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Encinitas council seeks minimal changes in redistricting effort

Encinitas welcoming sign
The downtown Encinitas sign.
(Charlie Neuman / San Diego Union-Tribune/Zuma Pre)

Adoption of final map of voting districts planned for mid-March

Encinitas will use a “light hand” and make relatively few changes in redrawing its City Council districts to meet the latest state requirements, council members have informed the consultants handling the process.

At a recent public hearing — the third of four such events to be hosted before the redistrict process concludes this spring — council members reviewed 39 map options for redrawing the council district boundaries and said there was one that might be perfect, perhaps with a little tweaking.

What they want, they told the consultants, is to keep the current lines intact as much as possible. Currently, the city has three coastal council districts and one inland district.

“There should be small changes to the map,” said Councilman Joe Mosca, who represents District 4, which covers Olivenhain and parts of New Encinitas. “We don’t want to do any significant changes that are going to confuse the voters and confuse the residents.”

The map they selected as their finalist appears on page 69 on the city staff report ( https://encinitas.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2634&meta_id=133895), and council members took to referring to it as map “69" during their discussions. It leaves many of the current boundary lines for the city’s four council districts unchanged, except along the far eastern edges of the three coastal districts and the far western edge of the fourth district, which primarily covers the Olivenhain area. Most of the proposed reworking of the various district lines would occur near Encinitas Boulevard, Santa Fe Drive or S. El Camino Real.

Encinitas created its current district-based system for electing council members in 2017. The shift came in response to a threat-of-litigation letter from Malibu attorney Kevin Shenkman, who has sent such letters to many California cities and sued some of them, contending that the at-large election systems dilute the votes of minority voters and thus violate state law.

In 2020, the procedures for handling redistricting changed when a new state law went into effect, and Encinitas is following those regulations regarding public hearings now as it redraws its council district lines. The final version of the city’s new district boundaries is expected to be approved by the council March 9, weeks before the state deadline of April 17.

At last week’s meeting, council members asked the consultants to bring to the March meeting several variations of map “69" and said they’ll decide then which one they prefer.

Using an online tool, people had submitted 60 map options for the council to consider by the city’s deadline of Jan. 5, but a number of them had to be eliminated because they were incomplete or the populations in the proposed districts didn’t balance, National Demographics consulting company representative Shannon Kelly said.

Under state law, districts can have slightly different population figures, but the deviation figure must be below 10 percent to be considered “presumptively compliant” with Supreme Court case law.

After eliminating the ones that didn’t comply with the rules, the consultants ended up with 39 map options to put before the council last week, including three created by the consultants.

Four public speakers commented on the various redistricting proposals at last week’s council meeting and all of them urged the council to try to keep the existing district lines mostly intact with minor tweaks.

Bruce Ehlers, an Olivenhain resident and city Planning Commission member, urged the council to use a “light hand” when making changes — a phrase council members later repeated themselves as they told the consultants what to do next.


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