This article has three sketches that have captions. There are close-up images of each drawing to tell the story and summarize what was said.
Every 10 years, when new census data is released, San Francisco convenes a task force to decide how to redraw the supervisorial district lines. Volunteers with the League of Women Voters of San Francisco have been following this process and provide information and context on their website, including information about each task force member and how they were appointed.
The Redistricting Task Force of the City and County of San Francisco is holding a series of public meetings to hear from constituents. The Feb. 18, 2022, meeting focused on District 9, so I attended and took sketch notes of the proceedings in realtime.
Here are the three sketches I created and detailed images with descriptions of what happened:
For each agenda item, the clerk reads instructions in several languages for how to offer public comment. More than 30 people offered comments about the borders of District 9.
This meeting was focused on hearing from residents of District 9 about their economic, social and cultural communities of interest. Ho also provided context when Cantonese speakers called to let everyone know that the “Chinese community refers to the Portola neighborhood as “San Bruno.”
Other task force members who kept their cameras on to show they were listening included Jeremy Lee, Ditka Reiner, Chasel Lee and Matthew Castillon. Chema Hernadez Gil also made sure to respond to commenters: “As an Indigenous man, I respect the American Indian Cultural District. I hear the request”
The first comment came from Marc Salomon, a longtime Mission activist, who argued that Bernal Heights should be separated from the Mission District and instead grouped with the more affluent Noe Valley in District 8.
Most comments over the next 90 minutes would focus on one of three categories: the district border that splits the Mission District along Valencia Street, the Portola neighborhood and the small St. Mary’s neighborhood on the southern edge of Bernal Heights.
At the Feb. 9 meeting, Manny Yekutiel and several other board members of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association called to ask that Valencia Street be united in one district, and that it should be included in District 8, with the Castro neighborhood.
At the Feb. 18 meeting, others wanted all of Valencia Street within District 9. “The Mission is vibrant and strong,” callers argued and has “survived an onslaught of gentrification” with “over 10,000 displaced.” I, too, support this, and offered my own public comment.
Many callers argued that the entire American Indian Cultural District should be united in District 9. Currently, parts of the American Indian Cultural District are in District 8 to the west, and District 6 to the north. Some also argued that Calle 24 Latino Cultural District should be kept united.
Amy Beinart, a Bernal resident who recently retired as chief of staff for Supervisor Hillary Ronen, also supported unifying the Mission and added that it is “imperative to share draft maps,” to generate more community response.
Another neighbor noted that “Potrero Del Sol Park neighbors want to be included” with the Mission District. It is currently in District 10.
Several callers argued that the Portola neighborhood has benefited greatly from being united in District 9 for the past ten years. Having one supervisor has made it easier to organize beautification projects and establish the neighborhood’s identity as the Garden District.
Noah Pascual, a 19-year-old who has spent his whole life in the neighborhood, reported that they’ve seen many more people coming to visit Portola. Artist Phillip Hua, who has put quite a bit of his own energy and creativity into the beautification projects, added that Portola should stay connected with the Alemany Farmers Market.
Some comments, translated from Cantonese, argued that Portola should be united with Visitacion Valley and the Bayview, where a growing Chinese American community lives, shops and goes to school.
Neighborhood members talked about how 280 is a barrier that they rarely pass when their family ventures out into the city, so it wouldn’t be right to move the neighborhood into a district with the Excelsior, on the other side of the highway. “If we can’t walk there, we rarely go.”
These callers were in part responding to an idea floated at the Feb. 7 meeting, that St. Mary’s should be moved to District 11 to unite a Filipino population.
The next item on the agenda was to hear from consultants the city hired to conduct outreach to the public about the redistricting process. Lisbet Sunshine reported on behalf of Civic Edge Consulting. She said they contacted 16 organizations about this District 9 meeting.
Kevin Ortiz, vice president of the San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club, commented that he was appalled by the lack of Latinx outreach. No affordable housing providers or service providers were contacted, he said, adding that Civic Edge used an old, outdated list to contact mostly business and merchant groups.
Lauren Girardin* commented that the League of Women Voters continues outreach and holds office hours. “We’re just volunteers.”
Penny Mitchell, of the St. Mary’s neighborhood, added that the League’s office hours are a “fantastic resource.” Task force member Cooper agreed.
Task force member Gil said that outreach by Civic Edge is limited and that people should email with suggestions of groups to add to their list. Thanks to Lauren and the League for volunteer outreach. There should be flyers in Mayan language.
Video tutorials about how to use the online tools that the public can use to suggest their own maps are now available translated into other languages.
Most municipalities spend three months debating draft maps, but San Francisco only has eight weeks left in the process. The deadline to finish redistricting, under the city charter, is April 15.
Girardin also commented, “We look forward to sharing translated mapping tools. The League also supports adding cultural districts to map visualizations.”
City rules will be changing in March to require the task force to start meeting in person, though people will still be able to make public comments online. For the agenda item about scheduling, one caller suggested that in-person hybrid meetings are an opportunity for the task force to come to communities.
Another commenter named Josephine argued that District 10 needs an in-person meeting. The task force is scheduled to have its second and final meeting about District 10 on March 5, which is right before they begin meeting in person, making District 10 the only one whose second meeting will be virtual.
The current schedule also means that District 10 folks will have less than 10 hours to respond to the first draft maps, which are scheduled to be created at the March 4 meeting. Jen Tse urged the task force to reschedule the next D10-focused meeting to a later date.
A representative of SPEAK, the Sunset-Parkside Education & Action Committee, called to report on their organizing toward a consensus about the Inner Sunset (which is currently divided between districts). Girardin gave one more comment, that she can’t find a Mayan language flyer on the task force website and that contact information for the task force is no longer available on the website.
You can find information about future meetings of the task force on its website. They are scheduled to hold another meeting about the borders of District 9 at 5:30 pm on March 23.
*Lauren Girardin and Todd Berman are married.
Todd Berman is making drawings of official meetings as part of an experiment in art-as-journalism. You can find out more about his practice at TheArtDontStop.com and you can see the heart sculpture he painted with the San Francisco landscape on display at the Ferry Building for the month of February.