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News + PoliticsBig real estate and GOP money is backing a move to gerrymander...

Big real estate and GOP money is backing a move to gerrymander SF districts

Why did the Task Force suddenly change direction? Here's what's going on behind the scenes.


In case anyone was still seriously wondering about the clear gerrymandering that’s going on with the new Board of Supes lines, an email that’s circulating, apparently from real-estate developer Nick Podell, answers the question.

I was given an email that came from Leslie Podell, who based on what I can tell from social media is married to Nick Podell. She says “this is from my husband.”

A broad group of community activists opposes what is happening with the task force

Public records show that Nick Podell has been involved in Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, the real-estate and tech-funded failed effort to keep progressives off the board. The message lays out exactly what the group wants to do.

Here are the details:

After rocking, my next favorite activity right now is San Francisco politics.  For the 1st time in the 40 years that I’ve lived in the City, there is a large coordinated centrist/moderate movement to take on Progressive power.  The School Board recall and DA recall are evidence of the broad understanding and anger by our fellow San Franciscans that the City is poorly run by ideologue’s (sic), backing out of touch policies.  The Progressives on the Board of Supervisors are the primary source and proponents of those policies. 

I sit on the board of Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, which has raised 80% of the money for the DA recall as well as taking on a multi year effort recruiting and supporting centrist candidates for the Board of Supervisors.  Another group, Connected SF, is leading the Redistricting drive to capture moderate majorities in Supervisor Districts which will ensure moderate centrist candidates are elected in the future.  

We will never fix San Francisco without a centrist, moderate Board of Supervisors for the Mayor to work with.

We are in the final week of the Redistricting process and it is going better than I could have ever dreamed.  The current draft map, 4B, will flip 3 districts with Progressive Supervisors to moderate majorities and make 2 other districts which are currently Progressive majority, competitive with a 50/50 voting block split.  But it ain’t over til its over.  The Progressives have run circles around us for years.  They are far better organized then us.  The City budget is the source of 95% of their capital and they fight like hell for it.

Would you please fill out the 1 click email attached in support of the preferred redistricting map 4B right now. The Redistricting Task force has to finalize the new Supervisor District map by 4/15 and there is an intense fight at City Hall until then.  The one click email really does help give cover to the Task Force to do the right thing and follow the rule of law, instead of politics.

I don’t know Connected SF. The group has a barebones website and is registered as a non-profit with the state to “build a network of neighborhood influencers” and “monitor government and other local events.”

The law on redistricting on the city level requires the task force to consider communities of interest, not the politics of the districts.

But this is the most direct indication yet that there is a powerful group, linked to big Republican money, that is trying to push a new map that will undermine progressive representation.

And from everything I have been told so far from City Hall sources, the Mayor’s Office is directly involved.

A very reliable source sent me the email. I reached out to Nick Podell and asked him to tell me if the email wasn’t legit. He never responded.

Drawing district lines is a political process. It’s been used and abused for years all over the country. But in San Francisco, the district lines have never changed much since the 1970s. The task forces redrawing the lines to account for changes in population have always tried to keep the existing districts as whole as possible—and I have never seen the process used in such a blatant way to change the politics of the board.

The real estate and tech folks, with GOP support, want to do a hostile takeover of local politics. And the mayor is not only going along but backing it.

If this winds up as the final map, there’s a good chance that the battle will wind up on the ballot. The Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium send out a letter tonight that notes:

How could you have so much disrespect for the last 50 years of our SOMA community family?
All the challenges and tribulations we have faced together as one? All the dreams we have
worked together so hard to build from one end to the other?
And now you would throw all that into a trash can of history just to play some line-drawing
game, as if nothing that has happened before matters on your private monopoly board.
Only two answers to that question come to mind:

The Committee’s Gang of Six is an arrogant cohort of neo-imperialists that think ripping
San Francisco communities apart is just ‘breaking eggs’ to impose their imagined new
world order on this City. Or …

The Gang of Six is in fact a political cabal very intentionally gerrymandering the
Supervisors districts to elect its favored candidates.

In either case, if this misbegotten Map 4B is finally adopted by the Committee, then our YBNC
– which has successfully sponsored several ballot measures in recent years – will work with our
City’s communities to, together, put a replacement map before City voters at a future election,
including a requirement for future voter ratification of new district maps thereafter, to un-do
4B’s incalculable harms.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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