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Friday, October 7, 2022

San Francisco’s redistricting saga just got even crazier

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San Francisco’s Redistricting Task Force stumbled into uncharted territory Wednesday night after five of its nine members voted to reject the latest map that defines supervisorial district boundaries — a document that the group had voted to approve only four days before.

The vote that took place early Thursday morning means means the task force will miss the charter-mandated April 15 redistricting deadline, the repercussions of which are not yet clear.

The next possible meeting to set supervisorial boundaries is April 21, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors Angela Cavillo had told members earlier. Subsequent meetings will be scheduled for later in the month.

As the task force moves forward, it will have to balance out innumerable asks from the public to keep together what people feel to be communities of interest — populations that share societal, economic or political beliefs. Because of the large amount of growth that District 6 specifically has faced in recent years, all districts will be affected. Undoubtedly, some groups will feel dispossessed.

City Attorney Ana Flores felt that the vote to delay a final map was anything but a resolution of the issue. Only accepting and editing the map released April 9 would have protected the task force from possible legal ramifications.

The city’s mandate points to April 15 as the final date that any redistricting committee can choose and refine a map. If that is not met, Flores explained, all the members could be sued. The state’s Department of Elections requires that all maps to be used for the November election be finalized May 2. The California Election Code does not specifically speak to what happens when a city violates its own charter but focuses on the formation and revisions of charter documents.

Brad Solomon, a lawyer who had made a career of government-related cases, pleaded with the task force to listen to Flores.

“The court will find you derelict in doing your duty and may take the responsibility out of your hands if you don’t do it by tomorrow,” Solomon said. “I have preferences, we all have preferences… but some people will win and some people will lose, you still have to do your job.”

Certain task force members, including Cooper, felt that wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

“If the worst case scenario is a judge drawing a map… I’m sure they’ll make something better than this map,” he said.

In Oakland, a redistricting commission missed the deadline identified in the city’s charter in December, local outlet Oaklandside wrote at the time. Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker filed a petition in Alameda County Superior Court in early January that promised she would ask the court to create a new map for the city if the commission could not secure its own within a month.

The commission settled on a map at the end of January, avoiding a state-mandated overhaul of its district lines.

Rev. Arnold Townsend, the chair of the task force, led the remarks of the group willing to take such a risk toward the beginning of the meeting.

“I don’t want this to end yet,” Townsend said just before his peer Lily Ho issued a substitute motion towork with the final draft map at the last pre-scheduled meeting and present it to the Board for review by 11:59 p.m. tonight.

Later, multiple members of the Black community charged that Townsend was a “rat” who had betrayed their trust because of his Sunday morning move to vote through a map that, among other distinctions, divided the already marginalized community by placing Potrero Hill into District 9 and Portola into District 10. This move, many residents said, has pitted the Black and Asian communities against one another as they fight to keep their communities of interest together.

“The name calling and insults between Chinese and Black people (come from) the hurt and betrayal that has happened after everything they have worked for,” Jaime of the Tenderloin said during public comment Wednesday night. “The task force has (caused) that by keeping members from wealthy communities safe… Poor people and people of color got put on the back burner. We told you where to compromise and you ignored it.”

The newest map published by the task force Thursday morning, entitled Map 7, is a start toward satisfying populations who have spoken out. Map 7 not only places Potrero Hill and Portola back in their current districts but reunites the Tenderloin and SoMa, a request by the city’s LGBTQIA+ community and its allies since approximately 10 days ago. It’s only been a week and a half since the task force set aside the “unity map” or Map 4D and adopted Map 4B as a base.

In the next seven days, Gil, Cooper, Townsend and member Matthew Castillon have all volunteered themselves to come up with a list of prioritized redistricting criteria. This, Cooper explained during the meeting, will largely come from a question posed to him, Chasel Lee and Ditka Reiner during their Elections Commission hearing: What factors were considered most important in relation to the purpose of drawing the maps?

The criteria, once discussed and further defined, will dictate the finished Map 7.

mhartman@sfexaminer.com, @_melissahartman

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