This article has been updated.

A group of citizens tasked with redrawing San Antonio City Council districts agreed on a rough draft map Monday that would move thousands of residents into new districts.

Work on the map is far from over; residents will have the opportunity to weigh in during any of several public input sessions to be held before City Council votes on the final map sometime this summer.

The council is slated to get its first formal look at the draft map on April 20. It has now been posted, and residents have the ability to add their comments at the bottom of the page.

“This is a community process,” said committee co-chair Bonnie Prosser Elder. “If there are groups out there in your community, in your districts, that need to have this information, let’s get it to them so that at the end of this process, there won’t be any discussion about [how] the community didn’t know.”

The boundaries of all 10 districts, which dictate who represents residents on City Council, have been shifted so that no more than a 10% overall deviation exists 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’s charter, which says city council districts should have substantially equal populations.

The draft map has a 9.5% deviation, meaning it meets that legal requirement.

City of San Antonio Redistricting Advisory Committee Draft
City of San Antonio Redistricting Advisory Committee Draft Plan 1; close-up maps of each district are now available on the city’s website. Credit: Courtesy / City of San Antonio

San Antonio’s population grew by more than 100,000 people since the last census in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. The city’s 1.43 million residents are now dispersed unevenly across the 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. That’s 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. The districts are legally required to be compact and composed of contiguous territory.

The committee’s unanimous approval of the draft (17 of the 23 members were present for the vote) is contingent on a review to ensure it meets those legal requirements.

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

The committee will meet several more times before sending a final draft to City Council.

While voting precincts must be kept whole, neighborhood boundaries are not legally required to remain intact. However, the committee has tried to keep neighborhoods within a single council district.

For instance, committee members briefly considered splitting up the Los Jardines neighborhood just south of 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.

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

But that compromise was only agreed upon after nearly two hours of discussion, a failed vote that would have moved a different nearby neighborhood into District 5, and a smaller meeting between district 5 and 6 representatives.

At times tedious, the process requires committee members to remain mindful of how a district’s growth — or lack thereof — impacts neighboring districts in terms of geography, resident demographics and population. Moving a district line just a few blocks can throw off the entire calculation.

District 5 representative Amy Kastely acknowledged that although the work is not complete, this has been a very valuable process and all of the effort that staff and outside attorneys have done to include the community is so important.”

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org