Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt speaks before the Santa Maria City Council.
Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt speaks about redistricting during the Santa Maria City Council meeting on Wednesday night. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A proposal to carve Santa Maria into four quadrants using the intersection of Main Street and Broadway drew a number of favorable comments on Wednesday night as the City Council undertakes its first redistricting effort. 

After switching from an at-large to a by-district voting system more than four years ago, the City Council, like multiple other agencies, needed to tweak its maps following the 2020 Census and ahead of this November’s election.

Under the district-based system, voters in each area choose their council members. The role of mayor continues to be chosen by voters from throughout the city.

Wednesday’s meeting provided the first look at the draft maps, with adoption expected in the coming weeks.

“It’s a pretty transparent process that we’re trying to go through here, and it’s something that you, as residents, are going to live with for the next 10 years. I think the more participation the better the decision will be,” Councilman Mike Cordero said.

The council viewed three draft maps from the consultant and none from the public.

“I sort of thought we would have people introducing maps tonight,” Mayor Alice Patino said, adding that she expected three or four.

Proposed redistricting map for Santa Maria.

A proposal to use Main Street and Broadway as the clear dividing line for Santa Maria City Council districts drew favorable comments on Wednesday. (City of Santa Maria map)

Patino asked whether the city could keep existing maps, but the consultant from National Demographics Corp. said the current districts have become lopsided, which could lead to a lawsuit for not complying with federal rules.

Federal and state laws require that districts have roughly the same population of residents and must keep neighborhoods and communities of interest together. Districts also must be geographically contiguous. 

Demographer Daniel Phillips submitted three proposals for consideration, while no one else turned in other options.

Two draft maps offered minor changes while a third, dubbed the Quadrant Plan, would lead to moderate changes, but received the most favorable comments during a public hearing Wednesday night at the Minami Community Center. 

“The consequence of doing this moderate change quadrant plan is that a full quarter of the city would shift to a different district,” Phillips said.

Nearly 4% would shift to a district with an earlier election year and 8% to a later election. The remainder would go to a district with the same election year. 

The quadrant would make District One west of Broadway and north of Main. District Two would be north of Main and east of Broadway. District 3 would be south of Main and west of Broadway. District Four would be south of Main and east of Broadway, but including all of the southern areas of the city. 

During the first effort at creating election districts, the City Council sought to ensure that each area included a segment of the city’s downtown area. One redistricting proposal, Minimal Change Plan A, would mean that at least one district would not include the Main Street/Broadway intersection.

Those commenting in writing and in person favored the Quadrant Plan, calling it the most logical.

Letter writers said the other options would place neighbors a few blocks away, but whose kids attend the same school as theirs, in different city election districts. 

“The Quadrant Plan is clear and easy to understand. It satisfies the legal requirements and keeps communities of interest together,” two letter writers said.

Santa Maria resident Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt said the Quadrant Plan makes districts easily identifiable compared with the other options. 

“It’s the most practical way to divide Santa Maria, geographically contiguous,” she said. “And it makes it easy for voters to know who their representative is.”

Other draft maps could be submitted but need to be turned in before Tuesday, officials said Wednesday night.

Two hearings occurred last summer to educate people about the redistricting process ahead of the council’s consideration of draft maps.

The council likely will chose the final map at the 6 p.m. March 15 meeting at Maramonte Community Center, 620 E. Sunrise Drive, and give final approval in early April. 

For information about Santa Maria’s redistricting process, the switch to district-based elections and to see the draft maps, click here.

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