Not even San Francisco city departments can agree on neighborhood boundaries

By Nami Sumida, San Francisco Chronicle, February 24, 2022

“When The Chronicle compared [three] neighborhood maps created by [the Planning and Elections departments], we found the definitions of some neighborhoods, like Bayview-Hunters Point and Lakeshore, are more consistent than others, like Chinatown and the Western Addition. Yet city officials believe having one set of neighborhood definitions would benefit the city by allowing departments to more easily share data and, as a result, provide a more thorough understanding of each area and its residents.

“[While the other two maps examined by The Chronicle remain largely the same as when they were created sometime in the early 90s,] the Planning Department’s analysis neighborhood map [‘used to report neighborhood-level data on city-funded programs, services and demographics of residents’] … is one that could change in the coming months.

“The analysis neighborhood map was constructed in 2014 as a way of unifying the different boundaries devised by city agencies. Similar to what we discovered in our analysis, the city found that each department used different boundaries when reporting neighborhood-level metrics, which made it impossible to combine data across departments.

“Newly released data from the 2020 census prompted the city to consider redrawing these boundaries, according to Helen McLendon and Tania Jogesh, two data experts at DataSF who maintain the analysis neighborhood boundaries.

“If departments advocate for a neighborhood, like the Financial District — a densely populated area which is currently grouped with South Beach — to be its own neighborhood because of its distinct culture, the mapmakers would consider forgoing some statistical significance to do so, said McLendon.

“[W]hile these neighborhood metrics primarily influence policy decisions, they can also affect the lives of everyday people. During last year’s COVID-19 vaccination campaigns — when volunteers went door-to-door to encourage residents to get vaccinated — they used the neighborhood data to determine how much campaigning was needed for each area. Depending on which analysis neighborhood you fell into, someone may have never knocked on your door.”

Read the full article here, including maps illustrating differing neighborhood boundary definitions.(~6 min.)

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