Thoughts on San Diego City Council Districts Being Redrawn

by on July 29, 2011 · 4 comments

in San Diego

Editor: The following re-post from our friends at Two Cathedrals was originally published there as a two-parter; here is the entire piece by Jason Everitt.
By Jason Everitt / Two Cathedrals / Part 1 Published July 25, Part 2 Published July 28, 2011

On Thursday, July 21st, the San Diego Citizen’s Redistricting Commission finalized its preliminary draft of the new council districts. We can now say a few things with confidence.

  • Todd Gloria will be moving. Gloria was drawn out of the old District 3. There was some speculation that he would stay put and run for the new 9th council district, but those rumors were put to rest on Thursday when the Councilman tweeted, “My heart is in D3 and I intend to serve it, in whatever configuration, for another four years.” John Lamb pressed him on whether that meant he would move to stay in the 3rd and Gloria replied in the affirmative. The announcement was bad news for would-be candidates who had been eyeing the solidly Democratic seat. Councilman Gloria has been a responsive and productive member of the City Council and he will be for another four years.
  • Marti Emerald will be moving too, but for different reasons.  Marti Emerald wasn’t drawn out of her 7th City Council district, but she’ll probably be moving nonetheless. The old 7th district had a Democratic voter registration advantage of 40% to 32%. The new 7th loses the College Area, City Heights, El Cerrito, Oak Park, Rolando and Redwood Village and adds parts of the Lorie Zapf’s old 6th district, most notably Mission Valley and Linda Vista. These additions and subtraction turn the Democratic-leaning district Emerald won by a razor-thin margin in 2008 into a true toss-up or potentially Republican-leaning. Her 2008 opponent, April Boling, lives in San Carlos, which is in the new 7th.The safer play might be to move south and run for the new 9th district. The district tracks relatively well with the proposed second Latino empowerment district. However, the Redistricting Commission curiously attached the College Area and surrounding neighborhoods, which could potentially curb the influence of Latino and immigrant communities in City Heights. The good news for Emerald is that northern neighborhoods in the new 9th are the southern districts of old 7th; giving her a decided advantage over any newcomer in what should be a solidly Democratic district. There’s also the added bonus of being able to serve two terms in the new district, if she was so inclined and the voters obliged. The Councilwoman is already selling her home in Tierra Santa, so the time might be right to move to the other side of the Interstate 8.
  • Districts 1 and 2 will continue to be battlegrounds. Sherri Lightner’s 1st Council district maintains most of its shape, losing only the more conservative eastern neighborhoods of Torrey Highlands, Rancho Penasquitos, and Black Mountain Ranch. Voter registration in the old 1st was a dead heat, so the new 1st should swing in favor of Democrats, but only slightly. Like Emerald, Lightner was elected by a slim margin in 2008, but she has built deep roots between her Council office and the community groups that originally propelled her to victory. She should be able to cash in that hard work in 2012, but 2016 is anybody’s game. A Democrat should already be representing the old 2nd District. Unfortunately, the 37% to 29% Democratic voter registration advantage looks better on paper than it does at the polls, as was evident in 2006 when Lorena Gonzalez lost a close race to Kevin Faulconer. A voter registration advantage of that size should be nearly impossible to overcome, but low Democratic turnout and a Faulconer fundraising advantage of more than 4-1 proved fatal. You can blame it on the low turnout from young voters in Pacific Beach or the traditional decline in voter turnout during mid-term elections. No matter how you choose to explain it, District 2 is always closer than it should be. The new map makes District 2 a true toss up. Gone are the Democratic voters in Mission Hills, Bankers Hill, Downtown, Little Italy and parts of La Jolla. Added are Morena, Bay Ho, and half of Clairemont. Not only will these new boundaries make the district more conservative, but it will also shift the political powerbase away from Downtown and into Point Loma and the beach communities. The fundraising and organizing strategy of candidates in the new District 2 will change a lot more than one might expect in response to this shift. It’ll be a toss up, but the dust still needs to settle on the new politics.
  • Districts 3, 4, 8 and 9 will be Democratic. District 5 will be Republican.
  • The Asian community is right to be upset.

The early story on redistricting was that San Diego would finally create its first Asian-American empowerment district. APAC was presenting maps when the Redistricting Commission was still having hearings on who they would hire as Chief of Staff. In an exercise in which he/she who yells the loudest and the longest, my money was on the API community to get what they want, for the most part.

So what happened? I haven’t heard a good explanation, based on the Commission decision-making criteria, for splitting Clairemont and including it in District 6 (the API empowerment district) instead of including either part of University City or Rancho Penasquitos. At best, the argument is exactly the same for each. Community leaders in all three neighborhoods argued that they were better suited for the more affluent district to their west or north. In the end, the Commission made a judgment call that neglected the API community’s population density in Rancho Penasquitos and UTC, which should have made Clairemont the last possible choice of the three. For that reason, the Asian community is right to be upset.

It very well may have come down to what Adrian Florido described as the lack of coalition building by APAC. It wasn’t enough to be the most organized and aggressive single group out of the chute, given that the final decision inevitably incorporated the interests of many. The API experience can at least serve as a cautionary tale for future communities of interest.

  • San Diego may have to suffer another Lorie Zapf campaign sooner than expected.

Lorie Zapf has been drawn out of her district and into District 2. Meanwhile, speculation is heating up that current D2 Councilmember Kevin Faulconer will jump at the new districts being drawn by the state-level redistricting commission. A win or (less likely) a resignation to campaign would leave an empty seat behind that Zapf could find tempting.

(Note:  Old District 2 lines hold until 2014, regardless of whether Faulconer stays or goes, making this scenario is increasingly less likely. Kudos to @matthedoesit for pointing that out.)

If she did make the jump to the 2nd, living on the western border of her current district may prove to be a lucky stroke. As we pointed out on Monday, drawing downtown out of D2 shifts the power back into Point Loma and the beach communities. Still, she’ll have to introduce herself to a whole new district, new community leaders, new donors, etc.

However, staying in her current district wouldn’t be that much different. She’ll not only have a frustrated and organized Asian community to deal with, a community that fought so hard for a district of their own and came up short, but she will also have to deal with the wrath of McCulloch! OK, kidding. Even though she was just barely carved out of the new 6th, the district has changed dramatically. It’s a much different situation than Todd Gloria’s ten-block shift westward. Kearny Mesa is the only community that carries over from the old 6th to the new 6th, which Zapf happened to win by an overwhelming margin in 2010.

If she moves to District 2, Democrats will no doubt relish the opportunity to send Zapf home early. For me, it’s a little bit different. I, too, would love to see someone else filling Donna Frye’s old District 6 seat. I’d also love to see a candidate come out of the beach communities in District 2 and fight for clean beaches and a clean ocean. What I can’t do is get excited about another Lincoln Club, scorched Earth campaign in either of those districts. Zapf was hardly the kind of candidate that provided the kind of vigorous debate our City deserves. Her DeMaio knock-off platform will do little for the residents of whatever district she ends up in.

No matter where she goes, there will be no “winners” based on her decision. Except maybe the voters she leaves behind.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie July 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm

If these plans take hold, it would throw OB and PL into a district with other beach communities and half of Clairemont. Despite the author’s view, this could be an overall good thing, placing the Peninsula in a district with other neighborhoods with similar interests and needs. What did OB have in common with downtown anyway?

This happened at least once before, during the mid-seventies when OB was in a beach-only district. A bunch of us formed a group called “Common Ground” and tried to organize and mobilize like-minded folk in Mission Beach and PB to back one candidate for city council. We even held a multi-community convention, and sponsored forums on local issues, including one on increasing utility bills.

In the end, we had good intentions, but couldn’t unite around one candidate. ‘Member, Jon?


OB law(yer) August 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Interesting to say the least…. the removal of the downtown, Chamber of Commerce and CCDC (City of SD’s defacto planning department) monkey from the back of the CD2 candidate could indeed change the political climate around the beach.

I’m obviously slow to get to this post….but I can’t believe it didn’t draw more discussion. This has a huge implication to the power structure of our council district (if you believe that city council still has any legitimate ability to function as the legislative representative of the people).

The beach communities, traditionally Dem in voting, still don’t “get out the vote” of all of the Gen X and younger voters that typically dominate the demographic. Therefore…it was a cakewalk for the Lincoln clubs and Point Loma Foundations to ensure their boy (KF) got into power (although just narrowly mind you). And in a special election. There was NOOOO contest in the last election as Faulconer didn’t have any real opposition that had party backing and funding (perhaps the Dems just didn’t think that CD2 was worth fighting against the downtown syndicate?).

I’m looking forward to seeing some analysis on the community level of this re-districting and to hear what the politicos pundate (is that even a word) about how the climate will alter at the beach.

Is there a staff writer working on this story????? There should be!


Sunshine July 31, 2011 at 7:54 am

i think this is the first article about whats going on in the proposed redistricting thing-a-ma-gig that i could easily understand. thanx for speaking in layman’s terms. as with all good politicle plans ~ it’s all up in the air for now. i’m certainly no political heavyweight, yet staying informed from articles like this is a good start toward understanding the bigger picture.


Dorothy Lee August 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm


Exactly. And don’t diminish what is being done to residents of Golden Hill. Keep Golden Hill part of D8 or add it to D9, either of which will best represent the interests of the majority of GH residents. Keep Kensington with D3 for the same reason.
Greater Golden Hill is a political fabrication, a planning group district that was put together to empower a few wealthy multi-property owners/developers in Golden Hill. South Park was included in the Planning District, instead of in the North Park District where it belongs, only to provide the real estate necessary to make up the right size district. Greater Golden Hill is not a real community. South Park has little in common with GH, historically, demographically, or in needs of the residents or the types of housing.
I suspect that the GGH Planning Group, who have shamelessly pushed for switching Golden Hill (south of A Street to 94) out of D8 and into D3 w/South Park, have been abetted by their friends in the CCDC. Downtown’s East Village and core is also being added, with Golden Hill, toD3. Developers and redevelopers will love it and profit from even more sway over Gloria.
Watch the GGH Planning Group speak in support of splitting off Golden Hill from D8, and recall that South Park, in Greater Golden Hill, is already in D3. You decide how you feel about their motives. (starts at about 59:12)


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