By Kathy Day
Joe LaCava is a man on a mission.
Recently termed out as the chairman of the La Jolla Community Planning Association and a year out of his role as president of the Bird Rock Community Council, he’s trying to focus La Jollans’ attention on the current process of drawing new lines for City Council Districts.
In addition to satisfying the requirement to redraw boundaries to balance population changes, this year the process includes adding a ninth council district as approved by voters in last year’s Strong Mayor measure. (Similar rebalancing must be done for the county supervisors and congressional districts.)
The city council district realignment is the subject of a public meeting set for 6 p.m. May 11 at the La Jolla Library, where people can have their say, and a three-week old push to get the word out about the impacts.
“It’s difficult to grasp what’s going on and why it’s important,” LaCava said in a recent interview. “
Adding the ninth district, he said, “throws everything up in the air. In the past it was just a matter of tweaking the boundaries of the eight districts.”
At present, La Jolla’s representation is split between Sherri Lightner’s Council District 1 and Kevin Faulconer’s District 2. Lightner’s ranges over the northwest part of the city, including areas around Torrey Pines, Carmel Valley and Rancho Penasquitos; Faulconer’s, to the south of La Jolla as far as Point Loma and Downtown.
First and foremost, LaCava said, La Jolla needs to be brought into one district. Currently, District 1 has a population of about 199,000; with the new boundaries it should have about 144,000. The district is the largest of the eight with more than 33,000 more residents than the next closest in size — Carl DeMaio’s District 5.
LaCava — and others — believe picking up the rest of La Jolla and dropping Rancho Penasquitos into a new ninth district is the best solution. The idea has taken the form of a proposal being called the “Coast and Canyons Plan” that has the endorsement of several North City organizations affected by the changes.
LaCava became motivated after attending the first meeting of the appointed, seven-member Redistricting Commission that was for Council Districts 4 and 8 in the city’s southern reaches. Before the meeting, he said, he heard that the Asian-Pacific American Coalition wanted a new district that would bring together the Asian populations in Mira Mesa (District 5) and Rancho Penasquitos (District 1). Their initial plan sliced Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch out of District 1 and into District 5 with Rancho Bernardo and other communities to the east.
That discussion had already motivated members of the Rancho Penasquitos Town Council and the Rancho Penasquitos Planning Group to say “we want to align with communities that share our common interest,” LaCava said.
They reacted by proposing that they join a North City district that overlaps with the boundaries of the Poway Unified School District — currently represented by DeMaio -—and that the other coastal/canyon areas to the west remain in District 1 along with the southern part of La Jolla.
One of the charges of the Redistricting Commission — which has come under some fire for not being fairly balanced — is to “preserve the identifiable communities of interest.” That, say those backing the North City proposal, is obvious in that the school district covers Rancho Penasquitos, Rancho Bernardo, Sabre Springs, Torrey Highlands and the Black Mountain Ranch/Del Sur/Santa Luz area. It also overlaps parts of the Palomar Pomerado Health District.
On top of that, the communities are all part of the Wildland Urban Interface High Fire Hazard Zone and they have abutting natural and planning group areas, as shown in a slide presentation given to LaCava by one of the Rancho Penasquitos board members.
Other commonalities include similar adjusted gross incomes, following the requirement to have “common threads of social, economic or political interest.” They also cite common housing patterns, scouting districts and sports leagues.
One of the Rancho Penasquitos representatives attended a recent La Jolla Town Council meeting where LaCava presented his case and Midori Wong, chief of staff for the Redistricting Commission encouraged people to get involved in the process.
The RP representative buttonholed LaCava after the meeting and they realized they shared a common interest — protecting their communities’ interests.
LaCava noted, though, that he is not coordinating with the North City effort “since they have a much broader scope in their proposal.”
LaCava has also been contacted by the chair of the University City Planning Group. When he attended their meeting, he said, “the timeline sunk in.”
Because the county registrar of voters must prepare for the 2012 elections, the normal timeline for hearings and finalizing new maps has been condensed.
“It’s moving fast,” LaCava said. Normally it takes nine months from the time the census data comes in to adopting a map. This year, the maps must be finalized by August.
“We have to defend what we’re interested in,” he said. “It’s not our job to tell others.”
In fact, other proposals are being floated as well, from one that would have Tierrasanta moving from District 7 into a new district connected with Kearny Mesa, Serra Mesa and Clairemont and a “Latino” proposal for a new District 9 south of I-8.
On April 21, the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board joined the push for the coastal/canyon plan. In a letter to the commission, they voted that “two simple modifications to the current boundaries of Council District 1 will achieve the 2010 redistricting population target while meeting and exceeding the requirements of the City Charter ...” They also suggested that the Carmel Valley Planning Board be given oversight for the San Dieguito Valley subarea as well as the Via de la Valle and Fairbanks Rancho specific plan areas.
Their letter cited similar rationale to the Rancho Penasquitos group: natural boundaries, communities of interest, contiguous territories, geographically compact as well as “reasonable access between population centers.”
And last week, the Carmel Valley Planning Group voted to back LaCava’s Coast and Canyon Plan, with Chair Frisco White said it was important for the board to support a plan or risk being left in the dust without a say.
The La Jolla Historical Society has endorsed it as well, and the Bird Rock Community Council was set to consider it on May 3. It’s also on the agenda for endorsement tonight at the La Jolla Community Planning Association meeting, May 11 by the La Jolla Village Merchants Association and La Jolla Shores Association as well as the University City, Torrey Hills and Del Mar Mesa planning group meetings in the next couple of weeks.
LaCava, who wants people to pay attention to what could be considered a dull and bureaucratic matter, said he believes “the challenge at the end of the day all depends on who your council member is. It all depends on getting someone who represents your interest. “
Interested in learning more?
Go to the Council District 1 meeting
6 p.m. May 11
La Jolla Women’s Club, 715 Silverado St. (Enter on Draper Street)
La Jolla Town Council meeting
6 p.m May 12
La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St.
Midori Wong and Joe LaCava will talk about how redistricting could affect La Jolla.
To learn more go to