The final Supervisorial district boundaries, approved April 28.

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.

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DATA REPORTER. Will was born in the UK and studied English at Oxford University. After a few years in publishing, he absconded to the USA where he studied data journalism in New York. Will has strong views on healthcare, the environment, and the Oxford comma.

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15 Comments

  1. Arnold “move my car” Townsend cried crocodile tears about the dwindling Black community today. His onion in the hankie routine is tedious. Windy and hypocritical speeches versus his votes and actions supporting the awful and violating maps tell the real story.

  2. All throughout the MONTHS of public meetings…..”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.” No one ever asked for the TL to be ripped from D6 and shoved into D5. The 5 members of the Task Farce owns that harmful decision. Shame on them.

    1. The clear majority of public comment is very distinct from the clear majority of the public, the clear majority of whim most likely have no view on the matter. Or who, like me, see Market Street as an obvious and natural district boundary. The kind of people who showed up at these meetings were clearly very skewed and biased

      1. The “silent majority” is a convenient place for your psychological projections, but that’s about it.

        1. If you seriously think that the usual suspect activists and agitators who show up for these meetings are typical then you haven’t been paying attention much.

          In fact what normal person with a job and family to attend to has a spare 8 hours to sit through these interminable meetings?

          1. Unfortunately your critique doesn’t include any data – just complaints about voices that you feel aren’t representative because you don’t hear them in your social circles or agree with them. What you believe in this case conveniently lines up with what you perceive as “manipulation”, so yes you could do better. Just because your local homeowner’s association is largely unconcerned doesn’t mean that the tens of thousands of less affluent residents that will be affected by this change aren’t deeply concerned with having to now advocate for two different structures of resource allocation and funding for the similar services required north and south of Market. If you think that those voices will be as effective split across two administrative funding structures… the mental gymnastics necessary to square that logic just begs the question: Why on earth spend so much energy trying to convince yourself that this is good and right? When it clearly is not. This change is a good way to split those voices, make them quieter, make it easier for them to be ignored.

            The reality is – the people who were invested, concerned, drawn to action… those for whom this was their *only* voice and opportunity to be heard – those people showed up. No one showed up to advocate for splitting the district – the motivation for that change remains seemingly intentionally ambiguous, and we’re left looking at who benefited from the split to try and understand which forces were strong enough to keep the five members of the task force aligned with this nonsense from even recognizing the voices of the communities that were diluted by the change.

          2. Agree 100% with your comments Renter. Thank you for your thoughtful observations.

  3. The past 20-year experiment in election of supervisors by district has failed.

    The clown car that has been the redistricting process is just the latest manifestation of this failure.

    District elections have resulted in an extraordinary low-caliber of politician, the balkanization of the City, massive/pervasive dysfunction and the inability to proactively and progressively address the SF’s chronic problems: housing scarcity, runaway housing costs, ever-increasing homelessness, the fentanyl epidemic, etc.

    We need to return to the “at-large” election of supervisors — so we can have representatives that are acting on behalf of the entire city, not just the parochial interests of the few.

    1. Karl – to be fair, we had all the same problems 20 yrs ago with ‘Willy Brown’s mistresses’ (except Fentanyl used to be crack).

      And while I agree about the low-caliber of politicians, I’m coming to think maybe its the low caliber of voters instead. Aside from you and I – and Joe – of course.

      Think about it.

  4. You want “no more districts” and only can do citywide yes men and women supervisors you say? Ugh. The same rabid recall folks continue to regurgitate the “city wide” “all things to all people” nonsense. No thanks. My home district aint the TL, Pac Heights, the Marina, Bayview or Forrrrreesssst Hills. We need district supervisors who live in our home districts so that we can hold them accountable. Deputizing them to skitter and scatter all across the city is a recipe for disaster. No one will be accountable for anything. Who will get you garbage cans? Who will get you navigation centers? Who will get you slow streets?. Who knows your home district? The generalists? Nah. Maybe if San Francisco were an app that would work. Otherwise death by 1000 cuts.

    1. The real problem isn’t even the districts. It is the fact that one single urban area (the SF Bay Area) is split up into 9 counties and dozens of cities and towns, each with its own little politicians caring only for their own back yard.

      Balkanization and beggar-thy-neighbor pettiness right here in America.

  5. PRO FREE MARKET CAPITALIST AND YIMBY TALKING POINT 793,452: use the word “Balkanization.” overuse that word. Use it again and again in our pro market YIMBY land-use campaign. Beat them about the genitals, the kneecaps and the head with this talking point.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balkanization

  6. “Balkanization” perpetuated by the Task Farce and this map. Carving the poorest, most marginalized neighborhoods into competitive pieces so that they are left to fight amongst themselves for desperately needed resources is cruel and perpetuates suffering. This map harms San Francisco’s poorest and the neediest. The Task Farce might as well have lined up the people living in the Tenderloin in front of a firing squad. Their map is social and economic experimentation. They sacrificed whole living, breathing human beings for future, unborn ones.

  7. How could you do this San Francisco, after it was overwhelmingly opposed by anonymous basement dwelling keyboard commandos? There will be a terrible price to pay, in the sense that they’ll go on and on about this until they find something else to go on and on about. Because god knows these incels won’t ever turn off their Internets and go find a girlfriend. That would mean putting on pants and leaving the house and all their pants stopped fitting them two weeks into the COVID pandemic.

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