ENCINITAS — The City of Encinitas held its first virtual public workshop this week to begin its mandatory decennial redistricting process, but is still waiting for full 2020 census data to be released.
In June, the city decided to forego the option of using an independent commission to redraw district lines.
The U.S. Census Bureau released its initial data from the census on August 12, much later than it normally produces data due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, in California, cities will have to wait a bit longer to receive their complete information.
“Now a group at UC Berkeley known as the Statewide Database (California’s redistricting database) has to take those census data and adjust them to take out people who are in state and federal prisons and remove them from the population,” said Chris Skinnell, a city consultant with Nielsen Merksamer lobbying firm. “And if they can, reassign those prisoners back to their last known place of residence.”
The aforementioned process is expected to take another four to five weeks. The state deadline to submit new maps is April 17, 2022.
According to Nielsen Merksamer, state law prohibits cities from publishing draft maps until three weeks after the adjusted census is published by the California Statewide Redistricting Database.
“If members of the public want to make proposals, that is fine during that window,” Skinnell said. “But the city and its consultants cannot draw any maps during that time.”
Skinnell said they expect to have their first proposals for maps in mid-October or early November, which could make for a rushed process with the April 17 deadline.
“If we miss that deadline then it flips over to the local superior court in San Diego County,” Skinnell said.
The city will hold its first public hearing on redistricting during its September 22 council meeting.
This is the first time the city is redrawing its lines after becoming a by-district election city in 2017.
The process last time around was marred by controversy and allegations of gerrymandering. Two of the final maps chosen by the council were drawn by then Councilmember Tasha Boerner Horvath, now a member of the California State Assembly.
During the workshop this week, the city and its consultants went over how citizens this time can send in their own proposals for district maps, including paper maps and different online tools.
“Every level of technical skill that people have, we have something for them,” said Shannon Kelly, of National Demographics Corporation, the city’s demographics consultant.
A paper mapping kit will be available on the city’s website as well as the online tools Districtr, which uses simple tools to draw lines, and Caliper Maptitude, which allows users to dive into the redrawing process more deeply with detailed population data. Caliper Maptitude is also the tool the city’s demographers will use in the process.
The Districtr tool is already available to use on the city’s website with the other options being made available at a later date.
Kevin Doyle, a city planning commissioner who was involved with the city’s initial districting process in 2017, said he hopes to fix some of the mistakes he saw the last time around.
“It looks like we’re on track and I hope we can settle things up and fix some of the errors we made last time,” Doyle said. “I think we were a little rushed last time.”