After a long process that many city leaders and community members have called “messy,” “painful” and “frustrating,” San José’s political boundaries are officially shifting.
San Jose City Council finalized a new map on Wednesday to redraw the city’s district boundaries as required every 10 years after the U.S. census to reflect population changes.
The decision came after a final discussion that lasted nearly six hours, spanned two days, and attempted to allay concerns raised about potential voter suppression and legal infractions.
“The redistribution process has been unnecessarily messy, starting with the council being given a choice of three different maps,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said in an interview after the meeting. “… But at the end of the day, we have a map that accommodates changing demographics, complies with federal law, and fairly meets the needs of our diverse community. “
The adopted map was originally submitted by council member David Cohen last week and amended following feedback received from residents and other council members. The map, known as the board map, was chosen from a total of five different options – three put forward by the city’s 11-member constituency commission after months of community deliberation and meetings, and two late additions drawn by the city member. advice Magdalena Carrasco and Cohen.
From the start, two maps put forward by members of the community and advocacy groups – called the Unity Map and the Community Map – sparked heated debate and polarizing views among residents who turned up. faced to keep so many current boundaries in place and reverse the status quo to give tenants and people of color more voting rights. Cohen said his card was aimed at finding common ground between the two by bringing together the communities of Willow Glen and the downtown core while ensuring that the voices of voters of color and tenants were also raised.
“We always want to default to what we know and what we’re comfortable with about district boundaries,” Cohen said at Wednesday’s meeting. “… But if in every cycle we say that our goal is to keep the lines where they are within all limits, we are not using this opportunity to do what could be best for the people of this city.” . “
Under the new map, Districts 2, 3, 6 and 10 will see the biggest changes in their boundaries. A northeast portion of District 10 will be moved to District 2, and most neighborhoods between Highway 87 and Santa Teresa County Park will be moved from District 2 to District 10.
Council member Sergio Jimenez, who represents District 2, said the change “better aligns some of the respective communities of interest.” He noted that tenants in the current northeast neighborhoods of District 10 share the same interests as residents of the northern part of his district in terms of public transportation, affordable housing and tenant protection. Meanwhile, residents along the foothills of Santa Teresa, who will now be moved to District 2, share much of the interests of Almaden Valley residents in District 10 when it comes to protecting open spaces, limiting density and preserving single-family neighborhoods, Jimenez said.
Although council member Matt Mahan, who represents District 10, initially opposed the change, he noted the need to increase District 10’s population and dispel public accusations that he was trying to suppress the vote of minorities and tenants within the city by moving closer to the current demarcation lines.
“I think if you’ve gone through the process, the very reasonable questions I raised about the 60,000-person exchange between District 10 and District 2 is a rational conversation we can have,” he said. he said at the meeting. “… But let’s move on to an honest, rational conversation that doesn’t accuse people of something incredibly serious and ethically and legally objectionable, namely voter suppression.” “
Census data from San José show that the city’s population has grown by around 67,000 over the past decade, from nearly 946,000 to 1,013,000. Districts 3 and 4, which encompass the downtown, and northern San José, are the most populous.
To rebalance growth in these two districts, some southern parts of District 4 will be moved to Districts 3 and 5, and District 6 will expand northeast to include neighborhoods north of the SAP center and around the airport. , which were previously a part of downtown District 3.
During council discussions over the past two weeks, a major point of contention has arisen around proposed District 7 boundary changes that would increase Latin American representation while decreasing Asian-American representation. Liccardo was concerned that the proposed changes could potentially violate the law by diluting the vote count of Asian American residents in the district, which has the third highest percentage of Asian Americans in the city.
Asian Americans are the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in San José. They represent 38% of the city’s population, but they are not represented on the current city council and no Asian Americans have been appointed to the city’s 11-member Redistribution Commission tasked with proposing. potential cards for board consideration.
Ultimately, the council decided to keep the eastern border of District 7 in place, thus maintaining a higher percentage of Asian American voters.
“The majority of the council did the right thing in undoing some of the earlier decisions that could have been seen as an inadmissible dilution of the vote of Asian Americans in District 7,” Liccardo said, “and it is a concern in any lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act. “