Marin IJ article by: Richard Halstead
Latino residents in Marin County might soon wield more influence on the Board of Supervisors given the direction that the redistricting process is taking.
The supervisors held their third public hearing Tuesday on how the boundaries of the county’s five supervisorial districts should be redrawn. Every 10 years, district boundaries have to be reassessed following the national census to ensure that each district has an approximately equal number of residents.
The deadline for the public to submit maps for consideration is Nov. 24. A final public hearing on redistricting is scheduled for Dec. 7.
The discussion on Tuesday focused on changes that would unify more of the county’s Latino population in a single district.
“Currently, this community sits at the intersection of three different supervisors’ districts, making it harder to organize and represent at the county level,” Omar Carrera, CEO of Canal Alliance in San Rafael, told supervisors.
The highest concentration of Latino residents in Marin is located in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood.
“Compared to the rest of San Rafael and Marin County, this community has a higher percentage of Spanish speakers, a lower household income and are predominately renters in multifamily housing,” Carrera said.
When drawing district boundaries, supervisors are required by law to seek to unite “communities of interest.” They are prohibited from diluting the voting power of minority groups.
Based on previous public testimony and the supervisors’ stated desire to minimize changes, National Demographics Corp., the county’s demography consultant, presented three options on Tuesday. One is to leave the boundaries as they are. Another is to move a small portion of Indian Valley in Novato from District 5, which is represented by Supervisor Judy Arnold, into District 4, which is represented by Supervisor Dennis Rodoni.
It was a third option, however, that supervisors spent most of the meeting discussing. This alternative would expand District 4 by following similar district boundaries as the city of San Rafael’s District 1, which was created in 2018 when the city moved from at-large elections to district elections.
This option would move an area along Lincoln Avenue from District 1, which is represented by Supervisor Damon Connolly, into District 4. It would also move portions of the Bret Harte and California Park neighborhoods, which are in District 2 and represented by Supervisor Katie Rice, into District 4.
In addition to bringing more unity to Marin’s Latino community of interest, the proposed map would reduce population disparity among the districts. The most basic redistricting requirement is that districts have an substantially equal number of residents. A deviation of 10% or less between the largest and smallest district is considered to be presumptively constitutional and valid.
Marin has a deviation of 9.18%. The third redistricting option would reduce the deviation to 2.65%.
But Paul Cohen, a political consultant representing Canal Alliance, said his client isn’t entirely satisfied with this proposal. Cohen said Canal Alliance would also like to see the Montecito/Happy Valley area of San Rafael adjacent to San Rafael High School moved from District 1 to District 4.
The public is able to draft its own alternative district maps and submit them for the supervisors’ consideration. Eight maps have been submitted and posted on the county’s website. Cohen said he submitted map number 73599 to illustrate Canal Alliance’s proposal.
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