neck: How do you feel about watching ball in rival territory?
Assemblymember Gomez, a life-long Dodgers fan confesses that hanging out in Giants territory will feel “a little strange, like a fish out of water… but it will be fun.”
While in the City of Angels, Chiu, admittedly a die hard, three-time world champion team fan “will keep a low profile,” and adds “it will be fascinating.”