Residents have a once-a-decade opportunity to reshape political boundaries

City Heights is at the heart of competing proposals to redraw San Diego’s political boundaries, and depending on how the city’s redistricting process shakes out, residents here may find themselves voting in a new district or being represented by a new council member.

To ensure fair representation, the political landscape is realigned every ten years at the local, state and federal levels based on new demographic data released by the U.S. Census Bureau and input from residents. Over the summer, a reconfigured map for City Council elections is expected to be finalized.

The stakes are high: the new map will affect who gets elected to the City Council and which political district residents will be eligible to vote in over the next decade.

The outcome of redistricting can dramatically reshape the balance of power between various interests and influence the policy direction on everything from water and sewer rates to funding for parks and libraries. Every voter has a stake in the outcome of redistricting because the process is intended to ensure that everybody’s vote counts equally.

Anisha Dalal, who chairs the city’s Redistricting Commission, said that in drawing political boundaries, a key consideration is ensuring that communities of interest, which share a common way of life, are kept together. To figure out what those communities are, she said the commission needs to hear from residents.

“It’s so important for them to help us commissioners understand what is important to them in their neighborhoods and their communities and to give us ideas on how to best combine different neighborhoods into districts,” Dalal said.

The city’s redistricting effort carries extra significance this year because for the first time since the 1960s, a new council district will be carved out, in order to comply with Proposition D approved by city voters in June 2010. Populations will have to be shifted from the existing eight districts in order to create the ninth district, so some residents may find themselves voting in a new district in the future.

The city’s seven-member Redistricting Commission has the sole authority to adopt a new map. The commissioners are city residents selected by a panel of two retired judges, partly for their ability to represent the city’s diversity. One of the commissioners is Theresa Quiroz, a City Heights community activist.

SUBHEAD: Public participation

By law, the redistricting process must involve extensive public outreach. The city’s Redistricting Commission has been holding public hearings and meetings for months.  It has also translated materials into Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

In July, the commission plans to release a preliminary map and hold a series of public hearings on it.  Based on the feedback, changes may be made. The commission’s goal is to finalize the map in August.  So far, community groups, such as the Latino Redistricting Committee and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, have submitted a dozen redistricting proposals for the commission to consider.

Meanwhile, the public is encouraged to send in comments by phone or email and to attend commission meetings.

SUBHEAD: Redistricting is necessary because of population shifts 

One of the key reasons why redistricting has to be done every ten years is due to population shifts. Over time, political districts gain or lose residents. Their demographic profiles also change. Therefore, boundaries have to be adjusted to take into account the changes.

Between 2000 and 2010, the city’s population grew by 6.9 percent to 1,307,402 and became even more diverse. Hispanics and Asians accounted for much of the growth. Overall, Hispanics comprised 28.8 percent of the city’s residents in 2010, up from 25.4 percent in 2000. Asians made up 15.9 percent of the city’s population in 2010, up from 13.6 percent in 2000. Meanwhile, the number of blacks and non-Hispanic whites declined.

City of San Diego Total Pop Asian Black/African American White Hispanic/Latino Non-Hispanic
2000 Census 1,223,400 166,968 96,216 736,207 310,752 912,648
2010 Census 1,307,402 207, 944 87,949 769,971 376,020 931,382
Change 6.9% 25% -8.6% 4.6% 21% 2.1%