Results will impact redistricting efforts
While California is set to lose a congressional seat in the House of Representatives due to sluggish population growth, the slow and steady growth Santa Barbara County saw in recent decades largely remained intact, according to the results of the 2020 census released Thursday.
According to the census results, Santa Barbara County had a population of 448,229 as of April 1, 2020. This is a population shift of about 24,300 people when compared to 2010 census data, which recorded a population of 423,895.
While additional data, such as population breakdown by age, sex and race, is still forthcoming, the small population increase largely mirrors what the census has tracked in the county in years past, said Douglas Johnson, the president of the National Demographics Corporation, a consulting firm that assists local jurisdictions with redistricting.
“Historically, much of Santa Barbara County has (seen) very slow growth,” Mr. Johnson told the News-Press on Friday. “Santa Maria and other areas of the county are exceptions to that, but the county as a whole has relatively slow growth, and now the rest of the state has kind of slowed down. It’s not necessarily that Santa Barbara is growing any faster, it’s just that the rest of the state is joining Santa Barbara in having slow growth.”
Sluggish overall growth statewide is playing out primarily in Los Angeles County, where the state is likely to lose a congressional district as a result of slow growth, and in the Bay Area, Mr. Johnson added.
The census results released Thursday will have implications both state and county-wide.
Statewide, a group called the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is preparing to redraw political boundaries for congressional, state Senate and Assembly districts. Countywide, a group of county residents on the Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission are set to draw new supervisorial district boundary lines along the Central Coast.
Though the release of the census data lagged due to COVID-19 complications, the county’s commission is still required to have the new district map drawn by the Dec. 15 deadline.
This new commission was the first in the state to be formed ahead of the redistricting process, according to Mr. Johnson, though a number of other counties have formed similar oversight bodies in recent months.
The commission will be responsible for redrawing what has long been regarded as a “controversial supervisorial district map,” according to Mr. Johnson. For months, the commission has collected input from members of the public regarding what the map should look like, and the new map has the potential to look very different, Mr. Johnson added.
“It’s likely to lead to a big change in the map,” Mr. Johnson said. “One thing that has already been said many, many times is that the current map has this very unusual linking of Goleta and Isla Vista with Guadalupe in one supervisorial district. It even carves through you know, separating Lompoc from the unincorporated communities that literally share the border. So that kind of thing is very unlikely to be drawn by an independent commission, under the fairly strict rules that the Commission has to follow, for how the lines get drawn.”
“We never know how the map will turn out until they actually draw it.”
The rules for redrawing district boundaries prioritize keeping communities together with nearby cities and ignoring where incumbent supervisors live, Mr. Johnson added.
With this year being the first time in history that the lines have been drawn by an independent group of citizens, Mr. Johnson said local residents have the chance to be involved in drawing district boundaries unlike ever before.
“Between the county Independent Commission and the new state rules for local redistricting, there is more chance for the public to participate in this process than ever before,” Mr. Johnson said. “This is going to be, for those who want this, an unprecedented chance to draw the lines themselves.”