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Redwood City Council split over voter deferrals as members redraw district lines

More than 2,000 residents will have to wait until 2024 to vote under the new map

After nearly eight months of drafting and deliberations, Redwood City Council members voted on Monday to advance a final map to redraw the city’s district boundaries.

The motion, which favored map C3 and was proposed by Council member Lissette Espinoza-Garnica and seconded by Alicia Aguirre, passed with five votes, former mayor Diane Howard and Vice Mayor Diana Reddy dissenting.

“Thank you to my colleagues, and thank you to staff for the many, many months of work on this,” said Mayor Giselle Hale at the end of the hearing. “To the ARC and to the members of the public who participated both today and throughout the many meetings that we've had over the eight months of this process.”

The new plan divides 10 neighborhood associations, while keeping seven intact, according to the staff report. It keeps Redwood Shores in a single district and Farm Hill and Canyon in another. The map keeps portions of Eagle Hill, Central and Roosevelt together around Red Morton Park and groups portions of Woodside Plaza with Palm. The map also expands the downtown area by shifting the District B boundary from Main St. to Maple St. 

Once the final map is adopted, city staff will be responsible for filing all paperwork with the San Mateo County Elections by the state-mandated deadline of April 17 to ensure that redistricting is complete in time for the November 2022 City Council election.

Map C3 amends a previous map to include all mobile home parks along East Bayshore Road in a single district. Two maps recommended by the Advisory Redistricting Committee (ARC), as well as four publicly submitted maps, were also considered.

Nine residents, several of which expressed concern that map C3 would defer voting for constituents whose districts would change, spoke during the public comment Monday night. One of those speakers included Kaia Eakin. 

“If you adopt map C3 tonight, I and hundreds of my neighbors will not have a vote in 2022,” Eakin said, advocating for map 107465 instead. “We’ll be without a vote for a six year period from 2018 to 2024.”

Deferral is the "unavoidable result when a jurisdiction with staggered terms is redistricted,"  according to the city. Though some amount of deferral is inevitable, most jurisdictions aim to minimize the number of residents switching districts. Map C3 will cause 2,396 deferrals, while map 107465 would have resulted in 792, according to the staff report.

Rudy Espinoza Murray, who served as chair of the redistricting committee, criticized the publicly submitted maps, asking the council to defer to ARC’s map recommendations.

“When I look at maps that are being presented—like 93875, 95144, 107465—it reduces the percentage of the Latino citizen voting age population,” he said. “This is contrary to what the advisory redistricting commission voted and made as a priority.” 

Council discussed for over an hour, weighing different priorities such as minimizing change, fair representation and keeping communities of interest together.

Howard championed publicly submitted map 107465, which she said emphasized diversity and maintained communities with shared interests and concerns.

“[Map 107465] respects the true purpose of the Fair Maps Act, which I believe was to respect and acknowledge the voters’ rights and respecting those rights in our community,” she said. Howard’s motion to advance map 107465 failed with only three votes.

Reddy also voiced her support for “minimal change” map 107465, echoing some residents’ concern about vote deferrals under map C3.

“In my view, making hundreds of people wait six years to vote for city council elections is causing harm that I would like to avoid,” she said.

Espinoza-Garnica, speaking in favor of map C3, challenged the assumption that “​​minimal changes means better democracy.”

Rather than focusing on incumbency, and keeping districts with their existing representatives, Espinoza-Garnica said their goal was to expand voter populations among marginalized communities, like Latinx residents.

“I understand that we truly love our council members for the way they represent us. But it would not be fair to say that it's more democratic if there are less deferrals,” they said.“It would be more democratic to allow a greater population of marginal people to vote in this election so they're more adequately represented in these elections.

“That’s the reason we’re doing all this,” they said. “We are trying to make districts that are more representative of our community at large.”

The new map, which was created by the city’s demographer, modifies the ARC-recommended Plan C2 to incorporate the mobile home parks along East Bayshore Road into Friendly Acres. The suggestion to include the mobile homes was first raised during the public comment portion of the Jan. 24 city council meeting and supported by several council members, including Espinoza-Garnica and Howard.

Other maps discussed were Plan B and Plan C2, both of which were recommended by the Advisory Redistricting Committee (ARC) and presented to the council in December. Four publicly submitted maps, Map ID 93875, 95144, 107465 and 109246, were also considered.

All maps have a plan deviation below the 10% ceiling from the ideal population size for each district, as determined by the city, and maintain the City’s two current majority-minority districts, with a population of more than 50% Latinx residents and more than 37% Asian residents.

Redistricting, which happens every ten years, involves redrawing the boundaries of Redwood City’s seven voting districts based on new census data. The process is meant to accommodate population shifts and balance district representation among the city’s roughly 85,000 residents.




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Leah Worthington

About the Author: Leah Worthington

Leah, a Menlo Park native, joined the Redwood City Pulse in 2021. She covers everything from education and climate to housing and city government. Previously she worked as the online editor for California magazine in Berkeley and co-hosts a podcast.
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