Will Carruthers: Tell me a bit about your background.
Magdalena De Guzman: I was born in the Philippines and came to the United States when I was 14 years old. My mother came two years before us but, in 1971, the entire family of eight kids and my dad came and joined her. The political scene in the Philippines was getting dangerous. There was a dictatorship and Martial law and various groups challenging the government.
In 1971, Chicago was the place to live. The Cook County hospital sponsored Filipino nurses to work with patients of color because at that time [due to racism] they couldn’t find nurses to work with African American patients. So they hired nurses from the Philippines like my mother. Now we’re approaching a similar problem with about a million teachers retiring, and I’ll be one of them in a few years, and so they need teachers.
I went to high school in Chicago and tried the community college for two years, and did undergraduate at Northeastern University. Because of affirmative action there were a lot of jobs available and I worked for the Chicago Tribune while I was a student. After graduating I came to San Francisco and worked in classified advertising for The Chronicle and The Examiner (which were one company at the time).
I also got politicized in the Filipino community and joined coalition against Ferdinand Marcos, [president and dictator of the Philippines], questioning the political imprisonment of citizens, academics and activists who questioned the government.
When I was 28 years old I married Emil De Guzman and raised a family. It was very difficult for us because we wanted to buy a house here but were priced out at that time. Instead we decided to buy a house in Pinole, but it was so hard coming back to San Francisco because of the commute, so we would rent out the house in Pinole and rent an apartment in San Francisco instead. So we moved around until thirteen years ago when we bought our house. We did a lot of renovations but owning a house really stabilized our lives.
Both of my children attended public schools and went on to college. Then, last June, I went to a meet and greet event with the candidates for District 11 Supervisor and I didn’t see a diversity at the event or among the three candidates. I thought, “what happened to having like twelve candidates with African Americans, with Filipino-Americans and so on?” So I decided to step forward. It’s a big Filipino-American community and I think there should be a Filipino candidate.
WC: Why are you running?
MG: I think it’s important to increase the diversity in the slate of candidates and mirror the population of the district. About thirteen percent of the district is Filipino and all of the Asian groups put together make up about 50 percent of the population. I would be the Filipino candidate to represent all of the residents of District 11.
I am learning so much from running. Especially about the district’s senior citizens of all ethnic groups. African-American, Chinese, white, Filipino and Latino and they say that in fifteen years like thirty percent of the City will be senior citizens. The district mirrors that trend as well.
I want to be the representative. I think that I have a lot to offer with my 24 years as a school teacher always being in the trenches.
WC: What are the district’s big issues and what would you focus on, if elected?
MG: Transit is one issue. When I ride the train from downtown it seems that there are three N-Judah trains for every M streetcar. Are we a low priority? Do we have less population? So, after looking into transit, we found out that Balboa Park BART station serves like 13,000 riders a day. I think when they built it in the 1970s, planners didn’t expect Balboa to be the Bart station where people from the peninsula would get off and start taking buses. So, Glen Park has about 8,000 riders a day and then the 16th and 24th Street stations are very close together. Then when it comes to Balboa Park Station it has 13,000 riders and there’s a long stretch before you get to Daly City Station. There’s a study that says quite a percentage of riders, about thirty percent, who get off at Daly City are San Francisco residents that take the bus back to San Francisco. So, it’s the same the thing at Balboa Park. People get off and take buses so they can go towards the middle of Balboa and Daly City. So we are thinking that we really need a BART station in the middle instead of those buses that are clogging the streets and people are wasting another $2 trying to come back to the center again. I’m one of them, I take the M streetcar or the 54 bus from Balboa Station to get home.
WC: Have you heard of the Muni proposal to put the M-streetcar line underground along 19th Avenue from West Portal?
MG: No, I haven’t heard about that.
WC: Ok, I think it would really affect you in the [Ocean View].
MG: So the other issues are cleanliness and safety. There’s so much garbage in Precincts 1118 and 1125. People are really complaining about garbage a lot. And I think, why is that? There’s one standard for collecting garbage across the the city and it shouldn’t be like that. Some people are making a lot more money than the others. For some people paying $50 a month is a lot of money. If someone can’t afford to pay for garbage pickup they will have to get rid of it some other way. Sometimes that means just leaving it somewhere. As a supervisor I would talk to Recology and the departments that are involved in collecting garbage and think of creative ways of helping people who cannot afford the fee so that they stop dumping the garbage on the street.
For safety, the Ingleside Station police report shows that it’s mostly car break-ins and car thefts around here. I don’t see too many officers around here and probably that’s the policy of the current supervisor, I’m not sure, but we did ask him because my husband was injured, my daughter was mugged and I was accosted twice. According to the supervisor, domestic violence is the common crime, but that did not match with what the residents and the police report were saying so I think we should do something about that. It’s not just more police patrols, it’s also educating the community and working with Ingleside Police Station on ways to stay safe. We need to figure out why they are stealing and breaking into cars. What do they want? Is it money or is it drugs?
WC: What would you do with the district’s historic resources like the Geneva Car Barn, the building across from Balboa Bart Station?
MG: I don’t understand why we haven’t done that for so long. The supervisor we elected eight years ago really talked about that a lot in the beginning. There’s talk of improving that and putting retail shops in there. I think it really takes educating the people because, why is it that we are always begging for funds? We are paying property taxes but it’s unclear who is using them. Why does District 11 not have the funding to renovate the Car Barn while other districts are getting the money to spruce up their areas? I think one reason is that funds are tied up in redevelopment projects in places like the SOMA. Historically redevelopment projects take a lot of money from the other districts and if you are not aware of those projects and laws they won’t be able to do much.
WC: There was a report from a few years ago that said that the Excelsior has come to act as deficit affordable housing for the city because there are a lot of illegal in-law units in the area. What is your feeling about affordable housing in the district and how would you treat illegal in-law units?
MG: There is a recent resolution authored by David Chiu that passed to treat in-law units less harshly. I think there’s less strictness about dealing with in-law apartments but it’s a sad thing that that’s one way to create the city’s rental units for working people who work hard to make sure that other sectors are served by working in retail stores or restaurants. The Affordable Housing Bonus Density Plan to add thousands of affordable units. I think that’s a good way to build housing for low and middle-income people.
WC: And you are supportive of David Chiu’s in-law unit legislation?
MG: I think it’s the reality because we have such a lack of affordable housing. Why are we requiring only 10-12 percent of units to affordable in private developments? It’s almost just a token effort to build just a few hundred affordable units. We need thousands of units, not hundreds. The solutions need to be regional and statewide as well. The economy is changing and we need to be more aware of the changes and sympathize with each other.
WC: Another issue for District 11 is the parks. The district has been consistently rated at the bottom of the department’s yearly maintenance reports for the past ten years. How would you work with the parks department to try to fix the problem?
MG: As a school teacher and the next supervisor I think you need to be an organizer and find those people who are leaders in the community and organize their precincts and just give them the facts. Why are we at the bottom? Why are we treated like second class citizens? Why are we not vocal? I think we should have more nonprofit organizations in the district. Ten years ago I felt like we needed a Filipino community center and I was one of the founders of the Filipino Community Center. The center is still going strongly providing resources for immigrants and youth and children and seniors. So I think we need a hundred times more of those nonprofits for advocacy and paid staff to organize the community so that we are not at the bottom of all of the city services.
WC: The commercial corridors. I know you live right near the Broad-Randolph corridor but there is also the Geneva and Mission corridors. What would you do for the commercial corridors as supervisor?
MG: Well Geneva and Mission are really thriving. When I put my window signs in the stores the owners are very welcoming. Whether it’s religious stuff or restaurants, the stores are really thriving. However, it is too dirty. We need to have more clean-ups and add more trees and plants.
WC: What about the Broad-Randolph commercial corridor? I think there is some feeling among residents that it could and should be more thriving.
MG: I think there’s not enough traffic. When I become a supervisor I would put lights and trees and maybe a cafe in there. Maybe you could offer something like a barbecue to get families and the neighborhood to come out. There is not as much foot traffic on Broad-Randolph but it’s a question of which comes first. Foot traffic or thriving businesses?
WC: How are you going to win?
MG: We just have to work really hard and make sure to go out every day and talk to the voters. As we talk to people we are learning about different groups and the theme of our campaign is evolving. Although it started as defender of children and families we are also speaking to seniors, the youth, the LGBTQ, and continually adding groups. People like that I have a background as a teacher. Maybe half of the current Board of Supervisors are lawyers so to have my background as a teacher working in the trenches is different. I work with students at the bottom of the income scale so I am so close to the social-political issues that I really feel for them when I work with them. I cry with them, I laugh with them. It’s the students who are really low income but keep on working. They give us hope and dignity and you just want to work with them. That passion is what I am going to bring to the Board of Supervisors.