On the eve of one of the last Redistricting Task Force meetings Monday night, at least 100 frustrated San Franciscans took to City Hall and accused the task force of “backroom” decisions that led to a map that divides marginalized communities.
The Redistricting Task Force, composed of nine members, are tasked with redrawing supervisorial districts every 10 years, based on Census population data, by a certain deadline. The requirements expect each district to encompass an equal number of people, so residents get represented equally. In San Francisco, that means districts of roughly 79,545 residents, plus or minus 5 percent.
On Monday, residents who identify as transgender, Black, Filipino, Chinese and Latinx, and who represent various neighborhoods, spoke out against the lack of transparency, demanded a new map even if it meant missing the deadline, and threatened to sue the task force. Several protesters raised homemade signs that questioned the task force’s transparency, reading, “We don’t trust the Redistricting Task Force,” “Task Force or Task Farce?” and “No tratos a escondidas.”
The rally was called after Sunday’s meeting, in which the task force voted on a map that put Potrero Hill in District 9 and the Portola in District 10.
“We demand transparency and integrity. This process is fundamental, and we have lost complete trust in our redistricting task force,” said Jupiter Peraza, a transgender woman who attended the rally and has been a vocal advocate in the redistricting process. Kevin Ortiz, the vice president of political affairs for the SF Latinx Democratic Club, and others, said they believe the task force’s actions on Sunday could be interpreted as violating the Brown Act, which requires transparency during government meetings. “If this map gets passed this week, we are going to file a lawsuit,” he said.
Ortiz and others questioned the task force’s transparency because, on Sunday, the task force initially rejected the controversial map in a 5-4 vote, but after a recess, they returned and vice-chair Ditka Reiner said she had been mistaken in her vote. Another vote was taken, and the map was approved in a 5-4 vote. The move triggered a walkout by four members of the Task Force committee, and some questioned the integrity of the process and the other members.
The protesters, many of whom represent or work for neighborhood community groups like SOMA Pilipinas, the Latino Task Force, SF Rising, the American Indian Cultural District and more, demanded the map be changed. They criticized how Sunday’s vote to put Potrero Hill in District 9 and Portola in District 10 would “dilute” the political power of Latinx and Black residents.
“You cannot tell Black people that they don’t matter,” said Uzuri Pease-Green.
One activist passed out the latest version of the map task force members were working on. “It’s the bad one,” his young daughter clarified.
Minutes later, the crowd stormed into City Hall and up the stairs to file into the Redistricting Task Force meeting. Unable to hold everyone in the room, spectators were asked to join in two viewing rooms where a TV live-streamed the meeting. “This is our life for 10 years again,” said one member of SOMA Pilipinas. She said that, while the Tenderloin has had its problems, the existing community relations were improving it. “But now they will chop it up again. How can we continue the improvement of these communities if you keep changing it?”
“Today, we’re not just making a map,” said Sharaya Souza, the executive director of the American Indian Cultural District, earlier in the rally. “The decisions that we make today are going to impact our communities — how our voting, our resources, all of those things are allocated and distributed.”