ST. PETERSBURG — Population growth downtown and north of Gandy Boulevard will result in new City Council district boundaries this year.
The city charter requires that the eight council districts get fresh boundaries every 10 years, in line with the U.S. Census, to make sure they represent roughly equal numbers of residents.
That process is underway at St. Petersburg City Hall. A commission of nine members, each appointed by a City Council member and one appointed by Mayor Ken Welch, has met weekly since Aug. 8.
With the help of a consultant, their work has culminated in what may be the final map after tinkering with about a dozen versions. In its latest iteration, known as alternative map 2B-3b, no current City Council member is drawn out of their district.
Two public hearings were held Monday, though about a dozen people showed up in person and only two speakers made public comments in total. The commission’s next step is to submit a report to the City Council for consideration by their Oct. 6 deadline, though the commission could submit the report earlier. The public can give feedback online until Monday.
The mayor provided a report to the commission to guide them on changes in population. Census data showed that the city’s population increased 5.5%, from 244,769 in 2010 to 258,308 in 2020. Six of the eight City Council districts saw population increases since 2010.
The largest population increases occurred downtown, resulting in an additional 4,767 residents, part of District 6, and north of Gandy Boulevard, part of the northern District 2, adding an additional 3,250 residents. City Council District 6, which represents the downtown core and the bay side of south St. Petersburg, saw the greatest increase in population with 5,730 more residents while District 1, on the west side of town around the Tyrone area, saw the greatest decrease in population, losing 214 residents since 2010.
The commission had to make sure it did not dilute minority voting strength. The districts also must be contiguous, compact and follow census blocks. The city’s charter calls for keeping neighborhoods and precincts together in the same district.
Under the proposed map, two out of St. Petersburg’s 120 neighborhoods are split. Disston Heights is split between District 1 and District 8, and the Central Oak Park Neighborhood Association is split between District 7 and 8.
To address further population growth downtown, there has been discussion of moving Tropicana Field, which is set to be redeveloped as the Historic Gas Plant District. Under the latest version of the map, Tropicana Field is still in District 6.
The Melrose-Mercy neighborhood was redrawn out of District 6 and placed into District 7, a minority-majority district. Under the proposed map, minority influence is also maintained in districts 5 and 6.
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Once the map is settled on, the commission will write up a report that will go into detail about how many residents have been redrawn into another district along with other analysis, like population and demographics.
Once the commission submits its report, City Council members have 60 days to accept the map through a majority vote, or propose their own map drawn by the council with a unanimous vote. The approved map will be in place for the city’s next election.