Redistricting plan gets tentative OK

The bulk of Templeton would remain in one supervisorial district rather than being cut down the middle by Highway 101 under a redistricting proposal tentatively backed by county supervisors on Tuesday.

Half a dozen speakers asked supervisors to “keep Templeton intact,” and the board complied, at least for now. They will make a final decision later in the year.

Under the option supervisors tentatively favored, the Templeton Community Services District and possible future community limits would remain in District 1, but the area west of Templeton, south of Highway 46, would go to District 2.

The county’s staff presented four options for redrawing the lines of the five supervisorial districts. Under the law, districts must be equal in population. The county redraws the lines every 10 years, using data included in the decennial U.S. census.

Led by Administrative Analyst Leslie A. Brown, employees from the county planning department, administrative office and clerk-recorder’s office have been working for months to redraw the lines. They have held workshops throughout the county and placed proposed maps on the county website, among other actions.

Residents of Templeton and Atascadero have taken by far the greatest interest, and they were present again Tuesday.

One speaker said he did not want Cal Poly in the same district that holds Atascadero. Under the plan viewed favorably by supervisors, the Cal Poly campus stays in District 5, but the large student housing block, with a population of 3,756, currently in District 5, shifts to District 2.

Broadly speaking, District 1 is North County; District 2 is the North Coast; District 3 is Avila Beach, Grover Beach and Pismo Beach; District 4 is South County; and District 5 is Atascadero and much of the east and northeast county.

All the districts except District 1 currently have a piece of San Luis Obispo. Under the plan tentatively adopted Tuesday, the portion of San Luis Obispo that is currently in District 4 would shift to District 3.

Frank Mecham currently represents District 1, Bruce Gibson District 2, Adam Hill District 3, Paul Teixeira District 4 and Jim Patterson District 5. Mecham, Hill and Patterson all are up for re-election next year, under the new district lines.

The problem county staff faced was to make the districts roughly equal in population. Since the last redistricting a decade ago, the populations of all five districts have grown. But some have grown faster than others — the 1st District, in North County, and the 4th District, in South County.

If the board were to make all districts equal in population, each would have 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.

Supervisors had thought about holding public hearings in September, but they might move that date up because of the swift concurrence they reached Tuesday.

The new lines will take effect Oct. 27.

Should the decisions made Tuesday hold up, thousands of voters from the 1st and 4th districts will find themselves in one of the other three the next time they vote for a county supervisor.

In addition to equal numbers, the staff considers other 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 when unavoidable.”

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, but the county staff looks at it as meaning that “the citizens of each district should share common interests and concerns.”

The county also must comply with the one-person, one-vote provision of the U.S. and California constitutions.