San Francisco Board Of Supervisor District Boundaries To Be Redrawn

November 2011

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, San Francisco’s population grew by 3.7 percent in the past decade to a total of 805,235 residents. Newcomers find homes throughout the city, inevitably disrupting the population balance between Board of Supervisor districts. This phenomenon in turn prompts the need to readjust the boundaries of the board’s 11 districts.

San Francisco is not the only political jurisdiction affected by population changes. Postcensus redistricting is taking place across California, as well as in other states including Texas and Massachusetts. California knew redistricting was coming – typically, new electoral district boundaries are redrawn every 10 years, after the U.S. Census Bureau releases its latest data on where Americans live – but that does not make it any easier to equalize district populations. For example, the State Senate districts represented by Mark Leno and Leland Yee may be redrawn in ways that harm one or the other’s chance of being reelected, should Yee be unsuccessful in his bid for mayor.

The responsibility for redrawing Calif-ornia’s State Assembly, State Senate, State Board of Equalization, and Congressional districts rests in the hands of the Citizens Redistricting Commission, which is made up of 14 people: five Democrats, five Republicans, and four individuals who aren’t affiliated with either party. The Commission is not supposed to factor politics into its decision making, such as where incumbents and potential candidates reside. A revised draft of proposed new boundaries was released in June, with some analysts predicting that the shifting lines could give Democrats at least three more congressional and two more state legislative seats. The commission conducted public hearings to vet the possible boundaries. The final map, which was released by the commission on Aug. 15, is currently being challenged in the California Supreme Court.

Like in the state realignment, San Francisco’s supervisor district boundaries must also distribute the City’s population equally among its 11 districts, with no dilution of the voting power of a racial or demographic group that speaks a specific language. Each district, in keeping with the new census numbers, must include roughly 72,300 people. If possible, recognized neighborhoods are supposed to be placed within a single district.

Districts 10 and 6 must “lose” residents to meet the population quota, with District 6, represented by Supervisor Jane Kim, of particular concern because of its skyrocketing growth.

Boundary changes to growing districts will create a domino effect that will carry over to other districts. It is likely that every district’s shape will be altered at least somewhat, with notable political implications. Because new district lines will be based solely on population rather than the number of voters, some districts that tend to have fewer children – such as District 2, which includes the Marina – will be comprised of more voting-age citizens than a district that includes Bayview, which is home to a younger population with less voting-age individuals.

David Hooper, a San Francisco native who has lived near Balboa Park (District 11) for the past quarter-century, is particularly concerned about neighborhood cohesion. “We want to maintain a sense of community, but how do we do it if we have to lose between 5,000 and 6,500 people [as a result of redistricting],” he wondered. “Some say where Potrero Hill goes, so goes the district,” Hooper said. “It’s evolving. You have to constantly adapt. Many don’t want to see the borders change any more than they have to, of course. There’s a sense of limiting the damage to keep the core of the community intact as much as possible.”

Recently, the Elections Commission, San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and Mayor Edwin Lee appointed nine members to the Redistricting Task Force, which will redraw supervisor district boundaries based on census data. The new districts are slated to be in place in time for the November 2012 election, which will include supervisorial races in the City’s six odd-numbered districts.