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New proposed maps show UCSD question is a key to San Diego redistricting possibilities

Students walk on the UC San Diego campus.
Students walk on the UC San Diego campus, where some are proposing moving the university from the City Council district that includes La Jolla to another, more heavily Asian, district as part of a once-in-a-decade redistricting process.
(Gary Robbins / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Will UC San Diego remain in District 1 — which includes La Jolla — or be shifted into a heavily Asian district?

Proposed maps unveiled this week show San Diego’s once-a-decade effort to redraw City Council district boundaries will be focused on UC San Diego and several other areas facing possible changes.

Four proposed boundary maps created by a city-hired demographer show the key to the process will be whether UCSD remains in District 1 — which includes La Jolla, where the campus is located — or gets shifted into a heavily Asian district.

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

That decision will help shape the entire process, including whether Carmel Valley stays connected to coastal areas or Clairemont gets chopped up.

A nine-member volunteer Redistricting Commission overseeing the process is scheduled to select one of the four proposed maps Nov. 15 or possibly create a hybrid version. After gathering feedback, the panel is slated to take a final vote Dec. 15.

The panel will begin the process of gathering feedback with a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, on Zoom (sandiego.zoomgov.com/j/1614685604) and by phone at (669) 254-5252 (webinar 1614685604).

Four options unveiled for city of San Diego redistricting

Key uncertainties are in University City, Clairemont and Carmel Valley, which face significantly different fates based on how the panel decides the UCSD question.

If UCSD is severed politically from La Jolla — a move supported by a vocal group of students — major changes must take place in north coastal District 1 and north central District 6.

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

District 6, represented by Councilman Chris Cate, currently includes the neighborhoods of Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, Rancho Peñasquitos and Sorrento Valley.

On one map, Clairemont would leave District 6 and join up with La Jolla in a radically different District 1. On two other maps, Clairemont would be split between Districts 1 and 7. And on a fourth map, the neighborhood would be split between Districts 6 and 7.

Two of the maps would send University City from District 1 to 6 along with UCSD, but two others would divide the community at La Jolla Village Drive between Districts 1 and 6.

Carmel Valley would either remain in District 1 or move to District 6.

The proposal to shift UCSD away from District 1 is strongly opposed by many La Jolla community leaders, who point to their longtime ties with the university and geographic connections created by canyons and wildlife reserves in the area.

Some students at UCSD, where Asians are the largest ethnic group at 29 percent, say they want a heavily Asian council district. They contend they have more in common with inland areas than with high-income La Jolla.

Each of the three maps where UCSD would be separated from District 1 would result in a council district where Asians make up more than 40 percent of the population. On the map where UCSD stays in District 1, the district with the highest Asian population would be 32.5 percent.

Data from the 2020 U.S. Census show there have been large enough population shifts since 2011 to require significant changes to the boundaries of San Diego’s nine council districts.

The Redistricting Commission is tasked with using the census data to evaluate the council districts and redraw the boundary lines to make sure each district contains about one-ninth of the city’s population.

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

If the lines were left alone, the total difference between the highest deviation related to the desired number (7.9 percent above in District 1) and the lowest (5.7 percent below in District 4), is 13.6 percent, according to
Redistricting Commissioner Roy MacPhail.

The total difference must be a maximum of 10 percent, MacPhail said. The last time San Diego drew its boundaries, it was about 4.6 percent.

Each of the four maps unveiled this week has a differential of less than 3.1 percent.

For details on the boundary drawing process and to contribute feedback, visit the Redistricting Commission website, sandiego.gov/redistricting-commission.

— La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.