The Coast News Group
This year, the Vista council seats up for election include District 1, District 4 and mayor.
This year, the Vista council seats up for election include District 1, District 4 and mayor. Courtesy photos

Vista council finalizes new electoral map

VISTA — After only slight changes to its district boundaries, the Vista City Council has selected the city’s new electoral map as required by federal law.

The new district map, labeled NDC 201, moves about 1,700 residents in the Emerald neighborhood from the city’s District 3 to District 4.

Every 10 years, community input and data from the U.S. Census help reshape municipal lines to form voting districts. Vista’s first-drawn maps became non-compliant when 2020 data reflected a bump in population. Over the past decade, Vista gained about 10,000 people, according to the U.S. Census.

But that gain threw off a federal population-deviation limit on districts.

So now, District 4 extends beyond Sunset Drive — its previous perimeter — to Melrose Drive to make the districts more uniform.

It’s a “logical” move, Deputy Mayor John Franklin said.

“We had a mind toward making as few changes as possible so that residents didn’t scramble to figure out which district they were in,” Franklin said.

This is the second time the council has seen a district map change in five years. In fact, the city only drew its first lines in 2017.

Up until then, Vista City Council members were chosen by a citywide, or at-large, election. In Feb. 2017, Shenkman & Hughes wrote a letter alleging the city’s at-large elections did not fairly represent their communities in violation of the California Voting Rights Act. The Malibu-based law firm called on council members to draw municipal lines and switch to district voting to fairly represent the community.

The letter stated Vista’s at-large system diluted “the ability of Latinos, (‘a protected class’), to elect candidates of their choice or otherwise influence the outcome of Vista’s council elections,” as posted on the city website. Current census data reflect that more than half the city’s population is Latino or Hispanic.

In addition to Vista, the law firm came after a number of North County cities, including Encinitas, Oceanside, Escondido, Carlsbad, Solana Beach and San Marcos also received letters.

To avoid facing legal challenges and high penalties, the city enlisted the public and National Demographics Corporation to draw maps for consideration. After several hearings and communities meetings, the council decided on a map that split the city into quadrants — north to south and east to west — which again showed to be the most logical.

“It just happened that each council member already lived in each of those areas,” Franklin explained.

In 2022, Franklin’s district went from 22,568 to 24,28, while District 3, represented by Katie Melendez, decreased to 23,911.

Franklin said he understand the goal of forming the districts, voters now can directly interact with someone who represents their area. It also places pressure on council members, as now their districts are the sole voters for their seats.

However, Franklin and his colleagues have always felt responsible for all residents of Vista.

“All of us feel the duty to represent the entire city,”  Franklin said, adding that he does feel direct accountability for those in his district.

Elections for the mayor seat and to represent District 1, currently held by Councilwoman Corinna Contreras, and District 4 are set for November. The term for District 2, represented by Councilman Joe Green and District 3, represented by Councilwoman Katie Melendez, ends in 2024.