For over 100 years, Seattle elected its nine councilmembers “at-large,” meaning each position on the council was voted on by the entire city. Then, in November 2013, voters in Seattle approved City Charter Amendment 19, creating seven city council districts, altering the way we elect our city councilmembers and how they represent us. Prior to Amendment 19, each person in the city was represented by all nine councilmembers, but beginning in 2015, each person in Seattle is now represented by only three members of the council—one for the district in which they live and two voted in at-large.
The city council district map approved in 2013 had most of Wallingford drawn into District 4, and Rob “Let’s Go Kraken” Johnson was elected D4’s first councilmember, defeating grassroots rabble-rouser Michael Maddux. Johnson was a solid councilmember until he bailed on his seat three years into his four year term to take a job with our new NHL franchise. Abel Pacheco was nominated to fill the remainder of Johnson’s term, and in 2019 Alex Pedersen beat out Shaun Scott for the District 4 seat.
At the time, Pedersen was the most conservative member of the Seattle City Council (Sara Nelson has argubly taken that mantle), which is unsurprising considering the demographics of District 4, made up by the wealthy neighborhoods of Laurelhurst, Windermere and Hawthorne Hills, and the primarily upper-middle class single family homeowners of Wedgwood, Ravenna and Wallingford. The most liberal-leaning portion of D4 is the U District, which has a more transient, younger and therefore less reliable voting bloc.
In addition to creating and drawing districts, Charter Amendment 19 also stipulated that “the population of the largest district shall exceed the population of the smallest by no more than one percent.” Since populations change, districts must be evaluated and (if necessary) redrawn every 10 years based upon the most current census data through a process called “redistricting.” Seattle is now in the middle of its very first redistricting process, and on August 2, the Seattle Redistricting Commission released its most current draft map of all seven districts.
The most notable takeaway from the draft map is that District 4 does not look much different than how it was drawn in 2013. Previous draft maps released earlier this year were more dramatic. One had Wallingford joining Fremont and Ballard in District 6, another had us staying in District 4 but rescuing Broadmoor from its Socialist District 3 overlord. The latest draft map keeps the district boundaries in and around Wallingford intact.
One difference in the new map, however, is the appendage currently dangling from District 4 (also known as Eastlake) is being severed both from us and in half. (I have it on good authority that Eastlake residents are not pleased that they’re being split into two districts, and it’s hard to blame them). To balance out this loss in population a section of northern Wedgwood has been drawn into District 4. I have no data to support this, but anecdotally I’m going to assume that the Eastlake neighborhood has more renters, is younger and is more dependent upon public transit than northern Wedgwood is, a shift which will likely benefit our incumbent councilmember’s political positioning in the 2023 election.
But Alex shouldn’t get totally comfy, for this map is not yet set in stone. The Seattle Redistricting Committee will be holding public forums over the next several months, the first one being Tuesday, August 9 from 12:00-1:30pm at City Hall (you can also watch online). And you can submit a written public comment at any time.
Considering how much work has been put into redrawing these districts (balancing population, demographics and geography), I don’t know if public input will alter the latest maps much, but if you have a strong opinion about whether Wallingford’s political interests should be tied to Laurelhurst and Wedgwood for the next decade, it doesn’t hurt to express it.
Editor’s Note: Wallyhood has received some correspondence about this piece and want to clarify that this is the writer’s take and opinion. We welcome community voices to share your thoughts and encourage respectful discourse in the comments and forums. Keep it kind, please!