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Politics & Policy

Divisive final vote on new district map delayed, missing deadline

Potrero Hill, the eastern neighborhood in San Francisco, is at the center of the redistricting battle. | Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

San Francisco’s redistricting battle took yet another dramatic turn Wednesday night when the Redistricting Task Force proposed adding more meetings to further the discussion on the controversial map, which will set the borders for supervisorial districts for the next 10 years.

But the deadline to adopt a final decision—mandated by the city charter—is April 15, so the newly added meetings on April 21 and later will be past that deadline. The task force is scheduling future sessions based on the May 2 date driven by the Department of Elections' need for the map before the November supervisor elections.

The task force voted 4-5 and failed to pass the draft map. Rev. Arnold Townsend, members José María (Chema) Hernandez Gil, Jeremy Lee, J. Michelle Pierce, and Raynell Cooper voted no.  Vice-Chair Ditka Reiner, members Matthew Castillon, Lily Ho and Chasel Lee voted yes.

“I am just not ready to end this, and I think we can do better,” said Townsend in the meeting. “I think there are some things that need to be worked on.”

The Wednesday meeting was supposed to be the final meeting of the process, but many opponents of the current draft map urged the task force to extend the process for more public input. Wednesday’s hours-long public comment section was filled with anger and dissatisfaction. However, many supported the work of the task force members and asked for a final decision to be made immediately.

Emotions also ran high among task force members. Pierce slammed the current map and emphasized the community work she did to get feedback from the Black community. She said that the failed draft made the most vulnerable communities lose faith in the city.

“This map breeds violence to me,” Pierce said.

Ho, who voted yes on the most recent draft, gave an emotional speech asserting there was “astounding” anti-Asian racism in the process. She said that the aggression in the meeting room led to an unsafe feeling and shared that members of the public mocked monolingual Chinese immigrants during their public comments.

This year’s redistricting process has been particularly chaotic, with marathon meetings and members walking out of the meeting in protest. The task force voted to pass the final draft early Sunday morning, and no major change was allowed after that. 

Compared to the current map, some notable—and controversial—changes proposed in the rejected draft included: adding Seacliff, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in San Francisco to District 1, the battleground of the city’s moderate and progressive camps; merging Portola, an area with significant Asian American residents into District 10 while moving Potrero Hill to District 9, a move criticized by many for diluting the Black votes; and splitting the Tenderloin from District 6 to District 5, angering the LGBTQ and Southeast Asian American communities.

The next meeting will restart the work from the “blow up” map, according to Townsend. After a further, mostly reconciliatory round of public comment, the meeting adjourned at 12:45 a.m.

Han Li can be reached at