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District Election Boundary Map Suggestions Submitted to Santa Barbara City Clerk

With the Friday deadline approaching for submitting district election boundary maps, five members of the public have sent in ideas for the six-way split of the city of Santa Barbara.

The City Council approved a settlement agreement in a lawsuit alleging Santa Barbara’s at-large election system was diluting Latino votes and made it difficult for those voters to elect their preferred candidates.

In a hasty move to abide by the court’s deadline to present maps, the City Council is expected to adopt district boundaries by the end of March.

The plaintiffs of the lawsuit and their attorney, Barry Cappello, can challenge the maps in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, City Attorney Ariel Calonne said.

"The City Council will take action on March 24th or the 30th, and within five days of that, the city will meet and confer with the plaintiffs and if they agree on a map, it will be approved and final judgment will be entered by the court," he said.

"If they disagree, the court will hear the case on April 6 or soon after to determine the composition of the electoral districts." 

Santa Barbara is paying $599,500 to the firm of Cappello & Noel for attorney’s fees as part of the settlement agreement and $500,000 of that will come from general fund reserves. The city will have to pay more attorney’s fees for the plaintiffs after the maps are finalized and a judgment is entered in court. 

With six districts — as agreed-upon in the court settlement — at least two must have a majority (over 50 percent) of Latino and/or Hispanic eligible voters, meaning citizens over the age of 18.

In draft maps, those two districts are centered around the Eastside and Westside neighborhoods.

The mayor will still be elected at-large by all city voters.

National Demographics Corp., a consultant hired by the city, presented three draft district boundary maps and is accepting comments on them. The firm also set up an interactive web-based mapping system that people can use to submit their own ideas for districts.

The three draft maps and maps submitted by the public can be viewed here. Five maps were submitted by members of the public as of Monday afternoon. 

A map submitted by Howard Green, no organization affiliation, proposes two minority-majority districts and “to provide a third multicultural district to allow possibility of true democratic process of ‘best person wins.’”

In his map, two districts – including the Eastside and Westside neighborhoods – have more than 54 percent Hispanic voting-age population, and another, drawn to include some of the upper Westside and Oak Park neighborhoods, has a 39-percent Hispanic voting-age population. The other three have less than 20 percent Hispanic voting-age population.

Ken Oplinger and The Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region submitted two maps.

The first, called “Downtown District,” creates a single district for the downtown State Street corridor and creates two minority-majority districts with more than 60 percent Hispanic voting-age residents. State Street from the beach to Constance Avenue would be in one district, instead of split into several as other maps propose.

The second Chamber map, called “Eyes on State,” “focuses on having as many City Council members as possible with districts on State Street, while maintaining two districts with more than 67 percent of the population being Hispanic.”

It chops the State Street corridor into five districts, similar to some of the draft plans provided by the National Demographics Corp.

The Upper East Association submitted a map, by Milt Hess, that alters the Draft Plan 1 to specifically outline the Upper East neighborhood. The goal is to “make our district a community of interest that combines where we live, shop, and walk with the institutions that our residents depend on – schools, churches, businesses and recreational facilities.”

This “Mission Heritage Plan” creates a district with general boundaries of Highway 101 to the west, Laguna Street to the east, Micheltorena Street to the south and the Samarkand neighborhood to the north.

Naomi Greene submitted a variation to a draft map as well, changing the boundaries for the Eastside neighborhood district to “enhance the integrity and cohesiveness of the district.”

Maps can be submitted through the web program and pen-and-paper maps are also being accepted, City Clerk Gwen Peirce said.

City Hall is closed on Friday, so all maps submitted in person to the City Clerk’s Office must be turned in by 5:30 p.m. Thursday, but web program maps can be turned in through 5 p.m. Friday, Peirce said. The office is on the first floor of City Hall at 735 Anacapa St.

The City Council will introduce the maps and conclusions at a March 18 meeting, held at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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