Hazel Davalos from CAUSE speaks during the Santa Maria City Council meeting Thursday night on district-based elections. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Future Santa Maria City Council members will represent four districts, with the mayor still elected at large under one of the many decisions made Thursday night for the historic transition in how city leaders are selected.

The special meeting also ended with the council narrowing the field of potential maps dividing the city into quadrants and postponing talks about about the sequence of the terms up for grabs in 2018 and 2020.

The three map finalists each have districts that include at least a portion of the area in the Downtown Specific Plan, per the City Council choice. 

But the final three maps don’t include a proposal heavily favored by audience members.

“You know this is kind of like a blanket that’s too small for a bed,” Councilman Mike Cordero said. “No matter how you pull it, somebody’s not going to be covered. … We are not — I can’t say this enough times — going to come up the perfect answer for everybody.” 

Santa Maria launched the process to switch to district-based elections after a former council candidate threatened a lawsuit, putting the city on a fast-track to get the districts adopted before the end of May.

The council discussion and decisions Thursday night came after hearing from more than 20 residents, with many repeating a desire to divide the city at the traditional center — the intersection of Main Street and Broadway.

“We’re not at Main and Broadway with all four of them, but all four of them have a good part of the Downtown Specific Plan,” Cordero said.  “And I agree that every council person should have certainly an interest in the Downtown Specific Plan as it moves forward and continues to evolve.”

The Downtown Specific Plan involves an effort to revive the business core at the heart of the city.

Under federal and state guidelines, each district must have roughly the same population and be contiguous while considering communities of interest. Council members also need to consider continuity of government — an issue since two pairs of council members live near each other. 

The map heavily favored by audience members — and another that included one district that contained the residences of all four council members — goes against the continuity of government, City Manager Rick Haydon said.

Mayor Alice Patino and Councilman Michael Moats listen to presentations during the City Council meeting Thursday night to consider district-based elections.

Mayor Alice Patino and Councilman Michael Moats listen to presentations during the City Council meeting Thursday night to consider district-based elections. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“I would say those should be eliminated,” said Councilwoman Etta Waterfield.

“I’d go along with that,” Councilman Jack Boysen added. 

Map proposals came from city residents and a consultant, National Demographics Corporation. 

Approximately 55 people attended the special meeting held at the Edwards Community Center on Panther Drive, with approximately 24 speaking to the council. 

“We would like to be represented by somebody who comes from our quadrant of town,” one woman said. 

The three proposals still in consideration include one by the consultant, labeled NDC 3, plus two submitted by community members — Karen Cordary and Sally Macias. 

The city has created a special website for the district-based election transition, including posting possible maps for people to review. 

The council decided to postpone until the next meeting a decision on the sequence for which districts would be voted on in 2018 and 2020.

Some cities make the decision based on voter turnout, recognizing more voters participate during a presidential election year, which would be in 2020.

“It’s not a crystal clear question,” said NDC President Douglas Johnson said. 

Future meetings on the proposed district maps are planned for May 2 at the Minami Community Center, 600 W. Enos Drive, and May 16 at the Maldonado Community Youth Center, 600 S. McClelland St.

Both meetings are set to start at 6:30 p.m.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.