In the early hours of this morning, the redistricting task force once again reversed course by voting in favor of Map 4B, which puts the Tenderloin and central SoMa in District 5.
The 6 to 3 vote came only days after the task force approved Map 4D nearly unanimously. That map kept the Tenderloin in District 6 and was an overwhelming favorite of those who spoke during the seven-hour public comment period on Saturday.
Map 4B slices the Tenderloin and central SoMa out of District 6 and puts both in District 5, a dramatic change that means District 6 is left with few low-income census blocks. In the new map, District 5 loses Haight-Ashbury and Cole Valley.
“Map 4B advantages wealthier communities over working-class communities,” said John Avalos, former supervisor for District 11. He added that he was unsure why the reversal was made, but said, “I think it is worth considering whether some of these members of the task force have marching orders.”
Map 4D, which kept the Tenderloin in District 6, was preliminarily approved last Saturday in an 8 to 1 vote. That meant Map 4D would be used as the basis for future tweaks as the task force’s April 15 deadline approaches.
But in last night’s meeting, which began at 5:30 p.m. Monday and continued until 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, the task force was unable to agree on changes and instead voted to proceed with Map 4B.
“We are going against all the impassioned testimony we heard on Saturday, only days ago,” said task force member Jeremy Lee, who voted against the reversal. “We are doing this in the dead of night, when we cannot be held fully accountable by the public.”
The votes in favor of using Map 4B were from chair Arnold Townsend, vice-chair Ditka Reiner, Raynell Cooper, Chasel Lee, Matthew Castillon and Lily Ho. These members were all appointed either by Mayor London Breed or the Elections Commission.
The three dissenting votes came from Chema Hernández Gil, Jeremy Lee, and J. Michelle Pierce. These members of the task force were all appointed by the Board of Supervisors.
The main change made to Map 4D during “live line drawing,” the task force’s process of trying out new boundaries by drawing them in real time, was moving Russian Hill into District 2. Public comment had previously asked for Russian Hill to be kept in District 3, or to be kept whole as a neighborhood if that were not possible. But when these changes came to a vote, task force members rejected them in a 5 to 4 split, with Townsend, Reiner, Chasel Lee, Castillon, and Ho against the changes.
Instead of going back to live line drawing, the task force then voted to return to Map 4B.
Cooper, who voted in favor of the changes to Map 4D, said he was “surprised” by his fellow members’ reluctance to move Russian Hill into District 2.
“I don’t think they realized how consequential the vote on Russian Hill would be,” he said. He said that by keeping Russian Hill in District 3, there would be impacts to other areas of the map, especially in the center of the city, none of which “seemed any more comfortable.”
It is unclear why this stand was made by a majority of the task force on the issue of Russian Hill in particular. Cooper later voted in favor of returning to Map 4B, saying that he was worried about the impact of the Russian Hill vote on other neighborhoods if they stuck with Map 4D.
“From listening to the live mapping session around 2 a.m., it appeared that several task force members were frustrated with the shape of District 6,” said Matthias Mormino, director of policy for the Chinatown Community Development Center, in an SF Rising press release.
“After moving on to District 3 and hitting an impasse around Russian Hill,” said Mormino, “the decision to pull Map 4B out of the dust bin was done out of desperation, or perhaps delirium.”
Alison Goh, president of the League of Women Voters of San Francisco, criticized the task force for a lack of transparency and for discounting marginalized voices.
“The task force is avoiding the tough choices at the expense of disadvantaged communities,” said Goh. “If you’re making these major decisions about what happens to the city for the next ten years in the early hours of the morning, that is a problem.”
“We were really happy with Map 4D,” said Raquel Redondiez, director of SOMA Pilipinas. “We thought, ‘Finally, the task force is listening to the public.'”
“Astonishingly, they went back to Map 4B. It seemed as though it was to favor the voices of the more affluent communities, like Russian Hill and Mission Bay.”
Map 4B was the second most popular choice among the public last Saturday, although it was behind the popularity of Map 4D. Member Pierce tallied unambiguous support for each map during that meeting, and found that 117 members of the public spoke in favor of 4D, while 32 spoke in favor of 4B. Maps 4A and 4C collected only a handful of supporters.
According to witnesses at the meeting last night, there were no public comments asking for the Tenderloin to be moved to District 5, and many actually thanked the task force for their previous decision to move ahead with Map 4D.
“I know we are going to get a lot of upset feedback on Wednesday,” said Cooper.
The task force’s next meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6.