San Antonio residents will have a say in the redistricted council map

A group of citizens tasked with redesigning San Antonio City Council wards agreed Monday on a draft map that would relocate thousands of residents to new neighborhoods.

The map work is far from complete; residents will have the opportunity to speak at one of the many public consultation sessions that will be held before city council votes on the final map over the summer.

The council is expected to get its first official look at the draft map on April 20. It will be posted on the city’s redistricting webpage in the coming days, a city spokeswoman said, and residents will also be able to comment online.

“This is a community process,” said committee co-chair Bonnie Prosser Elder. “If there are groups in your community, in your districts, who need this information, let us pass it on to them so that at the end of this process, there is no discussion about [how] the community did not know.

The boundaries of the 10 districts, which dictate who represents residents on city council, have been changed so that there is no more than 10% overall gap between the smallest and largest districts – a legal requirement for the redistricting process.

The redistricting process is required under the U.S. Constitution and the city charter, which states that city council districts must have substantially equal populations.

The draft card has a deviation of 9.5%, which means that it meets this legal requirement.

San Antonio’s population has increased by more than 100,000 people since the last census in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. The city’s 1.43 million people are now unevenly dispersed across council districts, with most of the growth occurring in the north. Based on the new census data, city staff found that six districts were smaller than ideal and four were too large.

The largest, District 8, currently has 169,364 people residing in the Northside area. It is more than a third larger than the smallest, which is District 5 with 119,736 residents. The target population is 143,494 for each district.

Redistricting must also comply with the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits boundaries that would discriminate on the basis of race or minority group. Districts are legally required to be compact and composed of contiguous territories.

The unanimous approval of the project by the committee (17 of the 23 members were present for the vote) is subject to a review to ensure that it meets these legal requirements.

“The work of this committee is not done,” said Tony Resendez, a Walsh Gallegos Treviño Kyle & Robinson attorney hired to facilitate the redistricting process. “We have to come back and make sure that’s what we feel comfortable with at the end of the day.”

The committee will meet several times before sending a final draft to the municipal council.

While electoral districts must remain whole, ward boundaries are not legally required to remain intact. However, the committee tried to keep the neighborhoods within a single municipal district.

For example, committee members briefly considered splitting the Los Jardines neighborhood just south of the old Highway 90 between District 6 and District 5, but ultimately voted in favor of a compromise that would move the entire neighborhood into District 5.

This likely won’t sit well with residents who have advocated for the area — particularly Cuellar Park and Edgewood Fine Arts STEAM Academy — to remain in District 6.

But that compromise was only agreed after nearly two hours of discussion, a failed vote that would have moved another neighboring ward into District 5, and a smaller meeting between representatives from Districts 5 and 6.

Sometimes tedious, the process requires committee members to remain alert to the impact of one district’s growth—or lack thereof—on neighboring districts in terms of geography, resident demographics, and population. Moving a district line just a few blocks can mess up the whole calculation.

District 5 Representative Amy Kastely acknowledged that while the work is not complete, it has been a very valuable process and all the effort that staff and outside lawyers have made to include the community is so important.

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