Thwarted in his attempts to get the county leaders to adopt new suggestions for San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors districts, a Templeton man is turning to the courts.
Bill Pelfrey has filed suit in San Luis Obispo Superior Court seeking an order that would invalidate the boundaries that the board adopted Sept. 20 and that went into effect Thursday.
Pelfrey says the lines the board drew unfairly dissected the community.
Others from Templeton joined Pelfrey in questioning the district lines during a series of public hearings, but he said he is pursuing the legal action alone. He said he has been told by his attorney that it might cost as much as $50,000, but it is a fight worth fighting.
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“I’m not in it for sour grapes,” he told The Tribune. “I’m trying to keep Templeton whole.”
“Keeping Templeton whole” was a refrain the supervisors heard repeatedly during the eight months they and their staff spent redrawing the lines of the five districts.
Under the law, the districts must be reconfigured every 10 years, after the national census, in order to accommodate changes in the population.
A basic criterion of the redistricting is that all the districts have roughly the same population numbers. There are many other guidelines, including trying to keep “communities of interest” together.
During the process, supervisors made changes to accommodate critics in the unincorporated community between Paso Robles and Atascadero. But a disagreement emerged over what, exactly, Templeton is.
The final district maps put all of the Templeton Community Services District in the 1st District. But Pelfrey and others say that is defining Templeton too narrowly.
In Pelfrey’s legal action, a petition for a writ of mandate, his attorney, Sophie Treder, argues that Templeton “can be defined as falling within the bounds of the Templeton Unified School District.”
Supervisors who supported the new districts argued that the school district is a separate legal entity and noted that it has nothing to do with the county board.
It has been, for at least the past 10 years, divided into three supervisory districts, Supervisor Jim Patterson said.
Pelfrey also argued that the new districts divide San Luis Obispo, which, he said, is a “community of interest,” as is Templeton.
However, because it is the population center, San Luis Obispo would have been split anyway among several districts in each of the redistricting proposals the county considered.
Treder and Pelfrey also raised a new issue: the possibility of politics in the adopted redistricting.
Patterson represents the 5th District, which includes Atascadero and other areas north of the Cuesta Grade as well as some areas in San Luis Obispo.
Treder notes that Patterson is running for re-election in 2012, and “retaining a portion of the city of San Luis Obispo would likely greatly benefit Mr. Patterson in the upcoming elections, given the past voting histories of the voters in that area.”
Pelfrey argues that the county can keep the 5th District entirely north of the Cuesta Grade and still fall within the population guidelines. Treder did not provide that voting history in her petition for a court order.
In the court filing, Treder also alleges that while Pelfrey worked with county staff during the redistricting process, he was told that “there were certain areas of the county, such as the city of San Luis Obispo, that certain supervisors did not want to relinquish and had told staff to work around.”
Treder did not identify the supervisors in question, nor did she name staffers.
Patterson joined Supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson in voting for the new district lines. Supervisors Frank Mecham and Paul Teixeira dissented.