For its 20th birthday, Goleta is getting electoral districts.
The Goleta City Council is considering a bevy of proposed maps divvying up the four council seats in districts as opposed to the current at-large system.
The council heard proposals earlier this week and is scheduled to hold another public hearing at 4:30 tonight.
The effort to change how council members are elected began in 2017 with the city agreeing to draw a new district map in time for the November 2022 elections.
“A lot of things will be the same as they were” after redistricting, Kristy Schmidt, the assistant city manager, told the News-Press Wednesday. “Certainly from a staff standpoint, we’ve always taken direction from a majority of the city council and will continue to do so.”
“This is more of a political process than an operational process,” Ms. Schmidt added. “From the public’s point of view, it really is about representation and having perhaps a closer relationship with their representative on their council.”
The council is tasked with considering draft maps submitted as part of the community district drawing process as well as recommendations from the seven-member Public Engagement Commission. The commission has highlighted four maps: two from the demographer and two from public submissions.
The PEC recommended:
— Plan 202 with two districts crossing over Highway 101 in a minimal way. The total population deviation is only 4%. However, it does split the Lake Los Carneros North neighborhood.
— Plan 226, with a total population deviation of 4.6%, only has one district crossing over Highway 101 in a minimal way. In this map, the Storke Ranch neighborhood is split between two districts.
— Plan 701, drafted by the National Demographics Corp. is nearly identical to Plan 226 except it does not divide the Storke Ranch neighborhood. But the total population deviation is 9.2%.
— Plan 703 only has one district crossing the freeway with a total population deviation of 9.9%. This NDC proposal has all four districts meeting at the intersection of Highway 101 and Glen Annie Road.
Population deviation refers to the difference in population sizes among the districts.
During its meeting Tuesday, council members seemed inclined to use Plan 701 as a framework that could be tweaked. Plan 206 is also under consideration, and both will be up for discussion during tonight’s meeting.
“I am leaning more toward 701 mainly because of the simplicity of it. There are fewer crossings,” Mayor Paula Perotte said. “I like the idea of all of the four districts having a commercial area.”
Councilmember Kyle Richards, too, said he would like to see a map with as few crossings of Highway 101 as possible. He suggested spreading both commercial and resource areas (such as parks, community centers, etc.) among the four districts.
The council is slated to adopt a new district map in March.
According to a presentation given to the council Tuesday, districts must be drawn to include equal population — sticking to a 10% adjustment — or could be declared unconstitutional. The presentation also noted that racial gerrymandering should be avoided.
For redistricting purposes, Goleta’s population must be adjusted from the recent census data to include incarcerated individuals whose last address was Goleta. Therefore, the city council is working with a total population of 32,754, meaning each of the four districts should include about 8,188 constituents.
At the state level, California’s criteria instruct cities to draw districts in a geographically contiguous manner and avoid splitting neighborhoods or communities of interest.
Not only does the city council need to decide on district lines, but sequencing as well. Two districts will be up for election in 2022, and the other two in 2014.
Council members will be elected to serve four-year terms.
Goleta first adopted its resolution of intent in May 2017 to transition from an at-large system to by-district system by the November 2022 elections — ensuring the 2020 census data could be utilized to draw more up-to-date maps.
Last summer, Goleta held public workshops and encouraged the community to get involved in the map-drawing process. Maps had to be submitted by Jan. 6, and 51 were submitted, according to Ms. Schmidt.
All of the plans submitted by the public and demographers can be reviewed at drawgoleta.org.
Twenty-one of the submitted maps do not meet minimum legal requirements. All of those maps did not have a balanced population among the four districts.
Although population growth can be considered when drawing the new map, NDC’s Daniel Phillips cautioned council members from deviating from the 2020 census data too much or the map could be deemed unconstitutional.
Submitted proposals already have labeled the districts, but the council could change the numbering.
Due to the city’s COVID-19 restrictions, members of the public can only attend the special hearing virtually, found here: cityofgoleta.org/i-want-to/news-and-updates/government-meeting-agendas-and-videos.