South Park and Georgetown would be united and Magnolia would be somewhat split by new Seattle City Council district lines in a proposal created this week.
Much of Eastlake would move into the same district as Capitol Hill, and all of Yesler Terrace would be located in the same district as South Seattle.
Those and other changes characterize the new draft map that the Seattle Redistricting Commission is proposing, with public input invited before the commission creates a final map in November. The process matters because it will decide how voters are grouped and influence who gets elected.
Tasked with redrawing the boundaries of Seattle’s seven districts using 2020 census data, the commission’s five members were appointed last year by then-Mayor Jenny Durkan and the City Council. Seattle’s current map was made with 2010 census data, and the city’s population has grown unevenly since then, with some neighborhoods adding residents faster than others.
The redistricting process, which is prescribed by the City Charter, will ensure each council district contains about 105,000 people, per the 2020 census. Some districts must expand geographically, while others must contract.
The commission released several “conversation starter” maps this past spring, and the commissioners each released an individual proposal last month. They worked together Tuesday night to hash out a joint proposal.
The city’s Department of Neighborhoods described the joint proposal Wednesday as the result of months of public input, including 50-plus community information sessions, a survey and seven public forums.
“My fellow commissioners and I are taking great care to listen to the public,” the commission’s chair, former Mayor Greg Nickels, said in a statement.
Seattle’s council districts must be compact and contiguous, per the City Charter. The new lines are also supposed to account, “to the extent practical,” for existing district boundaries, waterways, other geographic boundaries and the presence of existing neighborhoods and communities.
The joint proposal is almost identical to the map that Commissioner Neelima Shah suggested last month and very similar to a map requested by Redistricting Justice for Seattle, a coalition of nonprofits and community groups seeking political representation for renters, young people and people of color. Shah is a senior program officer at the Bullitt Foundation.
The coalition, which includes the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, The Washington Bus, and Asian Counseling and Referral Service, has urged the commission to keep the Chinatown International District and Beacon Hill together with South Seattle in District 2 — the only district in the city where the population is majority people of color. The joint proposal would do that.
“Looking at this map, I can tell right away that communities of color were not discarded for other special interests. This is key to an inclusive redistricting process,” Joseph Lachman, policy analyst at Asian Counseling and Referral Service, said in a news release issued Wednesday by the coalition.
The coalition also has lobbied to extend District 6 across the Lake Washington Ship Canal from Northwest Seattle into Magnolia, rather than extending District 4 across the ship canal from Northeast Seattle into Montlake and rather than breaking up District 7’s concentration of apartment dwellers in neighborhoods like Belltown and South Lake Union. The commission’s joint proposal adheres to that logic as well.
Meanwhile, the joint proposal would extend District 1 across the Duwamish River, uniting the somewhat similar neighborhoods of South Park and Georgetown, located on opposite sides of the river, in a district that would also include West Seattle, Sodo and Pioneer Square.
The most significant change, politically speaking, could be in Magnolia, which two council members would share. Moving many Magnolia homeowners into District 6 while keeping some of the neighborhood’s denser blocks in District 7 could strengthen the sway in District 7 of renters and younger voters.
“Young people and renters in the downtown corridor have represented the bulk of growth in Seattle and especially District 7,” and shouldn’t have their voting power weakened by district lines, Jazmine Smith, political manager at The Washington Bus, said in the coalition’s news release.
According to the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce, some community members have raised concerns about the neighborhood being split, with part separated from Queen Anne. The chamber suggested this week that residents request district boundary adjustments in Seattle’s “diverse and ever-changing downtown residential areas,” rather than the “long-established neighborhood communities of Magnolia and Queen Anne.”
Nickels was the only redistricting commissioner whose individual proposal didn’t move at least some of Magnolia. The commissioners held a series of votes in a public meeting Tuesday as they created their joint proposal.
This redistricting process is a first for the city, Nickels noted. Seattle voters approved the district system with a City Charter amendment in 2013, switching seven of the council’s nine seats to geographic representation starting in 2015. Previously, all nine council members were elected citywide.
The Seattle Redistricting Commission is seeking public comments on its joint proposal from now until the commission creates its final map, which is scheduled for Nov. 8 and is due no later than Nov. 15.
You can review the draft map and offer feedback online at www.seattle.gov/redistricting/how-to-participate. Also, there will be three additional public forums. The first will be on Aug. 9 from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Seattle City Hall, Room L280. The details for September and October forums have yet to be determined.