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S.D. Redistricting Commission hears arguments for and against keeping La Jolla’s District 1 as is

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

Some UCSD students advocate putting the university in District 6, while District 1 United hopes the boundaries stay intact.

After nine meetings centered on each of San Diego’s nine City Council districts, the city Redistricting Commission on Oct. 5 discussed themes and trends that emerged from constituents’ feedback and provided a look ahead to the next two months of the redistricting process.

Redistricting involves redrawing council district borders every 10 years to reflect movements in population, in accord with federal law and the city charter.

“Our task is to use 2020 Census data to evaluate the nine existing City Council districts and to redraw those boundary lines to make sure each district contains about one-ninth of our city’s population,” Redistricting Commissioner Roy MacPhail said.

In addition, council districts must be composed of contiguous territory and be as geographically compact as possible, according to the city. The districts also must be bounded by natural elements, street lines and/or city boundary lines as much as possible.

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

The 2020 U.S. Census data needed to proceed with redistricting procedures was released recently.

According to the data, the city of San Diego has about 1.39 million residents, so each of its nine City Council districts will need approximately 154,400 people. However, District 1 has a population of about 166,600, representing a 12.8 percent increase from the 2010 Census and almost 8 percent over the desired number.

Those who favor keeping District 1 in its current configuration have cited legal cases and opinions that state a population deviation of up to 10 percent from the desired number has historically been deemed acceptable and that District 1 is within that threshold and therefore does not need to change its boundaries to reduce its population.

However, MacPhail said that threshold is measured from the highest deviation (7.9 percent above the desired number in District 1) to the lowest (5.7 percent below in District 4).

“That means, if we left the council districts as they are, our total deviation … would be about 13.6 percent. That is well outside the 10 percent maximum limit,” he said. “There is no precise ideal deviation size, but in 2011, the deviation was around 1 to 3 percent and the total deviation was about 4.6 percent.”

During a presentation to the commission Oct. 5, member Val Hoy, representing District 1, said much of the feedback from the district centered on its relationship with District 6, its eastern neighbor. He said some comments supported keeping District 1 as it is while others supported placing UC San Diego, whose campus is in La Jolla, and some of the district’s northern communities into District 6, effectively bisecting the existing District 1.

“We heard from a number of folks that said District 1 is, as currently drawn, pretty ideal and requested we not make changes,” Hoy said, and “that there are environmental and coastal issues that bind the entire district as a ‘community of interest.’ UCSD was identified as a focal point of the district.”

Others, he said, “thought UCSD should be separated from District 1 and move to District 6. They were advocating for the student population as a community of interest. UCSD and its surroundings have a significant student population, which they felt should be part of District 6.”

Those speakers argued that the eastern parts of District 1 “were identified as having more in common with Kearney Mesa, Mira Mesa and Miramar and less in common with the coastal areas such as La Jolla,” Hoy said.

He said several suggested maps have been submitted showing how the districts could be rearranged with UCSD going to District 6.

A handful of UCSD students spoke in favor of the move.

District 1 United

The day of the meeting, District 1 United — a coalition of residents and representatives of community planning groups and environmental organizations throughout the district — submitted a 36-page position paper outlining the reasons it feels the district should be unchanged. Previously, members circulated the paper to various community advisory groups in District 1 and received letters of support from them all.

“There are multiple [communities of interest] in District 1 and various ways of assessing them,” the paper reads in part. “They include common community planning areas, common neighborhoods, common school districts and school attendance boundaries for public schools, civic and cultural associations, town councils, business improvement districts, maintenance assessment districts, community associations, employment centers and institutions, and charitable foundations that have been formed by residents to benefit specific community interests or locations. ...

“The residents have similar educational backgrounds and careers. Many of the residents work at UCSD, the large biotech and high-tech sectors in the Torrey Pines Mesa and University Towne Center areas ... and the Sorrento Valley area. … Our residents are employed in and use the medical facilities of District 1. ... In addition, our residents shop at the local and regional shopping centers which are in District 1.”

Student community

Contrarily, UCSD students who would like the university moved to District 6 also mobilized. A thread on social media encouraged students to speak at redistricting meetings and provided a link to the Redistricting Commission’s public comment page.

“When you think of La Jolla community leaders, you don’t think of students. And based off ... the local community, they don’t think of you either,” the original post read. “La Jolla is dominated primarily by people living in single-family homes who have the time, energy and resources to overshadow student organizers. ... After years of being overlooked and suppressed by La Jolla, we finally have the opportunity as students to speak up and effect change.”

The Reddit page on which the thread was posted is promoted as a forum for students, faculty, staff, alumni and others associated with UC San Diego and has almost 55,000 followers.

Going forward

In coming weeks, the Redistricting Commission will take the feedback generated at the earlier meetings and, based on the themes that emerged, create two or three preliminary maps with its consultant, Haystaq DNA.

In early November, the commission will vote on a preliminary map to submit to the city clerk. There will then be five public hearings for the city to accept feedback on the map.

On or around Dec. 15, the commission will vote on a final map to submit to the San Diego County registrar of voters.

Learn more at sandiego.gov/redistricting-commission. ◆