San Dieguito begins process to adjust trustee area map

The current San Dieguito Union High School District trustee area map.

Due to population growth since the 2010 census, the San Dieguito Union High School District will need to make adjustments to its trustee area election maps using new data from the 2020 count.

The process will not be a complete draw-over from scratch, the district’s demographer will create adjusted maps for the board and public to consider before a deadline of March 1.

Once the map options have been created, they will be posted on the district website for review and comment. People will also be able to submit alternative map suggestions until Jan. 30.

Per a timeline approved by the board on Jan. 11, the board will select its final three map alternatives at a Feb. 8 special board meeting with final adoption planned for Feb. 17.

“It’s critical that this process happens in a transparent manner and that we provide plenty of opportunities for public input,” said SDUHSD Trustee Julie Bronstein, a member of the board’s redistricting committee.

Attorney Jonathan Salt assisted the district five years ago when they made the transition from at-large to a trustee area district and is helping the board again this time around.

The district underwent the process in 2017 in response to threats of costly litigation for violations of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) across the state, however, the district itself was never threatened with litigation for any violation. The CVRA prohibits the use of at-large elections of governing board members if it “impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.” That year many cities, school districts and elected bodies in California underwent the process to move away from at-large elections, including the cities of Solana Beach and Encinitas, as it is the only safe harbor provision from a CVRA claim.

According to Salt, no jurisdiction has successfully defended having at-large elections.

The Solana Beach School District began the process in 2019 when the district received a demand letter from a local attorney representing the Pacific Highlands Ranch community alleging that they were in violation of the CVRA. The district’s CVRA process was disrupted by the pandemic and the new by-trustee map approved in 2021 using 2010 census data—it is now being revisited again this year using 2020 data.

Neighboring Del Mar and Encinitas school districts remain at-large districts.

In adjusting San Dieguito’s map, the number one criteria for the district areas is that they should be of equal population, Salt said. While race cannot be used as the only criteria or predominant factor, the district’s Asian American and Hispanic/Latino pockets were taken into account as the lines were drawn in 2017: as an example, an effort was made not to divide the Asian American community in Pacific Highlands Ranch.

The ideal trustee area size for San Dieguito is 36,720 residents. Area 5, which includes Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch, has grown significantly since 2010 to 44,577 people. The area is 33% Asian American, the largest Asian American concentration in the district.

“There is a significant population in Area 5 that needs to be spread out a little bit,” Salt said, meaning the map options will shift all of the areas slightly in order to create balance without splitting up a protected class.

The composition of the citizen voting age in the district is 78% White, 9.9% Asian, 8.8% Hispanic/Latino, two or more races 1.9%, .9% Black and .1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and .3% American Indian.

Trustee Area 1, which is mainly comprised of Encinitas, has the highest percentage of Hispanic/Latino population with 15.8%, 10.9% are voting age. Trustee Area 3 (which currently includes Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe) is 13.9% Hispanic/Latino, 9.7% voting age.

The board was set to discuss the process again at its Jan. 20 board meeting. The meeting agenda posted online includes three potential map scenarios. In one early proposal, the bulk of Rancho Santa Fe moves from Area 3 with Del Mar to Area 4 with Carmel Valley and brings Del Mar into Area 3 with Solana Beach.

The new map will have no effect on attendance boundaries for schools or the district, it simply creates districts where candidates need to live to run for the board and for people to vote for them.