Expanding Our Neighborhood
A very important process in our democracy is taking place now, although most folks I speak to aren’t even aware that it is happening. I am talking about the process of redistricting.
Following the results of the decennial U.S. Census – a federal program that counts every resident, regardless of age, national origin or citizenship every 10 years – San Francisco undergoes a review of current supervisorial districts and seeks to “balance” the population and voice of voters through drawing new district maps.
Redistricting is covered in Sec. 13.110 of the City Charter, which says: “Within 60 days following publication of the decennial federal census in the year 2000 and every decennial federal census after that, the Director of Elections shall report to the Board of Supervisors on whether the existing districts continue to meet the requirements of federal and state law and the criteria for drawing districts lines set in the Charter.”
A Redistricting Task Force of nine members are then appointed by the mayor, the Board of Supervisors and the Department of Elections, each entity appointing three members. This task force is responsible for reviewing census data, neighborhoods, population changes and community voice when making a recommendation on where district boundaries should be drawn to meet federal, state and local requirements. In addition to meeting the federal requirements of equal population, adhering to the Federal Voting Rights Act and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, the Task Force will consider the following additional criteria during redistricting:
Not diluting the voting power of ethnic, political, social and economic minorities;
Creating geographically compact and contiguous districts;
Recognizing geographic boundaries in the City and County;
Keeping distinct neighborhoods, institutions and commercial zones intact;
Reflecting the core of existing districts; and
Considering the likelihood of a district’s population to vote.
This year, all districts in San Francisco must change their boundaries. The City’s population has grown from 805,235 in 2010 to 873,965 in 2020. District population targets (the average number of residents for each district) have changed from 73,203 in 2010 to 79,451 in 2020. In District 1 we must grow our population and that means expanding the boundaries of our district. These decisions must be thoughtful and inclusive as these changes could drastically change the “feel” and culture of existing neighborhoods.
We cannot discuss redistricting without recognizing the gerrymandering that accompanies redistricting. Gerrymandering is the practice of setting boundaries of electoral districts to favor specific political interests within legislative bodies, often resulting in districts with convoluted, winding boundaries rather than compact areas. Speaking as a Richmond District resident since 1959, I personally favor adding diversity to the district – ethnically and racially – while keeping the culture of the Richmond intact. So far, the Redistricting Task Force has held community meetings, but time is running out to get your voice heard! All maps are finalized by April 15. That is why it is important to speak out now.
For more information you can call the redistricting information line at 415-554-4445, visit their website at sf.gov/public-body/2020-census-redistricting-task-force or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. For a schedule of its upcoming meetings, visit sfrising.org.
“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”
– Thomas Merton.
Sandra Lee Fewer is a fourth-generation Chinese-American San Franciscan, former Board of Education commissioner, former member of the SF Board of Supervisors representing the Richmond District and has lived in the Richmond for more than 60 years.