The first draft of new district boundaries for San Francisco supervisors was released Wednesday, and nearly everyone agrees: It’s a complete mess. The draft has especially alarmed the city’s LGBTQ+ leaders, who are raising concerns that the proposed lines will lead to a lack of representation for the community.
The redistricting task force is faced with reconciling a population imbalance under the current district lines that has given certain voters, depending on the population density of their district, a disproportionate impact on supervisor races. The commission has been conducting outreach within each of the 11 districts since December, and the first draft was primarily concerned with rebalancing the populations of each district, task force chair Arnold Townsend said.
“People are calling and freaking out. People think we’ve gone too far into one district or another,” Townsend told The Standard. “I know that’s how it's going to be, that’s part of how politics work. And it might actually be better with more noise than less noise.”
The task force is assigned with ensuring each district has around 79,545 residents, while taking into consideration the cultural and neighborhood boundaries set by the Planning Department. The redrawing of district lines occurs every 10 years in accordance with population shifts found in the U.S. Census.
Shrinking the size of District 6, which includes the Tenderloin, parts of SoMa and Mission Bay, has been at the top of the task force’s to-do list. District 6’s population has ballooned to over 30% of the ideal population density since 2020. Meanwhile, populations on the west side—in districts 1 and 4 as well as the northeastern corner’s District 3 have all decreased by over 8%.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who oversees District 8, said that the new map was drawn in a way that would further block representation for the city’s queer community. Mandelman is the only member of the board of supervisors who is an open member of the LGBTQ+ community.
“If this map were to hold, I don't think you could expect that District 8 would continue to elect queer people,” Mandelman said. “This map would be shockingly bad.”
State Senator Scott Wiener echoed Mandelman’s concerns, pointing to the legacy of former LGTBQ+ supervisor Harvey Milk and the importance of representation on the city’s legislative body.
“When Harvey Milk was elected to the Board of Supervisors, we had never had our own community at the table,” Wiener said. “[District 8] was specifically created to unite the LGBTQ community of interest. This map would severely undermine that.”
Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who is on his last term as supervisor and is therefore unaffected by the map’s political implications, said the first draft fails to serve any of the city’s diverse populations.
“The redistricting task force seems like they’re out of touch or on crack,” Peskin said. “I am happy to represent, for the next three years, whatever the redistricting task force in its infinite wisdom decides. Provided, however, that it’s not done for political gerrymandering but pursuant to the law, in that it represents the diversity of San Francisco.”
Lily Ho, a commissioner on the task force, told The Standard that the map is “crazy” right now because it was made as a preliminary resource to assist in picturing the impact of the city’s growth in District 6.
Townsend said residents should be assured that the task force is focused on creating districts that create competitive elective environments while empowering the votes of distinct cultural neighborhoods.
“I hope in the long run we craft districts that force supervisors to go out and to try to win people,” Townsend said. “We’ve got to have something to start with. This is simply something to start with.”
Correction: The maps for this story have been updated to better reflect the proposed boundaries.
David Sjostedt can be reached at [email protected]