The First Victim of Redistricting: Supervisor Gordon Mar
Mayor Breed killed two birds with one stone — with more to come?
•••••••••• December 22, 2022 ••••••••••
When asked what obstacle she would like to get rid of, Mayor London Breed replied, “remove the Board of Supervisors,” reported the Chronicle on January 13th. By then, plans were likely underway to accomplish just that. The Redistricting Task Force (RDTF) was already months into the process; they had scheduled neighborhood outreach meetings, and maps submitted by the public were available for discussion.
The first political target of the some members of the Task Force was Supervisor Gordon Mar.
By June of '21 Breed had her three votes lined up on the 2022 Redistricting Task Force; Members Matthew Castillon, Lily Ho and Rev. Arnold Townsend were a consistent voice to follow her lead. While less consistent, the Supervisors' appointed Members, Chema Hernández Gil, Jeremy Lee and Michelle Pierce acted somewhat as an opposition. The Election Commission's three appointed Members, Raynell Cooper, Chasel Lee and Ditka Reiner served as the swing votes — often aligned with the Mayor's appointees but they broke on the final map which was adopted on a 5-4 vote. Reiner and Lee sided with the Mayor, while Cooper joined the dissenting members.
"My understanding," Member Cooper, wrote in the Final Report Statement, "of the task at hand was that we were to take in data and public feedback and discuss how to make the best possible map based on those inputs, without consideration for the desires of political interests unwilling to speak publicly about what their intentions are and why." It is not surprising that Breed's office was unwilling to speak publicly; interference from elected officials is prohibited. "I had brought a clipboard to a knife fight." Cooper said.
The Final Map was a significant win for the Mayor. It assured defeat in District 4 of incumbent Supervisor Mar, and victory for her chosen candidate in District 6, marking an important step toward a favorable majority on the Board of Supervisors.
Showdown in District 4 — Supervisor Gordon Mar
Gerrymandering San Francisco's most ultraconservative Merced Manor and Lakeshore Precincts — 9449, 9451 & 9452 into District 4 from District 7 (shown above in green) brought in 1113 votes for Mar's opponent Joel Engardio and 504 votes for Mar, a difference of 609 votes.
The final vote for Engardio was 13,643. However, without the votes from D7 he would have only 12,530 Sunset District votes.
The final vote for Mar was 13,183. Removing the 504 votes from those D7 precincts, his remaining Sunset District votes would total 12,679. Mar would have been the winner — without even considering Inner Sunset precinct 9409, which was gerrymandered into D7 and which Mar had won overwhelmingly in 2018.
This analysis is not meant as a reproach Supervisor-elect Joel Engardio, who did not attempt to influence the RDTF's decisions, to this writer's knowledge. The Westside Observer congratulates him for his electoral win.
The RDTF heard conflicting public input regarding the inclusion of the conservative precincts into District 4. "Some residents of Merced Manor and Lakeshore strongly felt that they were a community of interest with the neighborhoods that make up the West of Twin Peaks Central Council. According to Member Chema Hernández Gil, writing in his Finale Report Statement, "Some residents of Merced Manor and Lakeshore felt that they were a community of interest with the Sunset, particularly its commercial corridors … 1937 San Francisco Residential Security Map corroborates this affinity …
Most residents living in the Sunset District felt that their voting power would be diluted if the areas south of Sloat were added to District 4. These residents identified as vulnerable populations of working-class renters, many of immigrant origin or members of communities of color and did not feel like the residents living in the areas south of Sloat Blvd were members of their various communities of interest … the author of this statement," Hernández Gil said, "does not believe that it was necessary to adjust the district lines to include areas south of Sloat Blvd since it would reasonably dilute the voting power of various communities of interest made up of vulnerable populations in the Sunset … This adjustment also split the … recognized neighborhoods of Lakeshore and Merced Manor, which was opposed publicly and in writing." Members Michelle Pierce and Jeremy Lee signed on to Hernández Gil's Statement.
His assessment proved correct, and now the City's Asian population — 34.3% of San Francisco, has only one remaining Supervisor to represent them.
"The old District 4 had 46,236 registered voters of whom 8.74% were registered Republicans and 55.53% were registered Democrats," according to Chris Bowman, former RDTF Member and SF election expert. "The two neighborhoods added to the district are 14.21% registered Republican and 50.21% registered Democrats." The new District 4 will consist of 48,502 registered voters, 9.12% Republicans and 55.11% Democrats.
"Given that ratio of Democrats to Republicans, the new District 4 will be the least progressive of any of the eleven reconstituted districts," Bowman warned.
"Lakeshore Acres and Merced Manor residents," said Lakeshore resident and former D 7 Supervisor Quentin Kopp, "face termination of their historic natural unity if the current Supervisorial redistricting plan is executed. Instead of remaining unified in District 7, the long-standing geographical unity since District Supervisor Elections were adopted foolishly in 1995, those brotherly neighborhoods will be banished to District 4, which comprises the Outer Sunset."
Supervisor Gordon Mar had to contend with the unexpected increase of conservative voters in his district and he had only a few months to meet with his new constituents before the election. During his farewell to his colleagues at the Board of Supervisors, Mar thanked everyone he worked with; he did not mention the redistricted trap the Mayor had set for him.
District 6: Supervisor Matt Dorsey's Election
Supervisor Dorsey was elected with 8,267 votes counted on the night of the election — 50.8% of the votes cast. He received only 91 votes from contender Ms. Billie Cooper's 366 ballots in the first round of Ranked-choice voting. In the next round, Dorsey received 188 of contender Cherelle Jackson's 540 votes for a grand total of 8,546 - 53.1% counting all second-choice votes.
District 6 had been the most overpopulated among SF's districts due to major housing construction within its area since the 2012 Census took place. Because the Tenderloin-SOMA area was 30% overpopulated, and all districts are required to have relatively the same number of residents, the RDTF looked at many ways to redistribute its voters.
It wasn't until the last few days of the seven-month redistricting process that splitting the Tenderloin off from SOMA was publicly suggested. Chairman Arnold Townsend stunned the public with the pronouncement that the Tenderloin joined to the Fillmore area would create a new Black voting block that would make it possible to elect an additional Black supervisor. An additional voting block is permissible under the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Article 2, under certain specific conditions. But such conditions are not met by the statistics within the 2022 Census.
In D5, only 9.14% were Black voters. The Tenderloin is not majority Black — only 14.54% of its voters are Black. This does not approach the 50% majority that would make it a viable voting bloc under Article 2. AMemo from the City Attorney made it clear that the African-American minority does not meet the threshold for an additional voting bloc, i.e., "sufficiently large and geographically compact" as required by the VRA; if there were to be a new bloc only an Asian-American district meets the threshold for an additional district, however such a district fails the electability test, to wit, they have elected Asian-American Supervisors Mar, Chan, Fewer, etc.
Townsend prefaced his district-splitting remarks by saying that this plan was based on previous public testimony, however no such testimony was ever unearthed. In fact, the Task Force heard multiple hours of public testimony to the contrary. Clearly, the public requested, time and again, that the Tenderloin remain with SOMA. The public was not prepared for this last-minute change of plans, which, given the radical departure from current maps, should have been revealed to the public back in January when the RDTF was holding outreach meetings in those neighborhoods.
"You wasted six months of my life," Member J. Michelle Pierce said, "I honestly feel like you wasted my time. I wanted to start drawing maps in October, I still don't see the justification for not line drawing in October, given how little we cared about what the public was telling us over all of this time."
The Tenderloin – SOMA adjustment was the most contentious and significant adjustment made by the RDTF.
"As heard during public comment at public meetings and through email to the RDTF by hundreds of members of the public, this adjustment split many communities of interest made up of vulnerable populations that should have remained in the same district for the purpose of their fair and effective representation," Hernández Gil wrote in his Final Report Statement.
"Working-class Filipino renters. Roughly 30% of this community of interest lives in the Tenderloin, with the remainder in the South of Market … Working-class Latino renters, many of them essential workers and including a significant number of people of Indigenous descent. Roughly half of this community of interest lives in the Tenderloin and half in the South of Market … The LGBTQ community, with the transgender community being disproportionately impacted … Working-class renters of all backgrounds, including Asian and Arab, including hundreds of families. v. Service workers, including members of SEIU Local 87 and UNITE Here Local 2, which work in office buildings and hotels in the South of Market respectively and live and organize in the Tenderloin … Members of IFPTE Local 21 which work in and around the Civic Center and organize in the South of Market … The adjustment also split the Transgender Cultural District, but managed to keep various Community Benefit Districts nearly whole.
"At least one compliant alternative was explored which kept these communities of interest whole. This alternative moved the East Cut Community Benefit District, which has up to 30% low-income units, out of District 6 and into District 3. Various residents of the East Cut (including the author of this statement) spoke up in favor of this adjustment, as well as supporters of the Community Unit Map. This would have fulfilled all redistricting criteria without diluting the voting power of various communities of interest made up of vulnerable populations and kept various recognized neighborhoods whole."
But what influence might a united District 6 (Tenderloin-SOMA) have had on the election of Supervisor Dorsey? Another item on the November ballot, Proposition M – Vacant Unit Tax, maybe the best indicator and reveals the likely outcome of a pre-gerrymandered District election.
Comparing this with the Dorsey-Mahogany election map, (the colors are reversed) it is evident that San Francisco could have elected a black trans-gender woman as Supervisor. Would chair Townsend's wish have come true?
This analysis is not meant to disrespect Supervisor Dorsey, who was duly elected, and the Westside Observer extends unmitigated congratulations. The RDTF's process, which designed a district that seems custom-fit for him, is a question.
District One — Supervisor Connie Chan
Supervisor Chan's position is less clear. Her race with Philhour, though she won 37% - 34% on the first round, ended with a slight edge for Chan after rank choice data applied.
The Prop M voter map is not a helpful indicator in District 1 because it is complicated by a preponderance of homeowners in the district. It is not clear how the new Sea Cliff and Presidio Terrace voters — added from District 2 — will affect the district's 2024 Supervisorial election.
Julie Pita, District 1 resident and precinct watcher, was not concerned, "Connie Chan is the incumbent, and regardless of the outcome in District 4, incumbents are hard to defeat. Chan also is a tireless campaigner who has deep ties to her Chinese-American constituents, who still comprise nearly two-thirds of District 1. I have yet to hear of a candidate, among the many names I've heard bandied about, who can beat her."
No candidates have announced for the Supervisor’s seat yet, although rumors persist that calls are being made to financial backers of Marjan Philhour's 2020 campaign. Chan remains popular with the district’s renters as well as many of its Asian homeowners.
Dismantled District 5 — Supervisor Dean Preston
No district was affected by the Redistricting process more than District 5, what remains is a reticulated pinefore of leftover, seemingly unrelated, neighborhoods.
The voting map of Proposition M, which Preston authored, seems to be a clear indication that Dean Preston will serve a second term. While "moderate" groups like GrowSF have declared an intent to defeat him, first steps, which began the day after the 2022 election has not met with popular acceptance within the district.
The Harvey Milk Club called out the San Francisco Examiner which seemed to immediatly join the defeat campaign on their Twitter page. “At a time of rising political violence, including the assassination attempt against Speaker Pelosi just weeks ago, the @sfexaminer’s decision to put a literal bullseye on @DeanPreston and run it on their front page is deeply irresponsible and contemptible.”
The Examiner quickly apologized, but GrowSF's campaign is already begging for donations. “Dean Preston has to be replaced ... GrowSF supports a more livable, sustainable, and affordable city. Dean Preston does not.”
It may be hard to find voters who agree with GrowSF in District 5 that their Supervisor, a former tenants rights/evictions attorney doesn't care about affordability. No candidate has stepped forward so far who might come close to replacing the popular supervisor.
Cautionary tale for a future Redistricting Task Force
“As a member of the most recent Redistricting Task Force, most of my thoughts on the final district map and process leading up to its approval by the slimmest of margins are detailed in my member statement, included in the final Redistricting Task Force report.
“My sincere hope now,” Chema Hernández Gil said yesterday, “is that all supervisors, as our elected representatives, recognize how this redistricting process diminished the effective and fair representation of some of San Francisco's most marginalized and vulnerable communities, particularly those that were divided across districts and whose voting power was diluted.”
Doug Comstock serves as editor of the Westside Observer
December 22, 2022