South Park and Georgetown would be unified and Magnolia would be somewhat divided by new Seattle City Council district lines in a proposal created this week.
Much of Eastlake would move into the same borough as Capitol Hill, and all of Yesler Terrace would be in the same borough as South Seattle.
These and other changes characterize the new draft map the Seattle Redistricting Commission is proposing, with public input solicited before the commission produces a final map in November. The process is important because it decides how voters are grouped and affects who gets elected.
The five members of the commission were appointed last year by then-Mayor Jenny Durkan and the city council to redraw the boundaries of Seattle’s seven boroughs using 2020 census data. The current map of Seattle was created using 2010 census data, and the city’s population has grown unevenly since then, with some neighborhoods adding residents faster than others.
The redistribution process mandated by the city charter will ensure that each council borough has approximately 105,000 residents as of the 2020 census. Some districts need to expand geographically while others need to shrink.
The Commission published several ‘conversation starters’ cards last spring and the Commissioners each published an individual proposal last month. They worked together on Tuesday night to come up with a joint proposal.
The borough office for neighborhoods described Wednesday’s joint proposal as the result of months of public input, including more than 50 community information sessions, a poll and seven public forums.
“My colleagues and I are very careful to listen to the public,” the commission’s chair, former Mayor Greg Nickels, said in a statement.
Seattle boroughs are required to be compact and contiguous according to the city charter. The new lines are also intended to accommodate existing county boundaries, waterways, other geographic boundaries, and the presence of existing neighborhoods and communities “to the extent practicable”.
The joint proposal is nearly identical to the map Commissioner Neelima Shah proposed last month and very similar to a map requested by Redistricting Justice for Seattle, a coalition of nonprofit and community groups that seeks political representation for tenants, young looking for people and people of colour. Shah is a Senior Program Officer at the Bullitt Foundation.
The coalition, which includes the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, The Washington Bus and the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, has asked the commission to keep the Chinatown International District and Beacon Hill in District 2, along with South Seattle –– the only district in the city where the population is mostly people of color. The joint proposal would do that.
“Looking at this map, I can immediately see that communities of color weren’t discarded because of other special interests. This is key to an inclusive redistribution process,” said Joseph Lachman, policy analyst at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, in a press release issued by the coalition on Wednesday.
The Coalition has also advocated expanding District 6 via the Lake Washington Ship Canal from Northwest Seattle to Magnolia, rather than expanding District 4 via the Northeast Seattle to Montlake Ship Canal, and increasing the concentration of apartment dwellers in District 7 in neighborhoods such as Dissolve Belltown and South Lake Union. The joint proposal by the Commission also follows this logic.
Meanwhile, the joint proposal would expand District 1 across the Duwamish River, uniting the somewhat similar neighborhoods of South Park and Georgetown, which are on opposite sides of the river, into one district that would also include West Seattle, Sodo, and Pioneer Square.
The most significant change, politically speaking, could take place in Magnolia, which two council members would share. The relocation of many Magnolia homeowners to District 6 while some of the neighborhood’s more densely populated apartment blocks remain in District 7 could increase the influence of renters and younger voters in District 7.
“Young people and downtown corridor renters have represented most of the growth in Seattle, and in District 7 in particular,” and their voting power should not be weakened by district lines, Jazmine Smith, political manager at The Washington Bus, said in the coalition press release.
Nickels was the only redistricting commissioner whose individual proposal did not move at least part of Magnolia. The commissioners held a series of votes in a public session on Tuesday as they drafted their joint proposal.
This redistribution process is a first for the city, Nickels noted. Seattle voters approved the district system in 2013 with a city charter amendment, and as of 2015 switched seven of the council’s nine seats to geographic representation. Previously, all nine council members were elected citywide.
The Seattle Redistricting Commission is now seeking public comment on its joint proposal until the commission produces its final map, which is scheduled for November 8 and due no later than November 15.
You can review the draft card and provide feedback online at www.seattle.gov/redistricting/how-to-participe. There will also be three additional public forums. The first will be on August 9 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Seattle City Hall, room L280. Details for the September and October forums have yet to be finalized.