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Political Notes: Panel switches supervisorial home for SF transgender district

Assistant Editor

A split San Francisco redistricting panel has voted to put the city's Tenderloin neighborhood in a new supervisorial home. Photo: Screengrab
A split San Francisco redistricting panel has voted to put the city's Tenderloin neighborhood in a new supervisorial home. Photo: Screengrab  

San Francisco's historic transgender neighborhood is getting a new supervisorial home. The decision is being compared to the Republican-led assault on trans people in various statehouses across the country.

The San Francisco Redistricting Task Force voted 5-4 at its April 21 meeting to reject a motion that would have maintained the Tenderloin and its Transgender District whole in District 6 along with the Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District in western South of Market. LGBTQ advocates for the past month have demanded that the two LGBTQ neighborhoods be kept together in their current supervisor district.

Instead, task force chair the Reverend Arnold Townsend voted along with vice chair Ditka Reiner, Matthew Castillon, Lily Ho, and Chasel Lee, one of two queer men on the panel, to combine the Tenderloin with Japantown, the Western Addition, Hayes Valley, and the Haight in a newly drawn District 5. A small section of the Transgender District running along 6th Street will remain, however, in District 6.

Transgender leaders had argued it made no sense to move the Tenderloin into a new district. Their concerns ranged from seeing the neighborhood's political power diminished to the impact it will have on financial resources for the community since the city often divvies up funding by supervisorial districts.

"I simply cannot wrap my head around the stubbornness and willingness to split the trans district," said Jupiter Peraza, director of social justice and empowerment initiatives for the Transgender District, during public comment at the meeting. She called the decision to do so "blatant transphobia."

She told the task force that to her, the decision was akin to "Republican state legislatures across the country criminalizing being transgender. I am shocked."

On Twitter Peraza also lambasted the task force's "SHAMEFUL" decision. She wrote that the only logic she could come up with for it was "that they DO NOT CARE about trans people. They don't even see us as real people to warrant their genuine consideration to keep The Trans District whole."

Castillon had stated he was basing his decision in support of seeing the Tenderloin in District 5 on emails the task force had received from people who wanted the neighborhood to be conjoined with the Western Addition.

Task force member J. Michelle Pierce had voted with the minority for keeping the Tenderloin in District 6. She explained her main reason for doing so was because "in this city we do really tie funding to supervisorial districts we have."

Thus, Pierce added, "my concern is that we really are putting people's lives in danger when we do it this way."

Task force member Jose Maria (Chema) Hernández Gil also argued for keeping the Tenderloin with SOMA in District 6 so that its residents wouldn't see their representation at City Hall diminish.

"I am talking about their ability to write to their supervisor and get their issues addressed," he said. "I am still very confused as to why we have to rehash what should be a pretty obvious legal and moral issue."

Voting with Gil and Pierce were Raynell Cooper and Jeremy Lee, the other out member on the task force. Going into Thursday's session it had appeared that the task force would keep the Tenderloin with SOMA in District 6.

The map the task force had said they would work from, known as Map 7 and dubbed "The Healing Map," had done just that. At its last meeting on April 13, Townsend had voted in the majority for using that map when the task force reconvened.

But he switched his position Thursday, voting to revert back to the earlier map the task force members had approved April 10 on a 5-0 vote due to the four other members walking out on the proceedings. In both instances the five members voting in alignment were Townsend, Reiner, Castillon, Ho, and Chasel Lee.

Townsend did vote with the other task force members — Gil, Pierce, Cooper and Jeremy Lee — to put the Portola and University Mound neighborhoods back into District 9 from District 10 and the Potrero and Dogpatch neighborhoods back into D10 from D9. The earlier decision to switch the neighborhoods into the two districts had angered African American residents of District 10. They had argued it would dilute the Black vote and make it unlikely a Black candidate could be elected supervisor in D10.

The decision upset Asian residents of the Portola and Visitacion Valley, however, who had called for the two neighborhoods to be united in District 10. At one point in the meeting task force member Ho, speaking in Chinese and choking up, apologized to the residents that she "couldn't do more" to make that happen.

After hearing public comment for nearly six hours Thursday, the task force returned to its line drawing work. At 9:42 P.M. it voted 5-4 on the proposed map it is now set to vote on a final time next week, with Gil, Pierce, Cooper and Jeremy Lee in dissent.

Its doing so likely brings to an end a legal challenge three San Francisco residents had filed April 19 against the redistricting task force. A San Francisco Superior Court judge was expected to decide Friday on scheduling a hearing on their lawsuit sometime next week.

But one of the litigants, Noe Valley resident Todd David, had told the Bay Area Reporter Thursday that if the redistricting task force approved a "legal map" at its session that day then they would likely drop their lawsuit. They had filed their suit in case the task force was unable to coalesce around a map this week, explained David.

"If the task force presents legal maps today the odds of us dropping the lawsuit are very high," said David, a housing advocate and political adviser to gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

David said the plaintiffs' main concern isn't what the final lines end up being for the city's 11 supervisor districts but that the task force completes its work. It had already blown past the April 15 deadline the city charter said the task force needed to meet, prompting the city attorney's office to advise the panel it needed to vote on a proposed final map at its April 21 meeting.

The city's elections department has said it needs to know what the new map is going to be by May 2 so it can begin to prepare for the November election where the even-numbered supervisor seats will be on the ballot. Also eagerly awaiting the task force's final decision has been gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who is already campaigning for his reelection in the fall.

Under the map approved this week the block of Valencia Street between 24th and 25th streets where Mandelman lives will stay a part of District 8. The 100 block of Valencia where the Chan National Queer Arts Center, home to the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, can be found will also remain in D8.

But much of the eastern boundary of District 8 with District 9 is moving west from Valencia to Guerrero Street, and D8's northeastern boundary is being expanded to include Ashbury Heights and Cole Valley. The rest of D8 will largely remain the same, consisting of the Duboce Triangle, Castro, Noe Valley, Diamond Heights and Glen Park.

For information about the task force's next meetings Monday, April 25, and Thursday, April 28, and to view the map it is now set to approve, visit its website here.

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