Templeton residents challenge redistricting

While most residents have paid little attention to redistricting of county supervisory districts to date, the folks in Templeton and Atascadero have been fighting hard for their version of how they want their district drawn.

A report from the county’s redistricting staff to the Board of Supervisors says that only five people submitted suggestions after viewing the tentative maps that are posted on the county’s website.

However, when the county held a public workshop in Atascadero, some three dozen people showed up, many of them seeking to ensure that Templeton remains in one district.

The supervisors on Tuesday will take their first formal look at proposals drafted by their staff. They will hold public hearings Sept. 13 and Sept. 27, making a final decision on the new boundaries on the latter date. The new lines will take effect Oct. 27.

Under the law, supervisory districts must be equal in population. The county redraws the lines every 10 years, using data included in the decennial U.S. census.

Since the last redistricting a decade ago, the population of all five districts has grown. But some have grown faster than others — the 1st, which is in North County, and the 4th, in South County.

To make all the districts equal in population, each would need 52,438 residents. Currently, the 1st District is over that number by 5,560 and the 4th District by 2,948. The other three districts are short.

Those figures mean that thousands of voters from the 1st and 4th districts are likely to find themselves in one of the other three the next time they vote for a county supervisor.

The composition of the board and its collective stance on land-use matters could change.

Currently, the board has a three-vote majority — Adam Hill, Jim Patterson and Bruce Gibson — that is, broadly speaking, in favor of slower growth. They replaced a 3-2 board majority that was more amenable to growth.

Hill, who represents the 3rd District, and Patterson, who represents the 5th, are up for re-election next year. Should one or both of them lose to a more pro-growth candidate, that candidate could, in theory, join Frank Mecham of the 1st and Paul Teixeira of the 4th in a return to a pro-growth board. Mecham also must run for re-election next year.

The county staff is not concerned about the politics of redistricting. It is seeking to follow the law, whose primary goal is to make the five districts roughly equal in population.

The staff considers several factors in recommending how to draw the lines, including topography, cohesiveness and contiguity, which means each district should be a single mass rather than “multiple unconnected areas.”

The staff also seeks to ensure that neighborhoods and cities “should not be divided into separate districts.”

Perhaps the most nebulous goal, and one that has also vexed the state commission on redistricting, is the one that calls for districts to maintain a “community of interest.” That is a subjective term; the county staff looks at it as meaning that “the citizens of each district should share common interests and concerns.”

County staffers from the Administration Office and the Planning Department have been working on the maps for six months, and have held workshops around the county. They have scheduled one for the Paso Robles City Council on Tuesday night, the same day they go before the county Board of Supervisors.

They will present four scenarios to the board. Supervisors can eliminate or change the scenarios, or bring forth their own.

Some of the highlights found in one or more scenarios:

 Shifting the southeast corner of San Luis Obispo from the 4th to the 3rd.

 Moving the entire Cal Poly campus to the 5th, including the new Cal Poly housing block that is currently in the 2nd.

 Moving some of the Cal Poly student population away from the 5th District.

 Dividing Templeton at Highway 101 or, conversely, keeping it intact.

 Keeping the 5th entirely north of the Cuesta Grade. Currently it loops down into San Luis Obispo.

One of the proposals was developed with Bill Palfrey, a member of the Templeton Area Advisory Group, at his request.