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How should we reshape District 3? Here are four proposals to redraw Seattle City Council district borders

After some hard-fought elections and a failed recall campaign, Capitol Hill’s representation on the City Council could end up being reshaped by the Seattle Redistricting Commission. The commission has released a set of four draft maps which propose new borders for the council districts to meet requirements for regularly rebalancing populations in each of Seattle’s seven districts.

At least one and possibly two of those maps move Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s current residence out of the 3rd District covering Capitol Hill, the Central District, and surrounding neighborhoods.

Surely, robust debate is ahead.

Seattle for decades had been represented by an entirely at-large city council, meaning that everyone in the city voted for everyone on the council. After a voter-approved change in 2013, the city went to its current makeup in 2015; two seats remain at large, and the remaining seven are elected by district.

When initially adopted, each district was drawn to include roughly 88,000 people. Capitol Hill was placed in the 3rd district, which stretches from the Montlake Cut south to I-90, and then a bit further south to include a piece of Mount Baker, and from Lake Washington to roughly I-5, though it extends over to include the northern part of the Denny Triangle.

Mostly by chance, the councilmembers at the time were spread around the city in such a way that combined with some retirements, there really wasn’t a lot of issues of map changes impacting the council makeup.

This time around it could be different. Seattle has grown quite a bit over the last few years, and that growth has not been distributed proportionately, each district this time around is likely to end up with a bit more than 100,000  people. District 3, including Capitol Hill, the Central District, and First Hill, has gotten proportionately larger than that and will need to shrink.

In charge of the process is a five-member redistricting commission that was appointed last year. Two members were appointed by the City Council, EJ Juarez and Rory O’Sullivan. Two more members were appointed by then-Mayor Jenny Durkan Neelima Shah and former Mayor Greg Nickles. Those four chose a fifth member, Patience Malaba.

That group selected the King County GIS Center as a consultant – formally called a District Master – to help draw the maps in December 2021.

The maps
Now, finally, on to the proposed maps. Earlier in February, the first draft of four new potential maps was released to the public.

All four do their job in that they make District 3 smaller, but each does it in a slightly different way.

  • Map 1 makes the least drastic changes to District 3. The area on the west side of Portage Bay would be moved from District 3 into District 4, along with parts around the Denny Triangle. A strip along the southern end of the district, roughly south of Yesler Terrace and moving southeast to Mount Baker would move to District 2. In this scenario, Sawant’s Leschi home would remain in District 3.
  • Map 2 offers the most radical reshaping of District 3. Broadmoor, Madison Park and Montlake would all be moved into District 4. The western part of Portage Bay would move into District 6. District 3 would shift westward, gobbling up Eastlake and most all of South Lake Union. Madrona and Leschi would move into District 2, with the dividing line running more-or-less but not perfectly along MLK. That same southern strip from the previous map would also shift into District 2. This map is the one that’s a bit dicey about Sawant’s residence. It really could come down to which side of a street a line is drawn on, so it’s a bit unclear if she would remain in District 3 or shift to District 2.
  • Map 3 would also move Broadmoor, Madison Park and Montlake into District 4. District 3 would extend out to absorb South Lake Union, though Eastlake would remain in District 4 where it is now. Once again, the southern strip would move into District 2. This map keeps Sawant in District 3.
  • Map 4 again moves Broadmoor, Madison Park and Montlake into District 4, along with pretty much everything north of Interlaken and the northern half of Eastlake. District 3 would add the Denny Triangle and expand to include downtown but not South Lake Union. Most of the southern portion of the district would move to District 2. Yesler Terrace would be included in District 3, and then there would be a stair step progression northeast. It would leave Madrona in District 3, but move Leschi into District 2. This map would move Sawant firmly into District 2.

Now, with draft maps in hand, the fun begins. The Redistricting Commission is supposed to hold a public hearing in each of the seven council districts. With Covid restrictions in place, it’s not clear how that will happen.

However, the commission does have regular online meetings on Tuesdays at noon. If you want to comment during one of these meetings, or submit a written comment, go to the commission website.

After that series of meetings, the commission will release a single draft map. It’s important to note that that map does not necessarily have to look exactly like any of the four released, as the commission may elect to shift boundaries here and there. After that, there’s opportunity for at least one more public hearing, some time for map revisions and time for more written comments. Then, by Nov. 14, 2022, the commission is to approve a final map and submit it to county auditors by Nov. 15.

The new map will go into effect with the 2023 City Council election. The council itself has no say in the way the maps are drawn.

The City Charter mandates that a person be a resident of a district for 120 days prior to filing for candidacy. So if Sawant (or any other council member) gets shuffled out of their district in November, there would likely be time for that person to find a new place in their old district. Of course, then the question would be if the newly-drawn district would have demographics receptive to that candidate.

 

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CD Resident
CD Resident
7 months ago

Map 4 please!!! It’s the only one that doesn’t look gerrymandered AND it has the perk of kicking Sawant out of the district!!!

James on 17th
James on 17th
7 months ago

Make the Montlake rich people their own district and stop letting them have influence on the poor in CH and CD.

Jeremiah
Jeremiah
7 months ago
Reply to  James on 17th

All of that poverty on Capitol Hill. lol

Jules James
Jules James
7 months ago

Draft #1 makes the most sense. It recognizes Lake Union as a focal point in District #4 rather than a boundary for three districts. District #3 is compact and logical, rather than spread across multiple disparate constituencies.

James on 17th
James on 17th
7 months ago
Reply to  Jules James

It puts more rich people and high paid techies into D3 and they lean towards Amazon and Amazon-sponsored candidates. But the other ones include too many rich people from Montlake and Leschi. I prefer the current district.

district13tribute
district13tribute
7 months ago
Reply to  Jules James

I think the districting rules would prohibit map 1 due to item 3. I also see issues with maps 2 and 3 as they have weird pockets that don’t see to make much sense geographically.

  • District boundaries must be drawn to create “compact and contiguous districts that are not gerrymandered.”
  • The difference between the population of the largest district and the population of the smallest one can be no greater than 1% of the total population of the city.
  • To the extent practical the boundaries must “follow existing District boundaries, recognized waterways and geographic boundaries, and Seattle communities and neighborhoods.”

If you follow these rules I think map 4 makes the most sense although I suspect there will be another iteration after the outreach is completed.

Matt
Matt
7 months ago

ol Jules just doesnt want to see Eastlake cleaved in two.

joanna
joanna
7 months ago
Reply to  Jules James

Yes, #1 seems to be the one that would make the most sense although a few of boundaries on the Northend and others would need some smoothing. It was computer generated with rules of least change to current boundaries and crossing as few of the physical boundaries as possible. It appears to keep the communities and neighborhoods in D3 together. Supposedly, 3&4 use school board director districts as one underlying consideration. However, the school board redistricts itself, current boundaries were drawn in 2012, in part, to accomodate incumbent home addresses, especially true for director district 5, and they are also going to have to redistrict in 2022–soon and the boundaries will be very different.

StopMeddling
StopMeddling
7 months ago

I like the one that moves Sawant into District 2. She doesn’t represent the people who would be left in District 3 in that scenario anyway.

Exhausted D3 Resident
Exhausted D3 Resident
7 months ago
Reply to  StopMeddling

I’m for any version that moves Sawant out of D3! I’m tired of her BS. Let some other part of the city not be represented by her for a while.

Guesty
Guesty
7 months ago

The district set up is terrible – city council members have a ton of influence on everyone’s life in Seattle and should be chosen city-wide.

The excuse that they represent their districts needs better is over shadowed by their city-wide influence.

James on 17th
James on 17th
7 months ago
Reply to  Guesty

The problems of Rainier Beach are not the same as Magnolia’s. Plus we have two citywide positions. It’s called checks and balances. We need proper representation.

BaristaGuy
BaristaGuy
7 months ago
Reply to  James on 17th

If you think Sawant is acting for D3 you’re crazy. I used to support her but she is toxic

James on 17th
James on 17th
7 months ago
Reply to  BaristaGuy

I think she’s great. And she won. Democracy says this district wants her. Plus you have two citywide positions already. I think people need to support checks and balances.

PDiddy
PDiddy
7 months ago

I would like the system to go back to all at large. West Seattle and Capitol hill suffer under the worst council members which a very vocal minority and not enough people saying enough. Sawant was probably going to all the homeless camps signing up the bums to survive her recall.

Tom C
Tom C
7 months ago
Reply to  PDiddy

Sawant was voted in as an at large member and served as such for 2 years prior to districts being created.

James on 17th
James on 17th
7 months ago
Reply to  PDiddy

Conspiracy guys are the loud minority. Sawant won fair and square. Orion was the cheater who used Amazon money and loads of TV time to try to influence D3.

Reality
Reality
7 months ago

We need an initiative to make all city council seats city-wide races. The district system was supposed to improve accountability and representation, but it has done the opposite.

James on 17th
James on 17th
7 months ago
Reply to  Reality

This is dangerous and provably hurts poor communities. The problems Magnolia has is not the same as Rainier Beach or Othello.

JL off Madison
JL off Madison
7 months ago
Reply to  James on 17th

The needs would be better served for city wide. 1 crazy nut holding half a district hostage is also not representative of the people.

James on 17th
James on 17th
7 months ago
Reply to  JL off Madison

Citywide is dangerous because of the reason I said above but you’re speaking in hyperbole with this “hostage” nonsense. They just voted against Sawant last week. What are you even on about? You’re just lying now.

ReceiptsPlease
ReceiptsPlease
7 months ago
Reply to  James on 17th

Please give an example of how this probably hurts communities?

HTS3
HTS3
7 months ago

I’ve always wondered about how these redistricting maps are drawn. And this is as relevant to Texas as it is Seattle. Those in power tend to redraw them to retain their power. Should they be drawn to follow geographic lines or should they be drawn to represent folks with similar interests/concerns/challenges? I also wonder if there is any conversation about whether we are better represented by a council member who doesn’t seem interested in our feedback, or should we be voting for council members across the city, to vote for those who seem to represent our views? It’s only been the last 8 years that we’ve voted by district. I don’t feel better represented, do you? Honest question, here.

Exhausted D3 Resident
Exhausted D3 Resident
7 months ago
Reply to  HTS3

How can you feel better represented when your council member who ignores feedback or concerns from people in the District and publicly states she only represents only those who agree with her. I too supported her at one time, but that support is also a thing of the past.

Michele Hasson
Michele Hasson
7 months ago

#4 makes the most sense for everyone.

Reg
Reg
7 months ago

I don’t think anyone is better represented by districts AND we’re often subject to decisions by other district representatives that we may not like and have no control over. The answer is NO districts. Go back to city wide and the city will actually function properly.

James on 17th
James on 17th
7 months ago
Reply to  Reg

Just like we can’t get rid of Texas in the electoral college, we shall not get rid of districts. We need fair representation.

pablo
pablo
7 months ago
Reply to  Reg

Agree. Let’s do it!

kermit
kermit
7 months ago
Reply to  Reg

I agree. But Sawant would be strongly opposed to doing this, because she could never win city-wide.

James on 17th
James on 17th
7 months ago
Reply to  kermit

Changing the rules to get rid of a candidate you don’t like is very definition of gerrymandering and anti-democracy. Sickening.

Reality
Reality
7 months ago
Reply to  Reg

The switch to district elections was when Seattle began circling the drain. It open the door to cronyism and special interest groups. For example, Tammy Morales’ $3 million dollar no bid contract to her base with no performance metrics or oversight.

NCHResident
NCHResident
4 months ago
Reply to  Reality

You are correct in that the shift to District elections opened the door to special interest groups due to the low turnout during odd years. Switching to even year elections would help to alleviate that problem.

SeattleGeek
SeattleGeek
7 months ago

The survey about the city commission is now closed. HAHAHA.

Thank you, Ari, for highlighting this change in districts.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 months ago

“In drawing the [new district] plan, neither the Commission nor the districting master shall consider the residence of any person.” City Charter, Article IV, Section 2(D)(3)

NCHResident
NCHResident
4 months ago

The problem District 3 residents has is that Sawant depends on a very densely populated portion of the District for her votes. She is only concerned with those who live in that portion. They are largely renters and many are relatively young. She also uses every trick in the book including large amounts of outside money and every electioneering trick that is remotely legal of which she can think. She is not concerned regarding the needs of other residents, many of whom are property owners, but not necessarily high income wealthy people. She has also stated publicly that she ignores those people and actively works against their interests. She really should not be on the Council period but might be a better fit in District 2 but that is Morales District. Morales is similar to Sawant in many ways.

I would prefer Maps 2 or 4 as both move my residence outside of District 3 and into District 4. These are also the two maps that would move Sawant into District 2, but Map 2 is dicey.