Breathe out, San Francisco.
After 46 meetings, 230 hours and thousands of public comments, the Redistricting Task Force has locked in the city’s new Supervisorial district map.
But the atmosphere before the final vote was one more of frustration than jubilation. And, in a fitting conclusion to a process that has become increasingly contentious over the past month, the map passed in a tight 5-4 split.
The map was approved by Chair Rev. Arnold Townsend, Vice Chair Ditka Reiner, and members Matthew Castillon, Chasel Lee, and Lily Ho. It was opposed by members Jeremy Lee, J. Michelle Pierce, Chema Hernández Gil, and Raynell Cooper.
As it has been for several weeks, the biggest point of controversy in this final map was slicing the Tenderloin away from District 6 and putting it into District 5, a move that the clear majority of public comment has opposed.
“I think almost every choice hits that threshold of ‘appropriate,’ based on public input and public hearings, except for one,” said Cooper. “And it’s the choice that’s at the center of the map. It’s the choice that creates the map as it is. It’s the most important and essential aspect of the map. And that’s the move of the Tenderloin into District 5.”
“We’ve had hundreds of opportunities for people to defend the move of Tenderloin into District 5, and it has not been defended,” said Cooper. “And I think that is likely because it’s indefensible.”
“I apologize to the city for the way this process has failed,” he said.
Other major changes include: Seacliff and Presidio Terrace joining District 1; the Inner Sunset moving to District 7; and Cole Valley joining District 8.
Data from the Redistricting Task Force.
In broad strokes, the map approved today is the same as the contentious map approved on April 21, with some minor amendments made in the intervening week. Those changes mainly involved block-level edits to District 5; for instance, adding part of Golden Gate Park to the west and incorporating the Chibi Chan Preschool to the north.
During today’s meeting, Deputy City Attorney Ana Flores advised that the new lines were in effect immediately after the vote. Barring any legal proceedings, these new Supervisorial boundaries will be used for the next 10 years.
Accusations of political interference and opaque processes have dogged the task force for the past month. And, in this final meeting, multiple members said that they believed the map had been gerrymandered, meaning that it had been configured to benefit certain political interests, be that the Board of Supervisors, the mayor, or special-interest groups across the city.
“This is a map that gerrymanders our city, and it is the outcome of a deeply flawed and manipulated process,” said Hernández Gil, who voted against the map. “I look forward to whatever comes next, which I assume will be legal challenges.”
Ho, who voted in favor of the map, said, “this is not the perfect map that I would like to see, because I do think that Portola is being gerrymandered. But I will accept that hard choices needed to be made and I think that we have done the best we could.”
Portola ultimately stayed in District 9, but debate over whether it should move into District 10 was fierce. The task force’s first finalized draft moved the neighborhood from District 9 into District 10, but this was ultimately shot down on April 13, when Townsend changed his vote, causing the group to blow through their legal deadline.
This was not the task force’s only flip-flop.
The first map that split the Tenderloin from District 6 was released at the end of March. On April 2, that vote was undone after public outcry, in an 8-1 vote, and the Tenderloin and SoMa were recombined. On April 5, the Tenderloin was again put into District 5, this time along with Central SoMa. On April 7, the Tenderloin was again split from Central SoMa. Then, a version of that map was rejected on April 13.
The public was then told that a map putting the Tenderloin back into District 6 would be used to begin discussion in their next meeting. But that map was immediately put to one side on April 21, ultimately resulting in the map that was accepted today, joining the Tenderloin with District 5.
“If I could choose one word to summarize our entire process, I would describe it as cruel,” said Jeremy Lee. “It was cruel not because we had to make tough choices. We all understood that responsibility from the beginning.”
“It was cruel because we made hard decisions, then reversed them, and then reversed them again, on multiple occasions,” he said. “Each time we reversed the decision, we didn’t offer proper explanation to the public.”
Member Castillon defended the decision to move the Tenderloin into District 5, saying that there was a pattern of population migration between Western Addition and the Tenderloin, and that email comments pointed out this link. He said that due to District 6’s bloated population, some major changes were necessary to keep the district within legal bounds. Each district must include roughly the same number of voters.
“We cannot dismiss these comments that have been coming from a quieter voice,” said Castillon.
Although Townsend voted in favor of the map, he still expressed frustration that he had been unable to create a map that he believed might better serve the city’s Black population.
“Being a part of this process has convinced me evermore that, as far as San Francisco is concerned, Black people are inconvenient,” he said.
The lawsuit that was leveled against the task force last week by pro-housing advocate Todd David and two other plaintiffs is now unlikely to be pursued. Scheduled to be heard tomorrow, its main goal was to make sure a map was adopted before May 2.
Many public commenters today thanked the task force members, along with the clerk’s office and the other public officials who facilitated the mapping process. There was also considerable criticism of the racial animus that bubbled up on occasion in public comment over the past month.
Although this was their final meeting, the work of the Redistricting Task Force is not quite done. The task force selected Chasel Lee to head up the process of producing a final report on their work. The report is expected to include statements from each member on why mapping decisions were made, as well as advice for the next task force in 2031.
A draft of the final report should be available for public comment from May 11 to 16, and will be finalized on May 23.