SF redistricting task force facing a ‘toxic political culture’ as it races to meet its deadline

Tensions erupted Monday at City Hall as San Francisco’s redistricting task force met to discuss its final draft map for the said new supervisorial districts – a charter-mandated process that many participants say has been warped by a corrosive political culture.

One attendee said another called him a Nazi. Members of the task force clashed, and the audience alternately booed, jeered and clapped, at one point breaking into chants of “trash the map!”

After a marathon meeting Saturday into Sunday, when four of nine task force members walked out before a vote approving the final draft, the group met Monday in Room 400 for more than 10 hours. The meeting included discussion, public feedback and stinging disparagement of their map, four days before an April 15 deadline that likely won’t bring an end to the fight.

Politicians and community leaders have already talked openly about potential lawsuits or charter amendments to change the redistricting procedure. Another meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

While some disputes center on boundaries that may be adjusted by a few blocks, they speak to larger questions about who will hold power at City Hall for the next 10 years, or whether longstanding cultural neighborhoods will remain intact.

When the board took the dais Monday, task force member Jeremy Lee apologized for his conduct at a previous discussion, during which he’d used a sexual analogy to accuse his task force colleagues of conspiring with Mayor London Breed and other top city officials. Member Lily Ho pushed back, accusing Lee of homophobia and “elite male misogyny,” and saying he was not forgiven.

During the meeting, many people invoked the term “ethnic cleansing,” laying out fears that the reconfiguration of districts would exacerbate ongoing gentrification and displacement in San Francisco.

Fervor had built up before the task force convened, when organizers representing Black, LGBTQ, Latino and American Indian communities rallied on the steps of City Hall to oppose the draft map and appeal for more time to do it over.

“I resent the extent to which this toxic political culture has imposed itself onto this process, as unsurprising of a development as that may have been,” task force member Raynell Cooper said at the beginning of the meeting, a sentiment also voiced by many other attendees.

Bobak Esfandiari, a resident of the Richmond neighborhood known for advocating for more housing throughout the city, said he experienced vitriol shortly after walking into a meeting overflow room. He said another attendee shouted at him from her chair, calling him a Nazi and telling him to get out.

Esfandiari has urged the task force to unify the Sea Cliff and North of Lake Street enclaves in District 1, where he lives. The idea has met resistance from people who cite Sea Cliff’s legacy of racial covenants for home buyers. One speaker at the meeting feared that shifting affluent Sea Cliff would insert more moderate or conservative voters into a district that historically elected progressive supervisors.

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