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Opinion

For the sake of San Francisco

Why the redistricting failure of 2010 cannot be repeated

Once a decade, the federal government conducts a nationwide census to count all people living in the United States. After the census is done, all levels of government, from city and county to state, go through the process of redrawing electoral boundaries, known as redistricting, to ensure that voting districts are reflective of population changes recorded in the latest census report and legal requirements are met. Specifically, population numbers need to be within a 1 percent range of variance of each other; however, up to a 5 percent variance is allowed when it’s needed to keep communities of interest intact; and districts need to be compact, rather than looking like a “salamander,” which is the root word of the term “gerrymandering.”

The process of redistricting in San Francisco is occurring right now using 2020 census data to redraw supervisorial lines across the city’s 11 districts. So what should you be paying attention to when it comes to the current redistricting process and the impact on District 2?

To put it bluntly, we need to anticipate major changes in District 2 and the city as a whole. 

Here’s why: Some districts are now too big and overpopulated. San Francisco’s population rose by 8.5 percent to 873,965 between 2010 and 2020. The city saw a dramatic change in population in District 6 with the growth of high rises in the now-called “East Cut” neighborhood, and in Mission Bay in District 10. District 6 is +30.35 percent from deviation, thus needing to shrink by more than 25 percent to even be legal; and District 10 is +8.65 percent from deviation. 

Additionally, some districts are too small and need more people in them. For example, District 1 is -8.31 percent from deviation, District 3 is -8.78 percent from deviation, and District 4 is -8.39 percent from deviation. The population growth in those neighborhoods will require, by law, that the footprint of their districts shrink.

The districts bordering District 6 and District 10 will be impacted as well. Those districts will need to expand their boundaries to accommodate for the shrinking of District 6 and District 10. As a result, every district in the city will have to shift eastwards. If this sounds dramatic, that’s because it is.

RIGHTING A WRONG

When it all comes down to it, we are in this situation because the 2010 Redistricting Task Force got it wrong 10 years ago. 

Population increases in District 6 and District 10 were anticipated back in 2010. Rincon Hill and the Infinity Towers were already built, and the pipeline of new high-rises was already in the books. Yet, the lines drawn in 2010 still had District 6 and District 10 at maximum legal capacity with those districts at the top 5 percent of their variance bandwidth. Ten years ago, everyone knew that real estate development in District 6 would increase the population, yet the district was designed irresponsibly at the high end of its legal variance band. 

The risk now is continued gerrymandering. 

We, the residents of San Francisco’s District 2, need to hold the Redistricting Task Force accountable and ensure that they adjust district lines to be fair and balanced. 

We can’t afford another decade of districts established to consolidate political power — everyone who lives in San Francisco should have a vote of equal value to their neighbor. 

The California Fair Maps Act (AB 849), passed in 2019, set forth a redistricting process that requires public input on those decisions. It also established a set of criteria for redrawing district maps, which include eq-
ual population per district, adherence to the federal Voting Rights Act, and regard for “communities of interest,” among other factors.

Residents of District 2 need to be aware that our district is probably going to change in a significant way in the redistricting. Districts need to be fair, legal, and give every voting district equal representation. We believe District 2 was intentionally/illegally “stacked” with politically moderate voters in 2010 by adding Sea Cliff, which logically should be in District 1. 

There will be fearmongering of proposed redistricting maps, claiming that massive changes are wrong. The truth is that massive adjustments need to be made to correct the current illegal maps. Districts are so proportionally lopsided that right now, a vote in District 1 is worth 42 percent more than a vote in District 6. 

This goes against every person’s right to fair and equal representation. 

GET INVOLVED

What can you do to get more involved? Voice your opinions and participate in Redistricting Task Force Meetings. Upcoming meetings, agenda items, and public call-in numbers can be found at sf.gov/public-body/2020-census-redistricting-task-force. You can email comments to the RTF at [email protected].

Daphne Alden, Lanier Coles, Alicia Engstrom, Nick Podell, Chelsea Waite, and Montgomery Woods are a collection of concerned constituents from District 2Unite; you can sign up for their newsletter at forms.gle/5JM1veCP9zKfY8L37

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