A meeting of San Francisco's redistricting task force held in Bayview Thursday night revealed a fair amount of anxiety over how District 10 will look when the slicing and dicing is done. District 10 (map here) includes Bayview, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, Visitacion Valley and Portola. The task force has the tricky job of drawing district lines to accommodate the San Francisco Charter's mandate that voting districts be equal in population, while also taking into account fervid public opinion.
The last census shows that population in Districts 6, 10 and 11 have increased relative to other districts, which means that some neighborhoods will have to be drawn into new districts.
The task force is made up of a group of civic-minded citizens who applied for a spot and were appointed by either the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors or the Election Commission. It's been working since August and must submit a final map before April 15th, to be used in the November elections.
“When you go through it, there are so many issues of population, income, voting, densities, ethnicities, sexual orientation, and guess what, the super computer couldn’t figure it out,” said Joe Boss, a Dogpatch resident who was one of about 40 people from around the city attending the meeting.
A major concern for many is the question of what is a “community of interest,” which is one of the factors that will determine the shape of the districts. In determining communities of interest, the task force has been charged with considering commonalities between neighborhoods.
“My goal has always been to try to take the most desperate areas and unite them with some stronger area where there is commonality,” Boss said. Expressing the view of a majority of residents at the meeting, he thinks that Potrero Hill and Dogpatch should stay in District 10 with Bayview, seeing a common interest in a historical legacy of working-class neighborhoods and homeownership.
"My position is, keep us whole, because we have been the neglected district for all these years,” Bayview resident Edward Hatter said. “Now big business is coming into our district, we’re the last frontier, all the development is coming into the district, and they want to split it up.”
Hatter is concerned that without the wealthier and more politically engaged Potrero Hill, developers will run wild on the waterfront without any oversight or concern for the well-being of nearby residents in the less affluent neighborhoods of Bayview, Visitacion Valley and Portola. Hatter also wants to ensure that District 10 continues to receive city money for social programs.
On the other side of the argument was Chris Bowman, who served on a previous redistricting task force that drew the lines in 1995. “District 10 is a working class district except for Potrero Hill, which is basically an affluent, white neighborhood,” Bowman said. “And it has a lot more in common with South Beach and Mission Bay and Rincon Hill than it does with Bayview and Visitacion Valley and the Sunnyvale projects and the Portola.”
Bowman advocates that Potrero Hill be moved into District 6 because their populations are more alike. His view is that neighborhoods with the same socio-economic status and propensity to vote should be grouped together, and he believes that Potrero Hill residents have too much influence on District 10 elections because they vote much more frequently than the other neighborhoods.
Thus, according to Bowman, while Potrero Hill makes up only 16% of the population in District 10, they are 34% of the voters.
“If [the taskforce] screws it up and they create a plan that reduces the amount of diversity on the Board of Supervisors, that will be the end of district elections,” he said.
Many of those attending do not see the need for redistricting. “I don’t know what the point of this is; what do we get more by having the districts redone again,” questioned Virginia Marshall, a public school teacher in District 10, but a resident of Ocean View-Merced Heights-Ingleside (OMI) in District 11.
The task force has to complete a final map by April 15th. Between then and now there are redistricting task force meetings open to the public almost every week. The next one is February 1st in the Mission.