Adjust District Boundaries for Supervisors

DonRoss's picture

Little talked about, but of much influence in determining the direction of our City, is the upcoming redrawing of district boundaries as a result of the most recent census. Many people lament the extremeness of this board of Supervisors, but little has been focused on how those Supervisors came to power, what has kept them in power, and are districts they represent truly reflective of our City?

One can see how the attempt was made to place entire neighborhoods, and allegedly neighborhoods of similar political leanings, within the same district. But on closer examination, it is very curious how certain neighborhoods were place together, and how certain districts in particular were cobbled together.

No one would argue that District 4 needs to be adjusted: the Sunset is the Sunset and deserves its own district. And the Richmond is the Richmond, so District 1 is fine.

The one that need significant adjustment is District 6. For years, I have worked in the inner Mission District with many local non-profits and residents, and it always strikes them as a surprise to know that their Supervisor is from District 6 - SOMA and the Tenderloin. In fact, the Mission is the largest cohesive neighborhood in the City that is divided between so many different Supervisorial district - 6,8, & 9. It is the heart of the Latino community and its power base in the City, but yet it is divided or better yet spread around to ensure more "progressive" (I would argue extreme) views are represented in more districts. Can anyone imagine Chinatown being divided?

Without the inner Mission in his district Chris Daly would not have been reelected last time, without part of the Mission in District 8 Raphael Mandalman would not have a shot against Scott Wiener. And without a divided Mission, the District 9 Supervisor would have to pay closer attention to what the inner Mission says versus Bernal Heights (but its not clear that their interests would divide, but maybe on issues like Home Depot, not Loews).

Anyone ready to fight for a fairer and balanced district boundary process? This is the real battle for the future of the City's politics.

gcotter's picture

SF has too many districts

We have too many districts.  I've lived in SF for 40 years and seen the city go from no districts to districts, back to no districts, back to districts again.  IMHO they just don't work the way people want them to.  They are supposed to represent geographic areas that have commonalities of culture, neighborhood demographics, etc.  But SF has too many isolated segments that are too diverse for districts to work.  As a result any given supervisor has multiple different groups to represent and ends up ignoring at least part of his constituency.  And, of course, we have way too many supervisors in the first place.  

As DonRoss states above, some of the current districts make sense, but others are a hodgepodge and simply don't work.  Add to that the rapidity of change in neighborhoods.  Gentrification - like it or not - changes demographics and after a while a district needs to have its boundaries changed.  Such gerrymandering is not in the best interests of the city as a whole.

I strongly feel we need to eliminate district elections.  They aren't fair to city residents and they cause conflict in board meetings.  I recommend that we either go back to all supervisors being voted for at large, or we change to a mix of districts and at large supervisors.  If we must have districts, then I recommend that there be four districts of NW, NE, SW and SE.  Period. Four districts.  Each of these macro districts has integral needs such as Muni, Parks, Jobs, Schools, and other city services.  For example, Muni lines that serve Park Merced also serve the rest of the SW quadrant of the city, so one supervisor for that district represents that quadrant for Muni, Fire, Police, etc.  

If we have four macro quadrants, then we can have three or five at large supervisors who represent the entire city.  And the maximum number of supervisors should be nine although I'd prefer to see the number reduced to seven.

Although I strongly support a two term limit for supervisors, I would be willing to consider a modification if we went to a hybrid system of both district and at large supervisors. I would allow an individual to serve three consecutive terms as long as they were not all as a district supervisor or all as an at large supervisor.  But if it is only districts or only at large, then the two term max should be retained.

Big G's picture

District Elections

Maybe if all of these Supervisors were elected by a City wide vote it would solve a lot of the problems we face today in City Hall.  They would have to live in the district they live in, so they can truly represent it, but they would be elected by everyone, ensuring that they will work for all of San Francisco.  People like Chris Daly did not truly represent there districts, just the non-profit groups that kept funding his elections.  We need down the middle of the road Leaders that can cross both sides of the fence & come up with great policy, instead of one-sided views.

gcotter's picture

Big G has a good idea

Hey, that is a great idea - the Supes represent the district the live in but are elected at large by the whole city!  Boy there have been times I've wanted to vote for some candidates that I thought were excellent but was stuck here in District 9 with limited choices.  Let me vote all districts!

That doesn't mean I approve district elections.  I still think we should:

1. Reduce the number of Supervisors down to 7 or 9

2. Change to city wide elections with no districts at all

3. Or have a hybrid with four (4) geographic districts with one supe each and three supes elected citywide.

NinerFan's picture

I agree completely!

I agree completely with DonRoss' comment concerning redistricting. I think it is a travesty that the Mission has been chiseled the way it has been.  It is shamefull.

Michael F Zelinsky's picture

"...imagine Chinatown being divided?"

Of course not.  But remember, these districts are not divided per the rules set forth in the Constitution, i.e., by population.  If they were,  The district which encompasses all of West of Twin Peaks, the Parkside, St. Francis Woods, Forest Hill, the Inner Sunset, etc., would have several Supervisors.  But we all know that the way the districts are divided don't have anything to do with population.  They have to do with race, sexual orientation, and other factors which don't belong  in the process.

Fog City Guide's picture

Redistricting - Too many districts - Citywide elections

A friend of mine served on the commission that drew the current district lines. The stories he tells of folks who live across the street from each other arguing that they are nothing like "those people" are enlightening. I am a Realtor and our association uses districts for the placement and marketing of homes and neighborhoods. We have ten districts, but then we aren't concerned with tie votes. I still propose seven district supervisors and four citywide supervisors. The four would have to move toward the center to get elected and the seven can advocate as a neighborhood rep should.

Having a local person on the Board is really invaluable. This is someone you can get to know and who will pay attention to you and others because to get elected they need about a thousand votes more than the other person. Many times even less, Daly beat Rob Black by 600 votes in the last election.

gcotter's picture

District Representation Examples?

I posted this under "Too many Supervisors" and got no reply.  I'm still curious.  Who can cite real examples of district supervisors taking actions that served their districts?  I mean something that was district specific and might have been ignored, omitted, fallen through, or otherwise not addressed if we did not have district supervisors?


 I would like to see some comments from posters of real life examples of when your district was actually helped by your district supervisor.  I had eight years of Ammiano who seemed to represent "the gay community" more than the "District Nine Community"  I can not recall one thing that Ammiano shepherded through the board that was a "solely for the benefit of his district" issue.  Now I have Campos and the same is still true.  The CONCEPT of District elections is fine.  The REALITY of District elections is not.  I just don't see how the totality of the city has been enhanced by district elections.  

Several years ago one might have been able to say: "When I can't get help elsewhere, I can always contact my district supervisor."  But even that is hardly true any more.  Now when I need to contact the city I can just call 311.  They handle over 225,000 calls a month - who needs to call a Supervisor?.  (For more info about 311 check their web site at

However, just because I don't feel my district supervisor represents my district, perhaps others have had a different experience; if so, please share.  Some real examples of how your district supervisor interacted with the city or the other supes to the advantage of your specific district would go a long way toward understanding the value of district elections.

Yes, I know I posted this in another thread, but I got no replies.  Does that mean that there are no examples or that no one read my post?  What has your Supe done that was strictly district related?

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137