KUSI-TV investigates possible political Bias in Redrawing of SD City Council Districts — A New map would apply for a Decade.

Jim Sills Jim Sills 37 Comments


“It’s  Deja Vu all over again”  baseball’s  Yogi Berra once said, and tonight KUSI-TV news hints that could be happening with redrawing of San Diego City Council districts. You can see KUSI’s lengthy story here.  Political bias in the process was supposed to have ended in 1992 when voters approved an “independent” commission to do the job, but KUSI asks whether that old problem has returned.

……….Here is KUSI’s summary of the situation:

“Seven largely unknown San Diegans have been quietly re-mapping the political landscape of the city, and in the process they will carve out a new 9th City Council district. It’s called “redistricting,” and its history in this city is filled with controversy.

Twenty years ago the City Council gerrymandered a district so Bob Filner didn’t have to change his residence, and a fight over the boundary for District 5 led to the recall of another council member. Then, ten years later, City Heights was split up into three council districts. This time around we have what is supposed to be an independent, non-partisan commission. But is it truly independent and nonpartisan?”



………..The Last Remap Fight (1991) and Recall of a Councilwoman

The last major fight over SD Council redistricting led to the recall of then-Councilwoman Linda Bernhardt in 1991 when she voted for a map seen by many as a liberal gerrymander.  After her defeat (by a 72% majority), the proposed map was repealed by the City Council.  It was the first successful SD Council recall since 1917.


Comments 37

  1. The Last map pretty rigorously (except for the mid-city split but that was probably inevitable given the HUGE population in the MC CPA) held to boundaries of community planning areas. D5/D1 are great examples – almost perfectly aligning with the CPAs. If you want an easy benchmark for how partisan (or not) it is take a look whether the proposed maps released this summer stick close to those boundaries or split numerous CPAs in half.

  2. Really Excellent analysis by Erik. Thank you for posting !

    The ‘last map’ was done back in 2001, and the CPAs
    mentioned are the ‘community planning areas’.

  3. Jim. THANKS for clarifying. For those unfamilair with the City of San Diego, Community planning areas generally follow the boundaries of either planned communities (e.g. Rancho Bernardo or Carmel Mountain Ranch) or decade_S_ long geographic divisions (La Jolla, Clairemont, Mission Vallyey). You can find a map of them on the City’s web site.

    Indeed, given the policy sphere of land use, the most obvious and important “community of interest” that map drawers SHOULD use is CPAs. From there tweak at the margins to get the right numbers

    In addition to the left-right split the most interesting redistricting challenges includ the existing District 5 – which needs to lose population. What makes it “fun” is that leaders in the community on the district’s current southern border (Scripps Ranch) will LOATH to be split away from other affluent I-15 neighborhoods. Excpect them to go ballistic if, for example, they are put into a new D7. Other “fun with boundary” fights are coming in D1, which also is “too big” and the looming battle between University City and Carmel Valley as to who stays and who is split from La Jolla.

    Further to the South, Redistricting wonks are going to be watching whether Hillcrest/North Park do or do not stay together…..something that the LGBT community is pusshing for but wich will increase pressure to split other communities (such as mission valley or Clairemont to keep things balance.

    For those really in the weeds, we are watching the Mitz Lee/Asian Business Association efforts. One of the restrictions on redistricting is that map drawers have to be concerned about spliting ethnic communities and thus “diluting” their strength. Not clear that Lee et. al. would sue but if this is the third map that divided Rancho Penasquitos and Mira Mesa it is probably a pretty solid challenge on Voting Right Act grounds since those communities share a ton of other characteristics that would recommend them to be put into the same council district. Readers should note that even then it would not be a majority Asian and Pacific Isleland district, only that the two communities with the largest concentraion of APIs would no longer be split.

    Finally, there are some givens. D4 will remain largely unchanged (see above but subsitute african american community for API in discussion of VRA) and I doubt D8 CAN change that much as Otay needs to be grouped with SOMETHING and it would stretch the limits of credibility to group it with anything other than barrio Logan and the communities at the core of D8.

    Assume what we have today is 1 solid GOP seat (5); four competitive (1, 6,7 2) and 3 Dems (3,4,8). Given requirements of contigious districts and the robust relative growth in the North as opposed to everywhere else I am just not seeing a fundamentally altered landscape. Without REALLY horrid gerrymanders (like trying to get Point Loma and La Jolla and Carmel Valley into the same district or trying to link RB to Teirrasant to Navajo) I am not seeing a fundamental shift (though I have heard rumors that people have seen maps that could lead to a fundamental shift…but they were unable to describe the boundaries of the potential districts) Conservative voters are concentrated into too many geographically dispersed neigyhtborhoods to make it that easy to concentrate them into 1 or 2 districts so you have Ds dispersed into others.

    In a lot of ways I HOPE that the left tries this, because it will anger the community leaders who really don’t care about ideology but are going to be PO’ed beyond extreme if the maps challenge deeply held views about who they are (and are not). For example, I really really really hope the left is so dumb they try put La Jolla and Pacific beach together or put Scripps and Mira Mesa together without RB. The fur will be a flying and conservatives would be right to point out that this shows just how power hungry the other side is that it would be willing to ignore DECADES of community interests and ideals at the expense of partisan warfare.;-)

  4. Erik,

    Exactly what do Mira Mesa and Rancho Penasquitos have in common besides large Asian populations? They are in different hospital districts, different school districts, different youth sports leagues, different planning group areas and are separated by the Penasquitos Preserve.

  5. Erik:

    Clearly, Rostra will look for your continuing input when
    the draft city council maps are presented!

    And you are right, Mitz Lee is not to be underestimated.
    She is a Human Dynamo.

  6. Mira Mesa and RP SHARE the watershed of the preserve. They are served by the Same police substation and fire stations frequently cross the preserve to make calls on either side. A reasonibly large share of both populations work in the Sorrento Mesa Community, making them both keenly interested in the infrastructure (Black Moutain Road, MM Blvd) that supports that commute. They both have Facility Benefit Assessment Areas/Development Impact Fees financing systems in place to pay for things like parks and libraries. They both have community wide MADS. All of these are policy areas where the CITY matters.

    If districts and sports leagues were all that mattered than you would argue that SR and Tierrasanta are a lot more in common than SR and RB. Go argue that at the Scripps Ranch Association and let me know how that works out for you 😉 While I would agree with an arguement that RP and RB probably share MORE in common, the problem with THAT map is that D5 comes up short, needing only PART of one of the surrounding communities, requiring SR or CV to be split essentially in half. The numbers work much better if you start a new 9th by putting MM and RP together.

    We also are trying to see if there is a robust level of “internal migration” as people move from MM to RP as they move up . What we are still working on is whether the observed migration is somehow higher than other “paired” communities – such as UC to La Jolla).

  7. I think that Penasquitos is part of PPH. MM is not part of any health care district. But that is a slippery slope. URBAN healthcare districts are a bit of an anachrochism. There is nothing that prohibits a MM person from getting a referral to PPH by their Dr. Network of Choice. You could as easily argue that PR and CMR belong with La Jolla given the large presence that Scripps, Sharp, and UCsD have in the community with large outpatient clinics making referrals to those coastal hospitals.

    Does anyone know how many the “andy berg” proposed “Poway” district is over/under in respect? That would essentially put PR, RB and Carmel Mountain Ranch in one district – following the school district boundaries. The biggest problem that I see with that is that SCR would go with MM and Teirransanta and while that works for schools, it is going to cause hell to pay once SR figures out just how much they are going to be slighted in such a district. It also puts the new 9th somewhere, probably making for a SLIGHTLY more Democratic council.

  8. Erik, it was more of an off-the-cuff question to what I viewed as an off-the-cuff remark by Alger, in that Mira Mesa is not part of a hospital district, so yes of course it’s not in the same one as Penasquitos. But, point well taken, that defining communities’ similarities based on what health care district they are in is a first for us. School districts? — Yes.

  9. Could someone explain for the readers what “the ‘andy berg’ proposed ‘Poway’ district” is?

  10. From Twitter…

    From: @TonyKrvaric
    Sent: Apr 19, 2011 11:50a
    #hidefail @empowersandiego tries hiding VP Quiroz’ involvement. Website before/after: http://ow.ly/d/dZn but missed this: http://ow.ly/4DBSL

    From: @TonyKrvaric
    Sent: Apr 19, 2011 12:36p
    The partisan breakdown of @empowersandiego’s candidates. Their ED could hardly keep a straight face. http://ow.ly/i/azQ1 #unionfrontgroup

  11. Erik,

    Mira Mesa and Rancho Penasquitos have different fire stations and many fire stations cross into other areas to make calls; that is why it took nine minutes for an emergency response in Mira Mesa even though the station was practically next door – the engine was responding to a call in Scripps Ranch.

    The Northeastern Police Station covers too many communities to be in one Council district.

    Many areas have Maintenance Assessment Districts and Facility Benefit funds. Rancho Penasquitos’ and Mira Mesa’s are separate.

    Anachronism or not, Rancho Penasquitos as well as some of the communities to the north and west are serviced by the Palomar Pomerado Health District; Mira Mesa is not.

    Sounds like your argument is that there will be “hell to pay” if Scripps Ranch is not happy with the redistricting. I guess I must have missed the memo that made that the deciding factor.

  12. I am not sure what an “andy berg” proposed “Poway” district is, but there is a “North City Proposal” that is being spearheaded by the Rancho Penasquitos Town Council and the Rancho Penasquitos Planning Board.

    In the proposal, District 5 consists of Ranch Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Torrey Highlands, Black Mountain Ranch, Sabre Springs, Carmel Mountain Ranch, San Pasqual and most of Scripps Ranch.

    None of the districts in the proposal are more than 0.4% off of the optimum population number. In the proposal, Scripps Ranch is split into two districts, but Scripps Ranch is currently split into two districts.

    It should also be noted, that this proposal also creates a District 9 that is more than 30% Asian Pacific Islander.

  13. Watch out, Erik, he’s about to bring out the Spanish Land Grant maps to prove that King Phllip II of Spain insisted that Rancho Penasquitos be forever kept separate from Mira Mesa.

  14. Thanks to Andy Berg for clarifying that even he doesn’t know what the “Andy Berg proposal” is, unless it’s named for him without his knowledge. Erik, where did you come up with that name?

  15. Andy Berg. Scripps Ranch is NOT split up. There is Stonebridge, a new development that is not part of the Scripps Ranch Civic Association or either of the planning groups in Scripps Ranch.

    Stonebridge is part of District 7 (Emerald), while Scripps Ranch in its entirety is in District 5 (DeMaio).

  16. By way of background for those who don’t know, its called the “Andy Berg proposal” because Mr. Berg is a local union leader.

    Andy – Can you please provide more information from where this Asian District would have 30% without PQ. Just curious, thanks.

  17. Bill,

    Where to start?

    How about with the fact that I am not a union leader; I am not nor have I ever even been a member of any union. I work for a management association and in fact, it is my job to negotiate on the opposite side of the table from the labor leaders. If you are confused, it is probably because I don’t view my members’ employees as the competition. Since we have real day-to-day competition from non-members, we like to think of our employees as part of the team.

    My day job certainly has nothing to with the North City Proposal anyway. Perhaps the confusion is that I am currently the President of the Rancho Penasquitos Town Council and this proposal emanated from a subcommittee of the Town Council. Again, I was not a part of that subcommittee, although if I could, I would take credit for their proposal. I believe it fits every criteria that the Redistricting Commission laid out and is probably usable as is.

    Finally, ask members of the Scripps Ranch Town Council if they consider Stonebridge part of their community. As for the proposed District 5, when you combine Mira Mesa and Linda Vista among others, you end up with a population that is approximately 31% Asian Pacific Islander. If you want to see the plan, send me an e-mail; I am sure you know how to reach me.

  18. Andy, thanks, we had no doubt you would be responding to the union leader thing on your own.

  19. Stoneridge might be THOUGHT of as Scripps Ranch but it is a seperate facility benefit assessment district.

    Conservatives should be concerned about the RP town council plan. My back of the envelop efforts show that it creates a HEAVY concentration of Republican voters, which gives the best “skew” the liberals can hope for.

    Putting Linda Vista and MM together didn’t work under 2001 map and doesn’t work today. Why? Because one is a redvelopment neighborhood (LV) while the other finances its improvements with Facility Benefit assessments. It requires staff expertise that is split. Plus who will REALLY get screwed in this is the engine of the region’s growth – Sorrento Mesa, which will find itself with a councilmember unfocused on its transportaiton needs.

    This comes down to pure snobbery. SOME of those living in RP fail to realize the close ties between the communities. Too bad. If they asked their neighbors they might find that many used to live in MM and many more commute to Sorrento every day.

    Prinicipally the ONLY thing that divides RP and MM are issues outside the jurisidcition of the city – PUSD and the Hospital district =- which apparently doesn’t matter because they are reaching into Torrey Highlands and west to get the population they need.

    To the commentartor above, while FBAs are common they are largely confined to present D1 and D5. D8 has them present in Ocean Hills down in Otay. D7 has stonebridge. Making sure the administration doesn’t play dirty pool with them is time consuming and an important council job. MM’s is one of the biggest. It needs focus and thus why it makes sense to put RP and MM together.

  20. Combining Linda Vista with Mira Mesa and anything in D5 is nothing short of extreme gerrymandering.

    You’d have to reach all the way south to combine Linda Vista with the northern Asian populations.

    That may make sense when trying to put an ethnic community together, but it would split other communities and make zero sense geographically.

  21. TWM – Agreed. But they have to do it (put MM and Linda Vista togeter) so that they can keep MM and RP apart. D1 and D5 have to “lose” significant population. The obvious solution (except to the RP town council) is for D1 to lose RP; D5 to lose MM and then combine those communities into the core of the 9th. D5 would have to likely reach down and pick up Tierrasanta if D1 ends at Birdrock. If D1 were to stretch further south, D5 could reach across BM and pick up some of the population in Torrey Highlands/Black Mountain Ranch.

    This isn’t partisan nor ethnic. I have had the pleasure of living now 13 of my 24 years in San Diego in either MM, RP or 4S Ranch (RP north). The connections in the communities are crystal clear.

  22. Wow! Doesn’t anyone work around here?

    Too many comments to respond to, and frankly some don’t merit a response anyway (snobbery?). I will try to make two points:

    1. Look at the map in the North City Proposal (I listed the District 5 communities above) and compare it to the current district 5 – Now tell me honestly which one looks gerrymandered.

    2. I think you need to go onto the Redistricting Commissions’ web site and read what is and is not criteria being used to draw the new map. There is nothing mentioned about FBA’s or MADS. What is listed as the top criteria is that the districts have equal populations (that pesky Constitutional requirement of one person – one vote ); The current APAC proposal (I am sure they will modify it) has a difference of more than 25,000 residents from their most populated district to their least populated one. The North City proposal has a high to low difference of just over 100 residents.

    You can read the other criteria and you will find that the North City proposals meets every one of them. I will make one other comment because someone mentioned Torrey Highlands – My daughter goes to Westview High School, commonly referred to as a PQ school but actually it is in Torrey Highlands. Torrey Highlands is also part of the Rancho Penasquitos Planning Area as is Black Mountain Ranch Would it make sense for that school and those communities to be in a district different from PQ?

  23. One more comment:

    In an earlier post, Erik stated that “The Last map pretty rigorously (except for the mid-city split but that was probably inevitable given the HUGE population in the MC CPA) held to boundaries of community planning areas.”

    This is not exactly true as there are currently 14 Community Planning Areas (not counting Scripps Ranch) that are in two or more City Council Districts

  24. OK, OK… let me break up the Border War here for just a Minute,
    would you please! Here are Your North City TRIVIA QUESTIONS
    on this vital subject::

    (1) Who was the last Scripps Ranch resident to serve on
    the San Diego City Council?

    (2) Who was the last Penasquitos resident to be a San
    Diego City Council member?

    ====== Jeopardy theme music now playing ======

  25. Jim,

    I don’t know the answer to your question and I can tell you that it is not relevant as far as the Rancho Penasquitos Town Council is concerned. Our last three representatives have been from La Jolla and each has done a good job representing most of our interests. Where we have lacked adequate representation has been in working together with the Poway Unified School District because no City Council District has ever been majority-PUSD residents.

    Most of the people in PQ and the surrounding communities moved here because of the school district; it and all of the youth activities is quite simply what makes our communities what they are. It doesn’t matter from where the Council Rep is; the important part is what the majority of the district’s residents have in common. For us, that commonality is our children and our school district.

  26. 1) Re MADS and FBAs – So you are trying to argue that in the things the Council actually DOES it isn’t smart to try to create council districts that share common challenges? The charter and implementing statute refers to “community of interest” as well as compliance with voting rights act (where I think your map gets killed because I don’t think legally the city can split the API community for a THIRD decade in a row. God to get THAT one on a contingency basis).

    2) As a proud parent of PUSD kids and a spouse who teaches there I appreciate your concern. I would think it far more important that we get some representation from the City of San DIego portions of the district on the BOARD (currently and still all Poway – and North Poway at that) before we really lose sleep about the fact that City Councilmembers have multiple school districts in their districts. PLUS, under strong Mayor it isn’t at all clear that the key school-city issues (joint use policies, opportunities for collaboration on safety) are going to be driven by a councilmember. We need to get the MAYOR focused on the second biggest district for SD kids a lot more than 1 councilmember (1 of which, Carl, pays a decent amount of attention to PUSD since it is CLOSE to majority for his district)

    3) Linda B was the last scripps Ranch residentl. Karen McElliot was the presumptive winner (and SR resident) until Brian M. showed that walking still matters. I BELIEVE that MM Fred S lived in MM in the 1980s.

    4) I am not suporting the APAC map (which I have not seen). Just logically makes sense that if D1 and D5 need to lose population to be “even” that you put MM and RP together in the new 9th and then shift D1 and D5 southward a bit to pick up whatever they need to balance. It disrupts few other districts (D1, D5 and likely D7 by losing TS). Not saying the current districts are perfect but generally compact and they follow reasonible geographic boundaries. the North City Plan map isn’t avaliable on line on the RP TC web site to compare and thus opine on whose ox would be gored.

    5) I think grouping MM and Linda Vista together is a horrid idea. It didn’t work when that was Barbara’s district and won’t work now. And yet, that is the only district that makes sense if you carve out a district comprised of the PUSD and leave D1 with Carmel Valley, La Jolla and UC. As you know, when Carmel Valley was presented with an idea that they would be split from La Jolla they went – well ballistic is an understatement.

    6) The City has “More than 50 Community Planning Areas (http://www.sandiego.gov/planning/community/cpg/areas.shtml). If only 14 out of 50 are split that is a pretty damm good average for redistricting. I would guess that you could count on 1 hand the number of CPAs that have more than 15% of their population split into a second district – MidCity being the biggest one for reasons noted above (both dense and large)

    7) And for those not in the weed this is a pretty simple dispute. I think MM shouldn’t be dilluted again. it is big. It is home to, if not the key one of the key drivers of our economic prosperity (the tech companies on Sorrento Mesa). There is a significant commute pressure on city streets East and West from the communities of MM and RP to it. The last 2 maps created strong incentives to “ignore” it (with the center of political power residing in RB). It slightly poorer and more diverse than its surrounding neighborhoods. It is home to more than 75K San Diegans – many which are member of our nation’s armed forces. It shouldn’t be dilluted in voice and the easiest way to do that is to make it the center of a new 9th.

    Again, pure and expected snobbery from CERTAIN of the RP and SCR contingent to try to not be part of a district where MM is the largest gorilla.

  27. Eric,

    Except for your fascination with the word “snobbery,” I appreciate that you have toned down the rhetoric. In return I will try to respond to each of your points.

    1. I am not the one that decided on the criteria. Our subcommittee simply followed the rules as laid out in the Commissions’ By-Laws, Charter and PowerPoint presentation. As for the Voting Rights Act, it also states that race cannot be the only or even the determining factor. That being said, the North City Proposal still creates a district that is more than 31% API. By way of comparison, combining PQ and MM would create a district that was 38% API; District 4 is 18.8% African-American.

    2. The City Council is still responsible for land-use decisions, and for most projects council members defer to the member whose district the project is in. I do, however, agree it would be nice if the Mayor would care about PUSD also.

    4. Speaking of geographic boundaries, the North City Proposal creates a District 5 which ends at the City limits to the north and east, ends at the Penasquitos Preserve (PQ and MM are on opposite sides of this rather large geographic boundary) to the South and simply can’t go any farther west without going over the population limit.

    The APAC map creates a d 9th District with PQ, MM, MCAS and Kearny Mesa. It is still too low on population and is also way over in other districts. Without splitting many communities, there is no way to put PQ and MM in the same district knowing that the #1 priority of the Commission is to equalize the population of each district.

    5. The North City Proposal has Carmel Valley in D1 with La Jolla.

    6. The City has closer to 70 planning areas and you are correct that less than 10 have more than 15% in a second council district. However, I wasn’t the one who made such a big deal over the potential of Scripps Ranch being in two districts; I know there will always be some communities broken up. In fact, the Penasquitos Planning Area is currently split in two. The North City Proposal actually has less of those splits than currently exists.

    7. Putting Mira Mesa with Kearny Mesa, MCAS, Serra Mesa and Linda Vista does make Mira Mesa the 800-pound gorilla in that district. They will no longer be overshadowed by Scripps and Rancho Bernardo. As for traffic patterns, most residents of PQ take the 56 to travel East-West while most in Mira Mesa would take Mira Mesa Boulevard.

    Thank your spouse for me; it is quite possible she has taught one of my children.

    One last point: The current D5 does, and a new D5 would, look completely gerrymandered without that piece in the middle, PQ. In fact, the current D5 is barely contiguous.

  28. 1) The charter states

    “To the extent it is practical to do so, districts shall: preserve identifiable communities of interest; be geographically compact-populous contiguous territory shall not be bypassed to reach distant populous areas; be composed of whole census units as developed by the United States Bureau of the Census; be composed of contiguous territory with reasonable access between population centers in the district, and not be drawn for the purpose of advantaging or protecting incumbents”

    1) Community of interest is undefined. So I don’t know why you are putting a school district and not MAD/FBAs in.

    2) I think that joint use and greater cooperation rise above land use. But I think an agree to disagree about who would be important in a future hypothetical.

    5) There must be TWO North City maps out there. The one I just saw which tries to keep D1 the same except for RP is a gerrymandered mess with really screwy things all over the central part of the county. Do you have a link to your Town COuncil supported map?

    6) Linda Vista and MM are just distinctly different communtiies with almost no common interests. It isn’t geopgraphically compact.,

    Oh well..enough fun with maps. Lets be both glad we have real jobs and don’t have to ponder too much the putting together of puzzle pieces

  29. Welll…..

    One thing that should be easy to check is to ensure that they are in compliance with the requirement that

    “Each member of the Commission shall be registered to vote in The City of San Diego.”

    If someone took a job in LA and MOVED then shouldn’t they re-register?

    Michael Rosen actually raises an interesting point….that SOMEONE (Lincoln Club? Chamber? Taxpayers?) should propose some clarifying language for 2020. Probably need to ensure that out of the 7 there is balance between partisan affiliation. One could exclude those that have donated to campaigns in the past. Might suggest the ED comes from the clerk’s office – either as a loaner or hired by the clerk.

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