Click to enlarge.

Last night, the Ward 5 Redistricting Task Force met for the last time and voted to change the makeup of the ward’s ANCs from one with 3 large ANCs of 12 commissioners each, to one with 6 smaller ANCs with 5-8 commissioners in each.

The task force met for the first time in early August. I was a member. From the beginning, we were informed that we would be approaching redistricting with a fresh slate. There would be no reference to existing commission lines, and the process would be data-driven.

Task force members were split into six teams, which were assigned different geographical parts of the ward. The team I was on was given the area stretching from Fort Lincoln south through the Arboretum to Carver Langston. Our job was to add up census blocks to create proto-single member districts (SMDs) of approximately 2,000 people, with a margin of error of 5% either way (1,900 to 2,100 people).

These proto-SMDs (of which there were 40) were then turned in to the chair of the task force, who, with members of the executive committee, put the six teams’ findings together into one large map. We analyzed this at a meeting last month, and the task force voted to give the executive committee the responsibility to come back to the task force with three options: maps with three, four, and five ANCs.

These options were presented to the task force last night. Significant changes had been made since the 40 proto-SMDs had been turned in to the commission chair. We were notified that there were errors in the data and that lines had to be redrawn for accuracy’s sake. This meant that there would be 38, not 40, SMDs in Ward 5. Many of these new lines were drawn to closely follow the current SMD boundaries.

The three options are below. Click on each to see a larger and interactive version including the populations of each individual proposed SMD.

Option 1 had 5 ANCs. 3 task force members voted for this option.

Option 2 had 6 ANCs. 10 task force members voted for this option.

Option 3 had 3 ANCs. 3 task force members voted for this option.

As you can see, there are errors in the way the SMDs were described verbally, which led to areas of both overlap and gaps that were not included in any SMD. These include the area along the railroad tracks between the neighborhoods of Gateway and Langdon, the Park Place and Cloisters apartments and condominiums at the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and North Capitol Street, the Washington Hospital Center campus, two blocks just south of Catholic University’s campus, a couple blocks on the eastern edge of Trinidad, a block on the western edge of Carver-Langston, the Brentwood Rail Yard, and the entire eastern edge of the ward from the proposed Dakota Crossing development in Fort Lincoln to the Langston Golf Course along the Anacostia River.

It was difficult, if not impossible, to note these problems during the meeting, due to the fact that there was only one hastily drawn map at the front of the room that was difficult to read. Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr.‘s office and the Office of Planning will have to collaborate to make fixes to these problems before the language can be submitted for a vote before the DC Council.

It’s worth noting that 3 SMDs, as drawn here, fall significantly below the minimum recommended threshold for population size. The 2 SMDs in Fort Lincoln have populations of 1,265 and 1,467. The SMD that encompasses the neighborhood of Stronghold and the northernmost block of Bloomingdale (as well as the McMillan Sand Filtration site) has a population of 1,399. Perhaps it was the intent of the executive committee to include Park Place and the Cloisters in this SMD, but that wasn’t evident from the proposed legal language.

When asked why these three SMDs had such low populations, the chair informed us that the population limits were guidelines, not strict rules, and they had received guidance from the Office of Planning that precedent existed to allow this deviation.

Geoff Hatchard lived in DC’s Trinidad neighborhood. The opinions and views expressed in Geoff’s writing on this blog are his, and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer.