Yielding to pleas from two dozen Templeton residents, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday tentatively redrew its proposed new supervisory district boundaries in a way that would keep residents of the unincorporated community’s southwest area from being shifted to a coastal district.
The move would allow the North County community to “remain whole,” as many speakers described it, in District 1. However, it would increase population inequality among districts, giving District 1 in the North County roughly 2,000 more residents than District 2 along the North Coast.
Under the plan tentatively adopted Tuesday, the North Coast would have 51,398 and the North County 53,287.The variance is 4.31 percent, a number the board can live with legally. It had sought, however, to keep the disparity at less than 3 percent.
The board will have two more meetings on redistricting. It must adopt a plan by Nov. 1.
The rejiggering of county supervisory districts takes place every 10 years, after the U.S. census. Its chief but not only goal is to make districts equal in population.
In the eight months the county staff has been working on the new boundaries, it has held two public hearings, given presentations in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, held workshops throughout the county, and placed proposed maps on the county website, among other actions.
At an August meeting, supervisors tentatively adopted what they believed at the time would be their final plan. But people from Templeton continued to protest and many showed up Tuesday to make their case.
Their chief argument was that the lines tentatively approved in August would “split the town,” as resident Marie Roth put it.
However, there was disagreement over what “the town” really is. The county had already made adjustments from earlier proposals in a way that kept the community services district and downtown Templeton in one supervisory district.
However, most of those who spoke Tuesday said the school district boundaries also should be kept in one supervisory district.
Supervisor Jim Patterson and others noted that the Board of Supervisors has little to do with the school district, which elects its own members, and supervisory districts have nothing to do with school district boundaries, which will not change.
Patterson said he was “disconcerted” by the fact that “people misunderstood the impact of what we are doing.”Speaker Bill Mundy, arguing against moving some of western Templeton to District 2, said “the Templeton area is not the coast.”
Speakers threatened both legal and political action if the board went ahead with its earlier boundaries. Jim Wood called the redistricting to date a “charade,” adding that “the ultimate test of the public will is (an) election.”
Another speaker accused supervisors of trying to weaken Templeton’s influence by dividing it into different districts. Supervisor Adam Hill said he has “always been amused by the argument that more representation is disenfranchising.”
San Luis Obispo is divided among three supervisory districts.
Supervisors rejected other proposals backed by some Templeton residents, some of which would have put Shandon in more than one district or were opposed by Paso Robles.
In addition to equal numbers, the staff, as it redistricts, considers other factors, including topography, cohesiveness and contiguity, which means each district should be a single mass rather than “multiple unconnected areas.”
Staff also seeks to ensure that neighborhoods and cities “should not be divided into separate districts when unavoidable.”
Broadly speaking, District 1 is the North County; District 2 is the North Coast; District 3 is Avila Beach, Grover Beach and Pismo Beach; District 4 is the South County; and District 5 is Atascadero and much of the east and northeast areas of the 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.
Supervisor Frank Mecham represents District 1; Supervisor Bruce Gibson, District 2; Hill, District 3; Supervisor Paul Teixeira, District 4; and Patterson, District 5.
Mecham, Hill and Patterson all are up for re-election next year, under the new district lines.