Attending any of the more than 15 San Francisco Redistricting Task Force meetings has been both interesting and daunting. Interesting in that the people of San Francisco are involved in the process, and daunting in that each step is meticulous and strives to ensure no one community or neighborhood is overlooked. Each district in the remapping process aims to represent approximately 72,000 residents while keeping communities of interest together. Keeping the populations of each district in balance while respecting a community’s wishes can be difficult.
Currently there are 120 distinct neighborhoods and communities of interest in San Francisco. With only a few weeks left in the redistricting process, engaging all of the people in these neighborhoods is a difficult task.
An article in the February 2012 Marina Times provided some details about the redistricting process and how it works in our electoral system at state and local levels. For San Franciscans, a special redistricting task force assembles every 10 years to review the census data and mostly to listen, taking into account testimony from citizens about their particular neighborhood communities.
At a task force meeting held at the United Irish Cultural Center on March 22, everyone who made a comment praised the nine panel members for their efforts. But each person representing or speaking on behalf of a community or neighborhood was adamant that new boundary lines not divide or disrupt an area’s cohesiveness. For example, there was concern as to whether or not the University of San Francisco belonged in District 1 or District 2. Or should one portion of the campus belong to District 1 and the other to District 2? These types of questions are ones that the panel must address and often will debate while the public is present.
“Selecting” or “deselecting” a boundary line that incorporates a block or two could be significant. Depending upon its size and density, one city block can have as many as 300 to over 1,000 residents. A consultant is always present to help panel members understand what is contained in each line and point on the map they are considering.
This is why the community meetings are so important. The task force encourages people to speak up and be heard.
“These meetings are useful and have had strong turnouts in each of the meetings throughout all the districts in the city,” said Jenny Lam, who serves as vice chair of the task force. “What all the meetings and districts share in common is an eagerness to provide testimony and share their point of view,” said Lam.
For District 2 and the Marina District in particular, Lam said, the task force received testimony for Jordan Park and its strong working relationship with District 2. Lam also noted the very important participation of the merchant community.
Eric McDonnell, who serves as chair of the S.F. Redistricting Task Force, said that the process is going well and there has been good community input with “a good rhythm of feedback.” The meeting on March 22 had almost 100 people and other meetings (held in various parts of the city) were full to capacity with lots of community representation.
“Yet,” McDonnell pointed out, “we are still not able to reach everyone.” He mentioned the importance of making more effort to reach the “monolingual” aspects of the city’s population. A major city like San Francisco must include citizens who don’t speak English as their primary language. “Part of our report will try to capture lessons learned since we started [last] August,” said McDonnell.
“We are close to completion,” said Lam. “Our priority is the inclusiveness and transparency in the process. We respect one another’s opinion,” she said.
To be able to do the line drawing of district maps in public is very important – having an open dialogue is vital to the voting process and it helps to strengthen the electoral system for all citizens.
Task force member Myong Leigh noted, “We have to balance out the population between 11 districts for an average of 73,203 people in each district. We are under the average in Districts 1, 2 and 3.” He added, “If we could expand the boundaries in Districts 1, 2, and 3 then we can get closer to the established average.”
The latest draft of the redistricting map, dated March 22, 2012, allocates 69,712 residents to District 2, giving it the fewest residents of any district. The 2010 census counted 68,021 residents in District 2, which was an increase of 799 residents from the 2000 census.
The final and complete district boundary map must be submitted by April 14, 2012. For details on the remaining task force meetings and copies of the newest draft maps, visit www.sfgov.org/rdtf
or call 415-554-7710.