Map of Santa Barbara County supervisorial districts.
The process is underway for selecting the commission that will redraw the Santa Barbara County supervisorial districts. The map above shows the current districts. New districts will be based on the 2020 Census.

Every 10 years, local governments use new U.S. Census Bureau data to redraw district lines to reflect how local populations have changed since the last census count, and the new districts affect how government officials are elected for the next 10 years.

The redistricting process is meant to ensure that every person has fair representation in local government by creating maps that are equal in population and reflect communities of interest.

How the districts are drawn determines how effectively a community is represented in its local government.

Locally, the maps determine the five districts for the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

“The county supervisors that are elected within each district rule on all the major countywide actions,” said Norman Douglas Bradley, one of the members of the Santa Barbara County Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission. “They really do impact everything in our county, not just where someone lives in their own district, but all of the districts.

“It’s extremely important that the supervisors are elected by communities of interests, within their districts, that really reflect their political and philosophical ideologies. This material act of drawing up the districts may seem simple, but it has very profound, long-term consequences for who is elected and how our government is implemented.”

With a five-member Board of Supervisors, one district changing has a significant political outcome that can affect everyone in the county, according to Ian Baucke, director of advocacy and policy for the Santa Barbara Young Democrats.

“All the important issues, like housing or debates between wine agriculture and cannabis agriculture, all of that can be affected by one city being in one district versus another,” Baucke told Noozhawk.

Traditionally, the supervisors representing North County’s Fourth District and Fifth District have been more conservative and voted together on many issues, while the South Coast’s First District and Second District supervisors have been more liberal and voted together on many issues. That has left the more geographically and politically diverse Third District as a swing vote in many board decisions. 

The new maps have the potential to change who votes in each district, affecting how countywide decisions are made.

In 2018, Santa Barbara County voters approved Measure G, which created an 11-member Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission to establish boundaries for the Board of Supervisors. In the past, the supervisors were responsible for redrawing district lines.

“Measure G took that decision-making process off of the shoulders of the supervisors and put it on an independent citizens commission to put some arm’s length between the people who would be impacted by that decision and the decision itself,” Glenn Morris, chairman of the Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission, told Noozhawk.

State law requires cities and counties, or their respective commissions, to engage the community in the redistricting process by holding public hearings and engaging in public outreach to ensure that the district lines are drawn with respect to neighborhoods, history and geographical elements.

Redistricting comes after the census because governments get new data that reflect how populations have moved or shifted.

Maps must be drawn pursuant to federal and state criteria, which require districts to be reasonably equal in population, be geographically contiguous (meaning a district cannot skip over one region to reach another), respect the integrity of communities of interest or like-minded people, minimize the division of a city, and have easily identifiable boundaries that follow natural or artificial barriers, among others.

“It’s this multidimensional jigsaw puzzle. You have to balance the districts as closely as possible by race, ethnicity, gender and, of course, population size,” Bradley said.

The commission is supposed to be reflective of the demographics of the county, Morris said, but some of the “tweaks and quirks” in the language of Measure G have made that process a little more difficult than expected.

The members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

The members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. (Santa Barbara County photo)

“The 11 members of the commission do not match the demographics of the county, particularly on ethnic or racial filters, and probably age,” he said, adding that the initial pool of qualified applicants was not representative of the county’s demographics.

As Noozhawk previously reported, county residents who identify as white and those older than age 50 were overly represented among applicants and the randomly selected members, compared with their share of the population.

As of March, three of the original commission members had already resigned and been replaced. A fourth commissioner resigned in April, according to Morris.

“I think we can still get an outcome that people will be happy with, because the commission has made a commitment that the 11 of us are not authoring much, we’re not submitting proposed maps, we’re really leaving that to the public or the advocacy organizations,” Morris said. 

Community members can utilize one of many map drawing tools to submit maps that they think are representative of their community, district or the county as a whole. The commission is then charged with analyzing those maps to ensure populations add up, selecting the best maps and ultimately proposing one to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.

“We hope that hundreds of these maps are submitted from people all over the county,” Morris said. “Our job is to whittle down those maps and select the best-fit ones.

“I don’t think there is much room for mischief-making; in many ways, this is a numbers exercise. At the end of the day, all of the numbers have to match.”

The commission is holding a series of public hearings to inform the community of the redistricting process and how they can participate in drawing maps. 

“I would just encourage people to really start to engage, go to the website, understand the process, play around with the tools and tell us about your community,” Morris said. “I think we will all have a lot more confidence and the districts will feel more appropriate if we get more people involved in the process.”

The next county redistricting meeting will be held Aug. 4 in person and via Zoom video conference at the Betteravia Hearing Room, 511 E. Lakeside Pkwy. in Santa Maria. It will be an opportunity for members of the public to give feedback on communities of interest and how the districts should be drawn, and for people to learn how to use the mapping tools. 

Click here for a list of hearings planned through the end of 2021.

Click here to find which county supervisorial district you live in.

The current map for the five Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors districts. District 1 is in green, District 2 is in yellow, District 3 is in blue, District 4 is in purple and District 5 is in pink.

The current map for the five Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors districts. District 1 is in green, District 2 is in yellow, District 3 is in blue, District 4 is in purple and District 5 is in pink. (Santa Barbara County photo)

In the current map, District 1 (colored green) is represented by Das Williams and includes eastern parts of Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland, Toro Canyon, and the Carpinteria Valley to the county line with Ventura County, as well as parts of the Cuyama Valley in northern Santa Barbara County. 

District 2 (colored yellow) is represented by Gregg Hart and includes western parts of Santa Barbara and the eastern Goleta Valley. 

District 3 (colored blue) is represented by Joan Hartmann and includes Isla Vista, the western Goleta Valley and Gaviota Coast, the Santa Ynez Valley, the western Lompoc Valley and the city of Guadalupe. 

District 4 (colored purple) is represented by Bob Nelson and includes Lompoc, the eastern Lompoc Valley, Orcutt and southern portions of Santa Maria. 

District 5 (colored pink) is represented by Steve Lavagnino and includes most of Santa Maria and portions of the eastern Santa Maria Valley. 

Several of the county’s cities are split among multiple supervisorial districts. 

While the county has gone through the redistricting process in the past, some cities are going through the process of drawing district boundaries for the first time to implement districts for City Council elections. In district elections, council members can run for office only in the district where they live and are elected only by voters within that district. The mayor continues to be elected at large, by voters citywide. 

Goleta is among the cities participating in the districting process for the first time, and district elections will be implemented in 2022. 

“One thing that I know district elections will mean is that we’ll have smaller groups of voters in elections,” Goleta City Councilman James Kyriaco told Noozhawk. “I think what remains to be seen is what that means in terms of the city’s direction. I think it’s a reasonable prediction to expect that more localized issues will become part of the larger conversation come election time.”

Other cities have created commissions to oversee the map-drawing process, and are encouraging residents to be informed and involved in the process to create maps that best represent the prospective regions.

Carpinteria is in the beginning stages of the districting process for the first time this year, and the City Council will meet Monday for a report on how many districts the city will be divided.

Buellton held its first redistricting hearings on June 10 and July 8, and the Buellton City Council will meet on Feb. 24 for the first reading of an ordinance to change the city’s electoral system to district elections. Click here for more on Buellton’s redistricting efforts, and click here for the public participation map kit

Solvang’s first steps toward crafting maps for district-based elections will occur Aug. 9, with a second meeting on Aug. 23.

Santa Barbara implemented district-based elections for the first time in 2015 and will be redrawing maps for the 2024 election. Click here for information on Santa Barbara’s Independent Redistricting Commission.

Both Santa Maria and Lompoc recently implemented district-based elections and will be undergoing a second round of carving their community into districts.

Santa Maria will hold the first of its four in-person public redistricting hearings on Aug. 3 at the Grogan Community Center, 155 W. Rancho Verde. The meetings will not be livestreamed, and a Zoom option will not be available, according to Mark van de Kamp, Santa Maria spokesman. However, a video recording of each meeting will be posted on the city’s redistricting webpage the following day, he said. Click here for information on Santa Maria’s redistricting process.

Lompoc’s next redistricting hearing will occur Tuesday to gather input on the criteria to be considered while drafting district maps.

Draft maps will be posted to the city website and available at City Hall after the hearing, and those maps will be discussed at City Council hearings in February before the anticipated introduction of an ordinance on March 15.

Click here for map drawing tools and more information on Lompoc’s redistricting process.

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.