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Redistricting Commission looking to redraw San Diego City Council District 1

A map of the current City Council District 1 (in yellow) as it relates to the surrounding council districts
A map of the current San Diego City Council District 1 (in yellow) as it relates to the surrounding council districts
(Courtesy of the San Diego Redistricting Commission)

As the city of San Diego prepares for its next round of redistricting, could City Council District 1, which includes La Jolla, be cut in half?

The first of a series of online meetings was held Aug. 11 to provide an overview of the process and collect feedback from residents. Much of that feedback suggested moving the northernmost communities of District 1 – such as University City, Carmel Valley and UC San Diego – to District 6, its eastern neighbor. La Jolla, one suggested, could be grouped in with other coastal communities such as Pacific Beach and Point Loma.

Redistricting involves redrawing the borders of the nine San Diego City Council districts, and is done once every 10 years in accordance with federal law and the city charter.

Redistricting Commissioner Roy MacPhail explained the need for redistricting comes at the beginning of each decade, to reflect movements in population. “Our task is to use 2020 Census data to evaluate the nine existing City Council districts and to re-draw those boundary lines to make sure each district contains about one-ninth of our city’s population.” With an estimated city population of 1.54 million people, that would mean approximately 171,000 people per council district.

However, the United States Census Bureau has not yet released the exact data needed to determine population and redistrict accordingly.

“The final refined data set won’t be ready for another month,” MacPhail said, and that commissioners are tentatively working with population estimates provided by the San Diego Association of Governments from 2019.

In the coming months, a “preliminary” map will be drawn based on early feedback, and follow-up meetings will be scheduled for additional refinement. The final map must be submitted by Dec. 15.

“This will be very challenging, given we are not getting the data until September,” MacPhail said.

According to the city, council districts must be comprised of contiguous territory and made as equal in population as shown by the Census reports, and as geographically compact as possible. It also requires that the districts shall, as far as possible, be bounded by natural boundaries, street lines, and/or city boundary lines.

Council District 1 currently includes the communities of La Jolla, University City, Torrey Pines, Torrey Hills, Carmel Valley, Del Mar Mesa and Pacific Highlands Ranch.

Cynthia Suero-Gabler, a member of the Asian Pacific American Coalition, suggested creating an “Asian empowerment district” by incorporating UCSD and Carmel Valley into the current District 6, which currently includes the Convoy District, which touts itself as “among the largest Pan-Asian business districts in the United States.”

Speaking to the sometimes conflicting wants between UCSD and its students and the surrounding La Jolla community, UCSD Associated Student Body Vice President Aidan Lin said, “We demand a future when district and community leaders have the best interest of students and campus residents at heart. Many residents of District 1 look, live and advocate far differently from the average student … and stifle their voices and will to participate in civil matters. When students attempt to speak up [on issues of housing, transportation and climate plans], they are largely met with fierce opposition, which is unproductive and unhelpful to our civil discourse.”

He did not make a specific suggestion about in which council district to place UCSD.

Others echoed the suggestion of moving University City, UCSD and Carmel Valley into City Council District 6 because “the UCSD community is east not west,” one said.

Melanie Cohn, director of regional policy and government affairs for Biocom California, explained that the life sciences hub has grown into Sorrento Valley, Mira Mesa and University City, but “this district has traditionally been represented by someone from La Jolla, who has very specific interest as it relates to housing, who has not traditionally been interested in the life sciences industry. We see that through the representation of the district through the years.”

Including the current Council representative Joe LaCava, the last four Councilors for District 1 have been La Jolla residents.

One speaker from Point Loma argued La Jolla had different needs from University City and that the coastal communities should be grouped. “The coastal communities have a significantly different set of issues and problems … and we don’t feel we’re getting the same level of representation that La Jolla does. We have a lot of similar issues such as land use that requires local coastal program considerations, coastal tourism, and others. We deserve to have one representative that takes those issues seriously and understands that,” she said.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association was contacted for input on the possible redistricting, but has yet to vote on it. At its Aug. 5 meeting, LJCPA president Diane Kane said Council District 1 is about eight percent over the population that is recommended for district size. “The problem is, they don’t have final counts in various council districts,” she said, and that as numbers are released, LJCPA will take it up for further review.

The redistricting commission has monthly meetings on Zoom that are open to the public at 3 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month. Those with feedback can email comments at Redistricting2020@sandiego.gov. ◆