The new redistricting map approved by the City Council brings some big changes to two of the city’s eight districts, while leaving the boundaries of six fairly consistent to the current map.
The council voted 7-3-1 to approve an amended version of a new ward, precinct, and district voting map created by the city’s planning department. Councillors Judith Garcia, Enio Lopez, and Yamir Garcia voted against the amended map, while Councillor Damali Vidot was not present at the meeting.
The biggest changes on the map are in the new Districts 5 and 7. The new District 5 combines the Box District with Bellingham Hill, while District 7 is centered on the downtown, stretching from the courthouse to City Hall and Broadway. The new District 7 also separates the historic waterfront district and pairs it with the downtown/Broadway area.
“The rest of the districts really do not change at all; they have maybe constricted a little bit here and there, but overall, if you look at the original map, six of the districts pretty much stay the same,” said Council President Roy Avellaneda.
The redistricting process takes place every 10 years using data from the U.S. Census to create equitable voting districts of approximately the same size.
“I think this is a very sensitive topic; it only happens every 10 years and we’re talking about redrawing lines and changing a method of doing things,” said Garcia on Monday night. “As voters and as residents, we tend to be creatures of habit, and today, it is a very important decision we have to make that is going to impact voters for years to come.”
Garcia said it is difficult to consider the multiple factors that go into the redistricting process, and thanked Karl Allen of the planning department for drawing up new maps that remained compact and balanced.
“I am not a fan of the amended proposal in front of us, because when I look at, for example, District 8, and I look at the streets that are there, I feel like we are diluting the voices of People of Color,” said Garcia. “I understand the intentionality of uniting the waterfront with the downtown, but the character of these districts and areas is very different.”
Avellaneda said the new map helps achieve the goal of putting together precincts, wards, and districts centered on neighborhoods and not census data.
Originally, Avellaneda said, the redistricting committee was going to accept the adoption of a map drawn up by the state, but further discussions revealed that the map would create hardships for voters who lived on the other side of Rte. 16 and would have to vote at St. Rose.
“So we rejected the map on that basis and then asked Karl Allen to produce a couple versions of a map, and he did two versions,” said Avellaneda.
One of those maps was then used to take a closer look at creating new lines based on neighborhoods.
“We tried to keep the wards and districts as close to the original so we were not throwing too many people off,” said Avellaneda. “The goal from the beginning was to try to create districts around the neighborhoods. Basically … we identified the 16 neighborhoods of the city and then created wards and districts out of that.”
As the maps were being put together, Avellaneda said it became apparent that the Box District, by its sheer numbers, would become part of its own district when paired with Bellingham Hill.
“As a result, these are the new lines that will be put in place for the 2023 (municipal) election,” said Avellaneda.
He said potential candidates for city election have two years to adjust to the new lines. As for voters, the new boundaries will be in place for the 2022 state primary and general elections.
“I think that the map that was proposed by Councillor Avellaneda makes the most sense rather than the one that was proposed by the committee,” said District 1 Councillor Todd Taylor. “It keeps some of the natural neighborhoods together, and it also diversifies some of the new districts.”