During a three-hour public hearing on Tuesday, Contra Costa County's board of supervisors came one step closer to writing new district lines. Initially presented with five concepts, the supervisors deliberated over 13 maps before deciding on three of the most favorable.
The county is required to look at its five district boundaries every ten years following the federal Census so that the districts are as "nearly equal in population as may be." Contra Costa's population has grown 10 percent since 2000 to 1,049,025; the change requires each district to have about 210,000 people.
Much of the public hearing focused on the importance of keeping cities and communities of interest whole. Several residents who live near the Concord Naval Weapons Station advocated for keeping the area in one supervisorial district while several Walnut Creek residents spoke about the difficulties of having three supervisors in one city.
"We believe we are the only city that can speak to the consequences of being split among several districts," said Walnut Creek Mayor Cindy Silva. "No matter where you live…you should be able to have the same kind of access to your county government as any other resident. For the last 10 years Walnut Creek residents have not had that same access because they cannot figure out who their supervisor is without a lot of work."
While Principal Planner Patrick Roach said a bulk of the comments the county received were from residents of the San Ramon Valley, only one resident spoke about the area during the hearing. Roach said the large amount of comments from the San Ramon Valley were the result of a highly attended redistricting workshop held in Alamo in early June.
The three surviving maps, concepts six, nine and 12, are currently being amended to address concerns expressed during Tuesday's meeting. Two of the concepts keep the San Ramon Valley in the same supervisorial district.
Concept six, created by the Contra Costa Citizens Redistricting Task Force, will be amended to include all of Concord in district four. At the request of Supervisor John Gioia (district one), concept six will attempt to place Antioch in district five and present "a more straightforward line demarcation."
Originally penned by Supervisor Gayle Uilkema as an attempt to keep all cities whole, the modified concept nine map makes slight changes in the Pittsburg/Bay Point area. This plan also splits East County between two districts, a measure District Three Supervisor Mary Piepho advocated for, and adjusts the district three boundary to include Alamo and Diablo.
Concept map 12 was not amended, but shows the commonly held desire to put Walnut Creek in a maximum of two supervisorial districts.
"If there's ever an example of the phrase, 'you can't please everyone all the time,' this would be it," said Supervisor Gioia. "I think we owe it to the public to try to come up with a final map that…has the greatest amount of integrity trying to balance all the communities throughout the county. It's impossible to achieve all the regional goals at 100 percent."
In addition to pleasing county residents, the new district lines must comply with the Voting Rights Act -- a piece of legislation that arose from the Civil Rights Movement.
"The idea is that when you're redrawing district boundaries for any elected office, that you're not doing it in a fashion that would preclude a majority-minority district. That would be diluting the ability for a minority to elect one of their own to office," Roach said.
As a result of the growing racial diversity within the county over the past 20 years, Roach said he does not consider any of the districts to be discriminatory.
County staff will continue to analyze the amended maps on June 12 at 11:15 a.m., where they may or may not adopt a final map. In 2001, the board of supervisors held at least seven meetings to discuss redistricting, though Roach said he hopes it won't take as long this time.
The deadline to pass a new map is Nov. 1. More information can be found at www.ccredistricting.org.