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Redistricting may split SF down the middle, add Marin to Pelosi's district

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For 24 years, Nancy Pelosi has represented San Francisco. Now, she may also represent Marin County.

In a break from its policy to keep geographic areas in a single district, the California Redistricting Commission is considering a plan to split San Francisco down its hilly middle into two congressional districts.

To see a map of the proposed redistricting of San Francisco, click on the photo to the right.

As it stands, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi represents almost all of San Francisco, save a portion of its southwestern quadrant. That portion is represented by Rep. Jackie Speier, who also represents much of San Mateo County.

An initial draft of new congressional districts maintained approximately the same lines. But the commission has in recent days toyed with the idea of radically redrawing most of the draft lines throughout the Bay Area.

The result is a proposal that would shrink Pelosi’s district in San Francisco, and extend it across the Bay into Marin County, past San Rafael. Meanwhile, Speier’s district would expand northward as well, including all of the Outer Sunset district, Golden Gate Park, the Outer Richmond, the Presidio and the Marina. Speier’s district would include a smaller portion of San Mateo County, ending just south of Speier’s hometown of Hillsborough.

The proposal struck political experts as surprising, especially considering the California Redistricting Commission was tasked to keep the districts geographically compact and avoid splitting up “communities of interest” — a definition that San Francisco clearly fits.

Political consultant Jim Ross noted Pelosi’s district wouldn’t even be connected by the Golden Gate Bridge.

“What are you going to do, get in a kayak and paddle over to the other part of the district?” he joked. Ross doubted the district would have a negative effect on San Francisco’s power in Congress.

Even if both Pelosi and Speier left Congress, San Francisco — not the suburbs — is likely to produce the candidate to replace them, and regardless, San Francisco would likely be the heart of both districts, Ross said.

UC Berkeley political science professor Bruce Cain said the new lines were conceived to appease a handful of communities in the North and East Bay that have become extremely vocal about their opinions. He noted that residents of the small Napa County town of American Canyon have come to Redistricting Commission meetings in droves to complain about being placed in a different district than the rest of their county.

“What it illustrates is the power of the squeaky wheel in this process,” he said.

Every decade, the state is required to redraw the lines for state Assembly, Senate and congressional districts. This is the first year the work is being done by the voter-approved Redistricting Commission, an independent body that is tasked to avoid the gerrymandering of the past.

kworth@sfexaminer.com