Obscure task force charged with creating new supervisorial districts could have a big impact on the city's political landscape
No matter what scenario you look at, D6 has to become geographically smaller. Most of the maps circulating around suggest that the north Mission be shifted into D9 and parts of the Tenderloin move into districts 3 and 5. But those moves will make D6 less progressive, and create a challenge: The residents of the Tenderloin don't have a lot in common with the millionaires in their high-rise condos.
As progressive political consultant David Looman noted, "The question is, how do you accommodate both the interests and concerns of San Francisco's oldest and poorest population and San Francisco's youngest, hippest, and very prosperous population?"
The working map is far from final. By law, the population of every district has to be within 1 percent of the median district population, or up to 5 percent if needed to prevent dividing or diluting the voting power of minority groups and/or keeping established neighborhoods together.
Under the current draft, eight of the 11 districts are out of compliance with the 1 percent standard, and District 7 has 5.35 percent more residents than the mean, so it will need to change. But task force Chair Eric McDonnell told the Guardian that he expects the current map to be adopted with only slight modifications following a series of public meetings over the next couple months.
"The tweaks will be about how we satisfy the population equalization, while trying to satisfy communities of interest," McDonnell said, noting that this balancing act won't be easy. "I anticipate everyone will be disappointed at some level."
Some progressives have been concerned that downtown groups have been trying to influence the final map, noting that the San Francisco Board of Realtors, downtown-oriented political consultants David Latterman and Chris Bowman, and others have all created and submitted their own maps to the task force.
McDonnell said the task force considered solutions proposed by the various maps, but he said, "We won't adopt wholesale anyone's maps, but we think about what problem they were trying to solve."
For example, some progressive analysts told us that many of the proposals from downtown make D9 more progressive, even though it is already a solidly progressive seat, while making D8 more conservative, whereas now it is still a contestable district even though moderates have held it for the last decade.
"It would be nice to see the Mission in one district, but it makes D8 considerably more conservative, so it's a balancing act," said Tom Radulovich, a progressive activist who ran for D8 supervisor in 2002.
Latterman told us he has a hard time believing the final map will be substantially similar to the current draft. "Once that gets circulated to the neighborhoods, I find that hard to believe it won't change," he said. "A lot of the deviations are big and they will have to change."
He said that he approached the process of making a map as a statistician trying to solve a puzzle, and that begins with figuring out what to do with D6. "I fall back on my technician skills more than the political," Latterman, who teaches political science at the University of San Francisco, said. "It's a big puzzle."
Latterman also disputed concerns that he or others have tried to diminish progressive voting power, saying that's difficult to do without a drastic remaking of the map, something that few people are advocating.
"It's hard to make major political changes with the other constraints we have to meet," he said. "Unless you're willing to scrap everything we have, it'll be hard to make major political changes."
Once the task force approves a final map in April, there's little that can be done to change it. The map will go to both the Elections Commission and the Board of Supervisors, but neither can alter the boundaries.
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