OCEANSIDE — While the Oceanside City Council and Oceanside Unified School Board continue their redistricting efforts, local officials are encouraging voters to share their input on where the new district and trustee lines should be drawn.
So far, Oceanside Unified has already held two of three discussions on redistricting at prior board meetings with three new boundary scenarios presented at the Dec. 14, 2021 meeting.
Board Clerk Mike Blessing, who serves Trustee Area No. 5, noted that the school district needed to get the word out about redistricting plans so that more members of the public would come forward to share their thoughts. There were no public comments on redistricting at the previous December meeting.
“I’d be interested to see public input,” Blessing said. “If we don’t go out and shake the trees, I don’t think we will.”
Redistricting typically occurs after a federal census releases new data on population concentrations with the goal of making sure each district or trustee area is equally balanced in population.
The ideal population within each of the school district’s five trustee areas is around 27,300+ residents.
Currently, based on the 2020 Census numbers, the population between each of the trustee areas has become unbalanced with a 21.9% variance between the areas’ populations. For example, in Trustee Area No. 3, the current population is 24,735 people while Trustee Area No. 5 has 30,730 people.
When redrawing the districts, the goal was to bring that variance in population down below 10%. Three maps of the potential new trustee areas achieve that goal.
In map scenario 1, the variance in population between the districts becomes 2.7%. The westernmost chunk of Trustee Area No. 1 between North Coast Highway and Interstate 5 would be absorbed into the trustee area. No. 3, then Area No. 1 would extend further east and take a chunk of Trustee Area No. 5 following Mission Avenue to the north and stopping at Rancho Del Oro Drive.
Scenario 2 would provide a population variance of 8.7% between the trustee areas. Trustee Area No. 1 would keep its western chunk in this scenario and still extend into the current Trustee Area No. 5, but everything north of Mission Avenue would be absorbed into Trustee Area No. 3.
In the third scenario, the population variance would only be 2.5%, and every district would see more changes to the edges of their boundaries. Trustee Area No. 3 would absorb No. 1’s chunk between Interstate 5 and North Coast Highway as well as a small northwest chunk of No. 2. Then, Trustee Area No. 1 would move westward into No. 2, while No. 2 would move further eastward and swap its northeastern chunk with No. 5.
Blessing said he preferred Scenario 3 because of how it evens out the populations while only making changes along the edges rather than any significant boundary changes.
“That one looks pretty elegant to me,” Blessing said.
Jonathan Salt, a San Diego area attorney who advises school districts on Brown Act and California Voting Rights Act compliance, said the numbers in all three scenarios look good.
When it comes to redrawing boundary maps, school districts need to follow both federal and state requirements.
On the federal side, districts must ensure an equal population between their trustee areas while also protecting minority voting rights without creating voter dilution or implementing any discriminatory practices. Districts must also ensure equal protection without isolating any races.
California state requirements for redrawing district boundaries include following topography, geography, the cohesiveness of territories and communities of interest. In the three potential scenarios, the new boundaries follow roads within Oceanside.
“All of the maps accomplish these goals,” Salt said.
The new trustee areas must be approved by March 1. The school board is expected to choose between the three potential map scenarios at the upcoming Jan. 18 board meeting.
Meanwhile, the City of Oceanside is just about to start its series of public hearings and outreach meetings on redistricting the City Council’s four districts later this month.
Similar to how the school district must redraw its boundaries, the city must also balance its population evenly between the four districts based on the 2020 Census data. Both the school district and the city must adhere to the United States Constitution and Federal Voting Rights Act to ensure discrimination does not occur.
Council districts must also attempt to remain as compact as possible within each territory, follow visible features and boundaries when possible, and also practically respect communities of interest, which are defined as contiguous populations that share common social and economic interests to be kept in a single district for the purpose of fairness and effective representation.
Based on the 2020 Census, Oceanside has a population of 174,578 people, which means the four districts must be equally divided up to contain around 43,645 people in each.
City Council is expected to hold the first redistricting public meeting on Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. in council chambers and will go over the general idea of redistricting as well as provide training on the process. The first community outreach meeting will occur the following week on Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. in the Civic Center Library community rooms.
A full schedule of public hearings and meetings for City Council redistricting can be found at https://www.ci.oceanside.ca.us/gov/clerk/elections/redistricting_2022.asp.