More on Savannah’s shifting demographics and the increased diversity on the Southside

In my City Talk column today, I take a close look at the latest draft map of new council districts for the city of Savannah. I’ve embedded that map below. For best possible viewing, I’d suggest downloading then opening the PDF rather than trying to look at it in the window here.

Contrary to the trends in the 2000 Census, the 2010 Census showed massive growth in Savannah’s District 1, which as you can see sprawls way out west.

That’s largely the reason for some major changes for District 1 residents in the downtown area, many of whom will move to District 2.

In the column, I argue that adjacent neighborhoods with similar historical development patterns are probably best served if they are in the same council district. One could make the opposite argument, of course.

In other words, I like the changes from the current map, although we’ll see what happens to it if political deal-making begins.

There’s more from Eric Curl’s original article — Racial makeup one concern as council develops new voting districts — and Eric’s followup blog post: Alderman Thomas toots his horn and other comments that didn’t make the cut.

As noted on Eric’s blog, the 6th District on the Southside is currently the most racially balanced in the city. There is little geographical change to that district under the new map, which would give the 6th District a white majority of 51.6 percent, with non-whites making up 48.4 percent.

I was struck looking at the numbers and the maps by the relative rapidity with which neighborhood demographics can change. In a matter of a decade or a generation, incremental shifts can produce dramatic outcomes in population, in racial and ethnic demographics, and so forth.

Given current trends, there seems little doubt that the non-Hispanic white percentage will fall below 50 percent for District 6 before the 2020 Census. On the other hand, we’ve been seeing an increase in the white population over the last couple of decades in some areas close to downtown that have long had non-white majorities, like the Metropolitan Neighborhood north of West Victory Drive.

When I bought my house on 32nd Street in 1996, the owner at the time told me with a straight face that everyone who lived south of me was black. That wasn’t even remotely true at the time, but the white population on some blocks was small enough to lead him to make that assumption. No one would ever assume that today.

I wrote a column recently about the waxing and waning fortunes of various neighborhoods. I hear a lot of folks generalize about specific neighborhoods, but in making those generalizations, they ignore history. The character and demographics of neighborhoods can and do change pretty dramatically over time, based on a wide variety of factors.

Here’s the draft map referenced in my column today and in the pieces by Eric Curl cited above:

Proposed City of Savannah Redistricting Map