It is great to see so many good friends here tonight.
I have to tell you, I have never been so happy to speak in front of a large audience as I am tonight. I am seeing people that I have not seen in person in three years or more! I see many of our Mission District partners. I also see good friends who are joining us from the East Bay, Los Angeles, San Diego, Ohio and elsewhere.
Of course, we are very pleased to have some of our elected and public officials with us tonight, including Mayor London Breed. We also have Supervisor Melgar, Supervisor Safai and Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres.
Our partners from financial institutions and foundations have also joined us.
I see our housing development partners from Chinatown Community Development Corporation and Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Center.
Some of my family members are also here. Joann, my wife, is here. She now gets to meet some of the people that I discuss with her when I get home. Also, my brother Javier, my sister-in-law Isabel, along with my nephew Richard, his girlfriend Ellie, and my niece Adriana are here. They drove from Los Angeles this morning to be with us tonight.
Please know that each and everyone of you is part of our MEDA family.
To fully get the significance of tonight, it is important to acknowledge our recent past. We all have faced many challenges over the past few years, as a community, professionally and personally. As a community, we saw how Latinos experienced a disproportionate negative impact from the pandemic. At just 15% of San Francisco’s population, Latinos accounted for about half of total positive cases.
This led to many people getting sick, or worse. Many of our constituents lost their jobs. Their housing was constantly threatened. And, we know that some people had a hard time putting food on the table despite their best efforts.
Professionally, the Zoom environment kept us very busy, and at the same time, those tiny squares created distance between us. It was very difficult to maintain a familial, cohesive organizational culture. To serve our clients, our staff struggled to provide services, fill out forms and provide relief funds – all of this through their phones.
Personally, we all had losses. We skipped birthday celebrations, graduations and holidays meant for gatherings, keeping us away from family and loved ones. Some people here got COVID before there was a vaccine, creating much anxiety. Some people lost loved ones. This type of personal loss turned the pandemic from a social phenomena to a deeply personal experience. The permanence of losing a loved one stays with us regardless of what masks we wear, how many vaccines we have, or how much time has passed.
It just has been a tough, tough past few years.
And, yet, here we are. Together. Celebrating.
Despite all these challenges, many, many good things still happened.
As a community, we saw the power of:
- Having a strong sense of urgency;
- Being fully united; and
- Being focused on a common goal.
I am very proud of how our Mission community came together to do many good things, including:
- Creating testing sites in the neighborhoods most impacted. Good thing.
- Creating vaccination sites, which now has resulted in San Francisco Latinos having an over 90% vaccination rate – one of highest vaccination rates of any Latino community in the nation. Good thing.
- Keeping families from being evicted despite the loss of income and challenging landlords. Good thing.
- Keeping food pantries fully stocked to ensure that parents could feed their children. Good thing.
- Keeping children engaged in school ensuring that their academic gains were not lost. Good thing.
Many thanks go to the Latino Task Force who led on many of these efforts, and the 32 other organizations who also took care of our community.
Through all this, together, San Francisco’s Latino community defined, implemented and led a successful racial equity strategy to maintain the health and dignity of our Latino community. Those of you doing good things on behalf of San Francisco’s Latino community should be really, really proud of what you have accomplished. Could you please stand up, so we can celebrate you?
And, to have accomplished this work, it could not have been done without the collaboration from Supervisor Ronen, Mayor Breed, Governor Newsom, Speaker Pelosi and President Biden.
I remember when we were all still trying to understand the implications of COVID. Despite the uncertainty, we had to move quickly. And, we had to figure out the coordination between the Mission community and the City of San Francisco. All of this was urgent and confusing. As confusion and frustration started to set in, I remember how Mayor Breed stepped in, stepped up and took control of the conversation. Her decisive voice and actions led the way for creating the alignment between her administration and our community. Good thing.
In this regard, I must also give special thanks to Joaquin Torres and Josh Arce who played a critical role in creating this alignment. Good people.
As an organization that has been around for 49 years, MEDA was well positioned to meet the urgent challenge. We had strong relationships with the City. We had longstanding partnerships with most of our community organizations. Most importantly, we had the trust of our community members. And, we had the strong infrastructure and capacity:
- To deliver relief funds;
- To keep families in their homes;
- To help businesses survive; and
- To create new affordable affordable housing.
So, MEDA did some Good Things:
- We established a promotora outreach worker co-op. Good thing.
- We secured funding to sustain our 10-year old Mission Promise Neighborhood for the next several years. Good thing.
- We added housing rights counsel services, and now have the most-expansive housing services continuum in California. Good thing.
- We strengthened our finance, asset management and risk management functions to reflect our more complex organization. Good thing.
- We are now serving approximately 15,000 people per year. Good thing.
- We distributed approximately $17 million in relief funds to our families. Good thing.
- We disbursed approximately $30 million in capital to our small businesses. Good thing.
- We completed two of our affordable housing projects, are about to finish the construction of a third one, and purchased 8 apartment buildings, for a total of approximately 450 units. And we now have a portfolio of about 1,500 units. Good thing.
- We are now in the process of housing nine of our community partners in our various buildings. Good thing.
- We enhanced our national profile and are now sharing our values, our philosophy and our practice with other communities throughout this country. Good thing.
The last few years have also reaffirmed the importance of focusing on the well-being of people in our lives. At MEDA, we have made it our number one internal priority to take care of our staff. Just in the last year, our staff satisfaction rate has increased by 10%. Good thing.
All of these Good things are, in large part, due to the efforts of our Great MEDA staff and our Great MEDA Board. Will all MEDA staff and Board please stand?
So, that’s plenty of Good things, right?
As an organization, we have absolutely pushed ourselves. However, you may be wondering, what is next for MEDA?
The answer? More Good things. More Great things.
- We will continue to focus on our staff’s well-being as our number one internal priority.
- We will continue to strive to be a strong partner to strengthen the network of organizations serving San Francisco’s Latino community.
- We will continue to strengthen and deepen our comprehensive place-based approach.
- We will increase the number of people we serve to 25,000. Great thing.
- We will provide $50 million in loans to our local-serving businesses. Great thing.
- We will create another 1,500 units of affordable housing. Great thing.
And, that’s not all. Because I have several big announcements:
First, we are launching MEDA’s Equitable Recovery Institute, which will help other communities:
- To devise a family economic success strategy;
- To build affordable housing;
- To lend; and
- To shape public policy.
Additionally, in San Francisco, as you will hear shortly, we will be helping other communities of color develop the capacity to implement their own Promise Neighborhood. We are going from a Promise Neighborhood to a Promise City. Great thing.
Finally, I am proud to share that we have already won the right to build another 750 units of affordable housing. This includes the Potrero Yard project, which is a Brown/Black partnership with Young Community Developers and Tabernacle Community Development Corporation. Great thing.
I am so proud of the work that we have done. I am very excited for the work that lies ahead. And, you know, you can trust that MEDA will get it done!
I am also very thankful that each one of you, in your own way, have been with us on this journey. You have contributed to making these good things happen. Tonight, I am asking you to continue to join us to do Great things:
- To help families become financially stable;
- To help small businesses get started or get stronger;
- To create more affordable housing; and
- To help other communities develop the capacity and infrastructure they need.
Together, let’s dream of what could be and should be.
Together, let’s be audacious, innovative and not ask for permission as to what we should do, or how we should do it.
Finally, together, let’s keep showcasing how a Latino-led, Latino-focused racial equity movement can stop displacement, protect the Mission as a working-class neighborhood and give Latinos the option to call San Francisco their permanent home.