District lines: a community alternative

Will downtown quarantine progressives? A draft proposal from the Guardian Community Forum for new supervisorial districts

View the full map with the link below

Early in April, a nine-member task force most San Franciscans have never heard of will draw lines that could change local politics for a decade. The Redistricting Task Force is using the 2010 U.S. Census data to adjust supervisorsial districts to reflect changes in the city's population. Some shifts are dramatic — the area now covered by District 6 has some 25,000 new residents, and will have to shrink. Others will have to grow. And the way the new boundaries are set could affect the representation of ethnic groups, the political leanings of the board members, and the ability of progressives to pass legislation.

The task force has held a series of hearings on individual district lines. The S.F. Board of Realtors and other downtown groups are drawing their own maps. But almost nobody on the left has been looking at the city as a whole and how the different district lines can impact our ability to get six votes.

As campaign consultant David Looman puts it, "what downtown wants is clear — they want to quarantine all the progressives in districts five, six and nine, so they can control the rest." What do the rest of us want?

The Guardian held a forum on the topic Jan 26, and about 70 people from across the wide rainbow that is the city's progressive moment attended. The goal: To create a community alternative to what downtown, the Mayor's Office, and possibly a majority of the task force members is suggesting.


The map above represents a first draft. Fernando Marti, a community architect and housing activist, did the heavy lifting, looking for ways to keep ethnic communities, neighborhoods, and other so-called communities of interest together, while still avoiding the downtown quarantine.

It's not an easy task, and there was a lot of discussion around some of the lines. Many of the people in the room were unhappy with the border between District 8 and District 6; in the next draft, that will probably be moved back from Valencia to Guerrero.

There was discussion about whether Japantown should be in District 1 or District 5, whether Portola should be in District 9 or split up, how the District 6 lines should be drawn, and much more.

It's a work in progress — but we're publishing it to get some feedback, to let people know that the process is going on, and to let progressive and independent neighborhood activists know that the task force decision, which can't be appealed or overturned, is critical to the city's future.


The redistricting panel consists of not of 7 but 9 members, 3 appointed by the Board of Supervisors, 3 by the Election Commission and 3 by the Mayor.

This is not a community alternative. It is a nonprofit corporate alternative. 80% of the people in the room at the SFBG forum worked for nonprofit corporations which took city funding. That nonprofit corporate influence is as corrupt as downtown corporate influence. And measured by an ongoing pattern of losing election results, they do not speak with any legitimacy for a larger community.

In 2008, the nonprofit corporate candidate, Eric Quezada made a full force run for the D9 seat and came in a distant third. Of all of the participants on the SFBG panel, only one, to my knowledge, had worked on a winning campaign in the last five years, that would be Eileen Hansen on Friends of Ethics which beat Scott Wiener's two ballot measures soundly. The moderator, Calvin Welch, has not won a campaign in more than ten years and is singlehandedly responsible for blowing up the last citywide coalition where progressives were welcome--the Moscone Coalition. He did this by cutting deals with the Mayor's office that broke up the coalition. Neighbors responded in kind by outmaneuvering Welch and cutting their own lower cost deals with downtown.

Progressives have been captive of these nonprofit corporate interests for the past twelve years. Like it or not, we've been forced to try it their way and as a result we're headed for extinction. The problem is not the map, the problem is the narrowness of the nonprofit corporate version of a progressive coalition. The economic and ethnic prejudice in that room--that one can determine one's politics based on income level or ethnicity--belies a fear of the majority of San Francisco voters. Those who fear more than half of the electorate should probably steer clear of electoral politics.

The voters have returned that fear in kind by trouncing the nonprofit corporate sector's candidates and ballot measures. It is time for us to try something different before we face total extinction and for-profit corporations totally rule San Francisco. If the nonprofit corporations are not willing to step back, do some frank self criticism for their role in alienating the voters and recalibrate their message to a broader audience, then San Franciscans who want to see an end to downtown dominance need to push for a district map that cuts the nonprofit corporations off from public resources so that they end up being put out of our misery.

With no disrespect to my Pinoy friends, the major topic of discussion was consolidating Filipino voters in D11. There are many communities with 3.5% of the population, each of which can expect to elect a supervisor every 30 years. For considerations of a politically moderate ethnicity to dominate the line drawing is of concern to me. Should Filipinos be intentionally separated? No, but is equivalent consideration being given to other marginalized communities of interest with similar sized populations?

The continued division of the Mission district is also problematic. In the 2000 census, the highest concentration of Latino voters was in the Northwest Mission north of 16th and west of Mission. This community of interest is to be divided in favor of the SRO community and the interests of the nonprofit corporations that are paid to provide services to our SRO neighbors.

Whenever you hear the terms "the people," or "the neighborhood" or "the community" coming from the nonprofit corporate employees, you know that they don't have you in mind. Rather the goal is to gerrymander SF districts to make sure the cash keeps on flowing.

Downtown can be beat if progressives and neighbors unite on common goals important to San Franciscans not hip deep in the self-referential nonprofit corporate coffee clatch culture.

When was the last time that any nonprofit corporate employee spoke about corporate corruption at Rec and Park? When was the last time that a nonprofit corporate employee spoke about corruption at DPW and filthy streets around schools that predominantly serve kids of color? When was the last time that a nonprofit corporate employe spoke about how unreliable Muni was to low income folks trying to get to work on time or make an appointment? When was the last time that a nonprofit corporate employee spoke about corruption at the Redevelopment Agency or Housing Authority? When was the last time that a nonprofit corporate employee spoke about the failings of the Ethics Commission and the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force? When was the last time that a nonprofit corporate employee stood up to the Planning Department?

Those issues are progressive issues and appeal to a wide range of San Franciscans. But my wager is that downtown threatens the nonprofit corporations with losing City funding if they "go there." My wager was that Newsom threatened Welch with losing MOH money for CCHO if Prop B passed in 2008, so he slow walked it to death. Quezada achieved the activist nightmare on Easter Neighborhoods, organizing the entire neighborhood against him and downtown triumphed and we've got to clean up that mess. The corruption involved in nonprofit corporations who not only don't have democratic legitimacy to speak for others but have been trounced when they seek it at the ballot box on their own turf taking city money to speak for all San Franciscans who oppose downtown dominance cannot be allowed to continue.

Occupy has been instructive for me as a coalition of the 99% means that many people are forced to leave their comfort zones to work with those whom they've been taught to hate. It is time for the nonprofit corporations and organized labor which together dominate progressive politics to step out of their comfort zone, demolish the coalition of the 31% (10% labor, 20% nonprofit corporation that cuts deals with the 1%) and go for as much of a 99% coalition as possible. They cannot do this, as they are programmed to presume that people who are not poor and who are white hate them.

OSF occupiers are organizing to check any effort by the nonprofit corporate employees to try to "Occupy Redistricting," in the way that they tried to graft their failed housing agenda onto OSF with "Occupy Wall Street West" on J20, as OSF occupiers will not tolerate nonprofit corporations speaking for the 99%.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 01, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

Your points are (all) well taken. But we have to organize behind a map.

Progressives need to be able to eke out a 50%+1 strategy, as well as a broad city-wide strategy.

And this map looks better for progressives than the proposed map: http://bit.ly/w0fcrf

The goal is to get to 6 on the Board of Supes.

If you have a better cartogram, Marc, let's see it.

Posted by Proggy Boy on Feb. 01, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

can be put towards organizing the broad coalition that is apparently waiting in the wings. shit, maybe even you know...a different map for this coalition to organize around.

Posted by guest on Feb. 02, 2012 @ 8:19 am

The SF Board of Realtors is not a downtown interest. It's members serve the people who live in the neighborhoods. By far the greatest number of members work with people who are buying homes in all the neighborhoods not buying downtown buildings.
The SFBG has used this same tired phrase to vilify a trade organization that consists of over 3,000 everyday people working in all the neighborhoods of the City and who volunteer to make our community better for all the residents.

"Downtown interest" what shite. SFBG lies over and over again. By the way many neighborhood organizations are working on versions of maps too.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 02, 2012 @ 6:52 pm

I actually hope the Tenderloing (where I live) gets assigned to District 3. We don't have much in common with the rest of D6, and we could help David Chiu get reelected.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 02, 2012 @ 8:57 pm

This so-called "community alternative" cleaves Diamond Heights,in half, dividing a community of interest between D7 and D8, effectively cutting off the large gay, and lesbian population in who live in Diamond Heights from our brothers and sisters in the Castro, Noe Valley and Duboce Triangle and weakening the voice of the GLBT community at City Hall.

Keep Diamond Heights in D8.

Patrick Carroll

Posted by Patrick on Feb. 04, 2012 @ 8:37 am

Nice job of gerrymandering for The Haight!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2012 @ 4:56 pm