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Supes Consider Range of New District Maps for County

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday considered three different maps of the new districts.

Existing district boundaries.
Existing district boundaries.
By Bay City News Service

Dozens of residents from around San Mateo County converged on County Center in Redwood City Tuesday to weigh in on redrawing boundaries for the county's five supervisorial districts.

The Board of Supervisors considered three different maps of the new districts, each of which propose dividing some cities between districts in order to comply with federal districting laws that require population parity.

Each of the three plans drew criticism from the public, prompting the supervisors to propose slight "tweaks" to some of the proposals and delay a decision on the final boundaries until their next meeting in two weeks.

Supervisor Adrienne Tissier said her office had recently been flooded with calls from residents of San Mateo -- the county's second largest city -- complaining that the primary plan recommended by a nine-member District Lines Advisory Committee suggested dividing about 15 percent of the city between District 1 and District 2.

San Mateo lies entirely within District 2 under current boundary lines.

"Everyone wants to be whole," Tissier said. "Someone's going to walk away unhappy."

Since November 2012, when San Mateo County voters approved by nearly 60 percent a measure that changed countywide supervisorial elections to a by-district system, the District Lines Advisory Committee held 10 well-attended meetings in communities across the Peninsula.

The committee members -- which included Tissier -- heard hours of testimony from residents and collected hundreds of emails, letters and comments through a special website set up for the redistricting project.

The committee pored over 30 different district map proposals that took into consideration the county's topography, geography, population, and location of minority neighborhoods.

The committee voted to recommend one map, called "Community Unity 4", but also presented the Board of Supervisors with two other options, "Equity" and "Nakamura 1G."

South San Francisco Mayor Pedro Gonzalez urged the board to adopt the Equity map, because it divides the "burden of city splits" between six cities; Belmont, Menlo Park, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo and South San Francisco.

South San Francisco is currently divided roughly half way between two districts, thereby diluting the political power of the county's fourth largest city in electing a supervisor in future elections, City Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto said. Under the Equity map proposal, no city would be divided by more than 25 percent.

Menlo Park City Councilwoman Kirsten Keith asked that the board reconsider all of the proposed maps, because each contains a division of her city between two districts.

"All three of your proposals divide us and we don't want to see that happen," Keith said. Under the current map, Menlo Park -- the county's seventh largest city -- lies entirely within District 4.

After dozens of speakers voiced preferences for proposed maps on behalf of their respective communities, Supervisor Dave Pine reminded the public that the switch to district elections will ultimately benefit all communities, empowering local populations defined by different races and cultural characteristics to elect their own representatives.

San Mateo County had been sued by voters' rights groups on the grounds that countywide elections were unfair to the county's minority populations, a suit that was dropped when the by-district system was approved by voters last year.

"It's already important to realize that we've made a monumental change," Pine said. He also said he was not prepared to vote on a single map today, needing more time to weigh the concerns of his constituents in District 1, which stretches from South San Francisco to Hillsborough.

"In my own district, I have the north part arguing for the Equity map," Pine said. "On the other hand, I have other parts of my district who would be very uncomfortable with that outcome."

The Board is expected to make a final vote establishing new district boundaries at a meeting on Oct. 22. Anyone who wishes to submit an opinion can do so online at www.smcdistrictcommittee.org.

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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