Vis Valley Activist Neo Veavea Vies for District 10 Supervisor

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At the end of last year, community activist Neo Veavea launched his campaign for the District 10 Board of Supervisors seat. Veavea, who has lived in the District for 50 of his 60 years, resides in Visitacion Valley. He works as the project coordinator for the Samoan Wellness Initiative (SWI), a Samoan Community Development Center (SCDC) program. SWI educates Vis Valley residents about mental and physical health care, prevention, and access.

For the past eight years, Veavea has been on the steering committee for the Visitacion Valley Festival, also called the Leland Avenue Street Fair, an annual fall jubilee that celebrates the neighborhood’s diversity and spirit. Veavea is a past member of the San Francisco Human Rights LGBT Advisory Committee, and has served as Visitacion Valley Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association president.

According to Veavea, Southside neighborhoods face challenges associated with affordable housing, homelessness, education, and transportation.  “District 10 is home to [some] of the City’s largest public housing projects. Current residents are worrying about displacement,” he said.

Public housing complexes in the District include Sunnydale in Visitacion Valley, Oakdale, Alice Griffith, Hunters View, those located on West Point Road in Bayview-Hunters Point, and Potrero Annex-Terrace in Potrero Hill.

District 10 residents “don’t need to resist the” development, said Veavea. “What we need to do is make sure the developers know we’re at the table. What does affordable housing look like to someone who’s getting paid $15 to $20 an hour?”

As Supervisor, Veavea would work to address crime in the Southside neighborhoods. He’d encourage the San Francisco Police Department to field more foot patrols in areas of Dogpatch and Potrero Hill where vehicles are being broken into, and greater police presence in Visitacion Valley.

Veavea also wants improvements in public transportation, particularly to serve Visitacion Valley residents.  “The T-line to the Castro takes you at least an hour and a half to get anywhere. Taking away the 15-line, it takes forever to get Downtown,” he said.

Russel Morine, who has lived in Visitacion Valley for 20 years, and serves on the Visitacion Valley Festival steering committee, supports Veavea’s run. “He’s a neighbor. We’ve been friends for about 15 years. He’s always been there, representing a lot of the interests in the Samoan community and the LGBT community. [At the street fair], we’ve had thousands of people out over the years. Our goal is to activate Visitacion Valley’s commercial corridor and make connections within our community. The event would not be the same without his organizational skills,” said Morine.

Veavea’s advocacy is significant for “folks who have grown up here and are struggling to stay here,” Morine said. “The housing that is available now and the units coming with new developments, safety, quality of life, traffic, and parking, all of these need to be addressed. Visitacion Valley will look different in 10 years. There needs to be a bridge between the old and the new. Neo knows how to do that dialogue. I see his role as being a conduit of discussion.”

According to Curt Yagi, executive director at Real Options for City Kids, a nonprofit organization that offers sports programs and academic assistance to youth ages six to 17 in Visitacion Valley, Veavea is well-meaning and passionate about the neighborhood. “His intention is to do the right thing. He has our community’s best interest in mind,” said Yagi, who has known Veavea for about 10 years.

Yagi, who lives in Potrero Hill, said Visitacion Valley is a “sort of the forgotten neighborhood. We’re still under-resourced here. I’m looking at how that person [who represents District 10] can be the voice of people who haven’t been heard.”

Patsy Tito, SCDC’s executive director, thinks highly of Veavea and supports his campaign. Tito, who has known Veavea for roughly a decade, considers him a friend as well as a coworker.  “Putting his name on the ballot is something big for our Pacific Islander community. Our concentration in the San Francisco area has historically been in Potrero Hill, Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley. Visitacion Valley especially has been a community that hasn’t gotten so many resources. One of the biggest things is be an advocate,” said Tito.

According to Tito, Veavea is engaged in neighborhood events and affairs. He often attends meetings with City officials and “comes back to tell us what goes on. Through him, the needs of this community are heard and taken to heart. He really cares about the issues [in] this community.”

Tito believes that one of the most important issues facing the District is affordable housing.  The Sunnydale-Velasco Housing Project is in the process of being reconstructed. “It’s so disheartening to be promised all of these things now. For years, we’ve been waiting, seeing nothing get done. We’re hoping the next District 10 Supervisor will listen,” said Tito.

Tito wants more resources invested in transportation and education. “We really have only one bus that comes through, the nine. There needs to be more in order for our folks to go outside for their appointments. Also, SFUSD should put a lot more things in place in this District…They can give us teachers that are willing to work with kids that have been traumatized by violence in the District,” said Tito.

Julio Muao, a former Visitacion Valley resident who grew up with Veavea, supports Veavea’s decision to run. “I’ve known Neo for 39 years. He’s very outgoing, very personable. He’s always done a lot of outreach for the community,” said Muao.

Veavea hopes to use his role as Supervisor to foster connections between different Southside areas.  “Every neighborhood has some sort of community festival. It would be good to have a team of people go outside their neighborhood and work in festivals in other neighborhoods. If we can get four or five people from each neighborhood involved like this, they would get to know each other a lot better,” said Veavea.

Veavea believes he’d represent District 10 well because his experiences have taught him “how to really work together through thick and thin. No matter what issues you have with another District, you have to listen to them. You have to be very neutral on everything and listen to all sides of the issues.”

Veavea added that he believes a District Supervisor doesn’t have the ultimate decision on policy. “The decision lies within your community,” he said.