By Joe Tash
It’s 2011, so it must be time for San Diego City Council redistricting.
Every 10 years following the U.S. Census, local and state government entities are required to rebalance their legislative districts to ensure the populations are as equal as possible. The idea is that if district populations become lopsided, the ballots cast by voters will not carry equal weight.
In the city of San Diego, the process of redistricting actually began last year with the appointment — by a panel of retired judges — of a seven-member redistricting commission that will have the final say on drawing the boundaries of City Council districts.
This is the second time such a commission has been appointed in San Diego, following a 1992 ballot initiative that established the process. Previously, the City Council set its own district boundaries.
The 2010 redistricting commission, which has already started meeting, will have one additional job that its counterpart in 2000 didn’t face — creation of a ninth council district, mandated last year when city voters permanently adopted the strong mayor form of government.
“We’re definitely creating history,” said Anisha Dalal, a high school principal and chair of the redistricting commission.
Waiting for numbers
Information compiled by the San Diego Association of Governments indicates that the city of San Diego’s population at the start of 2010 stood at 1,376,173. If the census shows a similar population figure, the new council districts should each have a population of about 152,000.
That means council District 1, now represented by Sherri Lightner, which includes La Jolla, University City, Carmel Valley, Rancho Peñasquitos and other areas, is likely to be trimmed during the redistricting process.
SANDAG data show District 1’s population in 2010 was 207,000, the largest of any of the eight existing council districts. But Lightner said research by her own staff shows the figure is more likely between 220,000 and 240,000, meaning one or more communities will likely be shifted to another council district.
“The expectation is Rancho Peñasquitos will no longer be in District 1,” Lightner said.
While Lightner said she doesn’t plan at this point to testify before the commission — the mayor and council members are barred by the commission’s bylaws from speaking to commission members about redistricting outside of the commission’s public meetings — she would like to see La Jolla reunited during this round of redistricting. La Jolla was split between council Districts 1 and 2 in the 2001 redistricting, she said.
“I know all of La Jolla wants to be together,” she said.
Details remain to be seen as the commission, which has been holding regular meetings since October, plans to ramp up its activities in the coming months. Public hearings are scheduled for March 21 and 22, when commission members and staff will provide an overview of the process for the public — the “who, what, when, where and why of redistricting,” said Midori Wong, the commission’s chief of staff.
Both hearings will start at 6:30 p.m. The meeting on March 21 will be held at the San Diego Metro Operations Center, 9192 Topaz Way, while the March 22 meeting will be held at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, 404 Euclid Ave.