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The Redistricting Draft Maps Are Here. This Is How They Could Change Politics in the Bay Area

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A section of one of the draft redistricting maps that includes the North Bay and far north counties.
The draft map released by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission on November 10, 2021 includes a Congressional district (shown in blue) covering cities currently represented by Democrats Congressmembers Mike Thompson and John Garamendi. (Citizens Redistricting Commission)

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission took a key step Wednesday night toward setting the state's future political lines, approving a first draft of maps for state Senate, Assembly and U.S. House districts after three days of marathon meetings that came after months of public deliberation.

Now, the panel will take at least two weeks of public comment on their plans before making any changes. Final maps, which set in place district boundaries for the next decade, will need to be approved by Dec. 27.

Here are some takeaways on how the commission's lines could affect the political representation of Bay Area residents.

Congressional musical chairs 

The volunteer commissioners are responsible for drawing district lines that contain equal populations, protect the political voice of communities of color and language minorities and take into account "communities of interest," such as cities, neighborhoods, demographic groups or clusters of industry.

They do not consider the current location (or feelings) of incumbent politicians. That's why the proposed lines fracture some current districts — like the one with the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. John Garamendi.

Solano County cities currently represented by Garamendi like Vacaville and Dixon are now joined in a district with Napa and Sonoma county cities represented by fellow Democrat Mike Thompson. That could lead Garamendi to run against Thompson or shift to a different district.

But keep in mind, a lot could change to avoid an incumbent-vs.-incumbent clash. For one, congressmembers don't have to live in the district they serve, so an incumbent could theoretically run in a more favorable district. And if any member of the Bay Area congressional delegation were to retire, another safe Democratic seat would open for the taking.

The draft redistricting maps no longer split San Francisco's Assembly district into clean east-west lines. (Citizens Redistricting Commission)

San Francisco Assembly split

The maps split San Francisco into two Assembly districts, but instead of a straight east-west split, the western district forms a "v" shape, from the Richmond District south to Daly City and back north into the Bayview.

These lines were informed by testimony to the commission that uniting Chinese communities in the Richmond, Sunset, Visitacion Valley and Bayview with Filipino neighborhoods in Daly City would result in a strong voice for working-class communities and their shared needs, such as culturally specific social services.

But critics of the maps said the consolidation of those diverse Asian communities is to the detriment of Asian, Black and Latino residents in San Francisco's other Assembly district. In that east SF seat, the white citizens-of-voting-age population would jump from 39% under the current lines to 56% in the draft map, according to data provided by the Chinese American Voters Education Committee.

Tri-Valley splintered 

The commission has struggled with how to group the Tri-Valley, a handful of towns and cities spanning eastern Contra Costa and Alameda counties. Some early map ideas even paired the region with cities in the Central Valley like Tracy.

Despite the wishes of the region's five mayors to remain in one district, the draft maps put Pleasanton and Livermore in a separate Assembly and Congressional district from Danville, San Ramon and parts of Dublin.

And it's not just Tri-Valley advocates pushing for a change here: A representative with the group Bay Rising, which works to build political power for communities of color, asked the commission on Wednesday to separate the city of Hayward from the "much richer, much whiter" Tri-Valley.

A proposed state Assembly district stretches north from Napa to more conservative counties. (Citizens Redistricting Commission)

Any chance for Republicans to represent the Bay Area?

No Republican has represented a piece of the Bay Area in Congress or the state legislature since 2018, when Tri-Valley Assemblymember Catharine Baker lost her bid for a third term.

If there's any hope for Republicans in these new draft maps, it's in a proposed Assembly district which stretches more than 150 miles north from American Canyon, in southern Napa County, to conservative Tehama County.

The lack of population growth in the northern regions of the state forced the commission to pull district lines far south in order to loop in the required population. Despite this district's inclusion of red counties like Tehama, Colusa and Glenn, Democrats would still have a 16% voter registration advantage thanks to more liberal voters in Yolo and Napa counties being included, according to an analysis by the California Target Book.

More community input 'really critical' 

As they neared their deadline to complete these draft maps, redistricting commissioners admitted they simply ran out of time to enact some changes they had been mulling over.

On Tuesday, commissioners labored to combine Vallejo and Richmond into a state Assembly district (as they had done in the congressional maps) — citing a desire to unite historically Black communities and workers who commute daily up or down I-80, giving them a stronger say in a single district.

But after a lengthy debate, the commissioners couldn't draw a district within the required population limits, and decided to table the idea.

It could be an idea the commission revisits after hearing public feedback, which starts next week.

"By approving these maps and going forward, it gives us 14 days to get community input from communities before we hit the holidays and I think that's really critical," said Commissioner Pedro Toledo.

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