I have seen empires starting very close, but I have not really seen it that much.
Some quick tests. Everything is normal, except some additional empires. 10x10, 700 stars, 15 AI empires and the shakturi story.
Test 1: Two empires got "rubbing" influence circles. Otherwise some are 1 diagonal sector away from each other. A huge portion of the map lacks a starting empire. Me? 2 sectors to two different empires starting at the edge.
Test 2: Starting a bit left of center. Lots of space towards the middle, but busy elsewhere. One close enough to bump influence circles below (1 sector), one a bit further away up right. This is the busiest part of the galaxy. But in places, there are not a lot of black space between start size influences.
Test 3: Starting central. Just short of 2 sectors to the left are closest neighbor, but that is a bad spot with 2 empires very close to each other. Some are more lucky than others, but the two mentioned are the losers.
Test 4: The worst yet. Starting just left of center in my spiral galaxy, it is just below 1 sector to an empire up and a tad right. The guardians start in a neighbor system very close to these. There are also two close empires on the lower part of the circle, with a third not too far away, as well as two with less than 1 sector distance on the right central area.
Test 5: Start at the right of center, with good clearance to all but pirates. 2 empires in the east start in neighbor systems. Two at the lower edge central start with far less than 1 sector distance. Otherwise good spread, and lucky Atuuk has a lead on an empty upper right.
Test 6: Good spread. Two in the bottom edge central rubs influence with a bit less than 1 sector clearance.
Test 7: I got a good start, others are not so lucky. Two start as closest neighbors central in the galaxy. Two are not much better in lower center. Two with half a sector between at lower edge, and a third just 1 sector away from one of them.
So in 7 tests, one was borderline bad, others had some starting a bit close. My empire had decent room in all 7 cases. This is with default settings, but the number of randoms increased to 15. And I assume it is 17 in total with the Guardians.
I don't see a huge problem with these galaxies. And none are as bad as the image above with both triplets and the two close in the upper left.
Also, no wonders things seems messy with that galaxy backdrop ;-)