On Saturday, April 14th at 10:00 a.m. in Room 400 at City Hall, the San Francisco Redistricting Task Force will hold its final meeting – concluding a six-month process at redrawing the City’s 11 district boundaries, setting the course for all Supervisor elections for the next ten years. It has been a remarkably transparent process, but also a reactive one. Residents speak out against proposed changes, and the Task Force responds by making other changes – which, of course, generates its own reaction. Most recently, North Panhandle neighbors west of Masonic demanded to stay in District 5 – which had ripple effects into District 1. But the Task Force is allowed some flexibility in population – and at this point, keeping neighborhoods whole is paramount. Tomorrow, they must put one block back into District 6 – which was placed into District 3 at Wednesday night’s meeting, without realizing it includes a Tenderloin SRO. And because the block in question only has 100 people, there is no need to “compensate” for such a small change.
Low-income residential hotel (SRO) tenants in the Tenderloin and Sixth Street are a crucial “community of interest” – and must stay in District 6. For over a decade, SRO tenants were a decisive voting bloc
in District 6 elections that often swung outcomes
. Because they vote in far fewer numbers than the average population, keeping them – and the Tenderloin as a whole – in one district is important.
With District 6 having to lose 21,000 people – much moreso than any other district – we faced an inevitable challenge this year. SRO’s in the North Mission (including the 248-room Mission Hotel at 16th & South Van Ness) have been redrawn into District 9 – with the Central Freeway as a proposed boundary for the final draft, in order to “unify” the Mission District. We reluctantly accepted that change, but it highlights the urgency of keeping the Tenderloin together to maximize our voting power.
By and large, the Task Force has done a good job responding to this concern – by keeping the Tenderloin in District 6. They kept the western boundary at Van Ness – which keeps a homeless shelter, the LeNain SRO on Eddy Street, a large complex of low-income seniors and Tenderloin Elementary School all in District 6. The border with District 3 was more challenging, however – as pushing the boundary from Post to Geary Streets “solved” the numbers problem, but cut off much of the Tenderloin.
The Task Force did a thorough, block-by-block examination of Post Street – and kept everything from Polk to Leavenworth Street, i.e., its “most Tenderloin” blocks – in District 6. The more “Union Square” blocks of Post Street have been transferred to District 3, along with virtually the whole Powell Street business corridor. It’s been a surgically precise task, and at this point we can’t afford to lose more of District 6.
But at Wednesday night’s meeting, the Task Force made an inadvertent mistake – as they were making so-called “non-population” changes. Responding to a request from the Union Square Business Improvement District, member Melissa Tidwell proposed taking the two blocks of Hallidie Plaza (at the Powell BART station) out of District 6, and into District 3. At the time, they likely assumed no one lives there.
The western block of Hallidie Plaza, however, stretches from Cyril Magnin to Mason Street – and is actually home to 100 people. Specifically, the Bristol Hotel at 56 Mason Street is a privately run SRO that houses some of the Tenderloin’s most vulnerable tenants. Under the current Draft Map, the Ambassador Hotel at 55 Mason Street is still in D6 – but its neighbor across the street, the Bristol Hotel at 56 Mason, is now in D3.
The problem with proposing changes to the Redistricting Task Force is not that they won’t listen to you. But that instead they will, and then will also make a change you don’t like to “equalize” population. The western block of Hallidie Plaza must go back in District 6, but we also can’t afford to lose any more of the Tenderloin to District 3.
Thankfully, the Redistricting Task Force has some degree of flexibility when it tries to equalize population. Districts must be within 1% of the median of 73,203 people – but they can go up to a 5% deviation in order to protect “communities of interest.”
For example, District 11 will be close to 5% above the median – to keep Ingleside, a historically working-class neighborhood that belongs more in D11 than D7. At the same time, District 2 will be almost 5% below – in order to keep Japantown in D5. District 3 must be more than 1% below population, in order to keep the Tenderloin as a whole in D6.
The western block of Hallidie Plaza is only 100 people. And while the current map has District 3 at more than 3% below the median (with District 6 at below 1%), it makes no sense to bring these two districts “closer” in population by splitting the Tenderloin SRO community of interest. After all, 100 people is just decimal dust.
At its final meeting tomorrow, the Task Force must put the Bristol Hotel back into District 6 – and then not make any further changes to D6. They have been very responsive to making the Tenderloin whole, and I trust they will respond in kind.
You can review the proposed Draft Map, as well as other information about the Redistricting Task Force, at their website. The Task Force has a deadline of 12:00 midnight on Saturday to approve a final map.