OCEANSIDE – Residents suggested potential boundaries for city election districts at a community meeting held at El Corazon Senior Center on Tuesday. About 40 people attended the second of five community meetings on the subject, in addition to four mandated public hearings to determine districts.
Tuesday’s meeting provided an overview of the districting process that the city is embarking on after a lawsuit accused Oceanside of not representing the city’s diversity on its City Council.
Voting districts must represent the same number of people, comply with the constitution, be a continuous territory, follow visible boundaries when possible, and respect communities of interest.
During the meeting, input was collected from residents on their seen communities of interest.
Residents in the Morro Hills agriculture community asked that the lower allowed number of residents be used for their area, so that farmers would have an equal say to more densely populated residential homeowners in the area. The population range for Oceanside districts is 39,743 to 43,927.
“We pay our taxes, but don’t have much of a say,” one farmer said.
Other residents asked that citywide interests be included in all districts.
Several residents suggested that district boundaries run east to west so that more than one district would include the beachfront downtown area, and tourism interests that benefit the entire city.
Scott Ashton, Oceanside Chamber of Commerce CEO, requested that businesses be equally represented within all districts. He asked that boundaries of the northeast agricultural area be expanded to include more businesses.
Other comments included a senior citizen’s objection to the districting process. Oceanside resident Joan Pearl said she is collecting petition signatures against forming districts.
“There are a group of people who don’t want to accept this; it takes away 75 percent of voting power,” Pearl said. “It’s unfair.”
Her comment was countered by a young mother who said the districting process ensures representation of Oceanside’s diversity – something the City Council does not currently reflect.
Most people present seemed to agree with the process, and were ready to move forward with the council’s resolution to form districts.
Input was also collected on worksheets and comment cards.
Oceanside aims to complete the districting process within the 90-day safe harbor period before the pending lawsuit goes into effect. The city will maintain four City Council seats. Future council candidates must live in the same district as voters. The mayor will continue to be elected at large, by all voters.
A draft map of districts will be made by June 14, followed by City Council hearings on June 21 and July 25.
Districts will be adopted by Aug. 1, and effective for the 2018 elections. City Attorney John Mullen said once districts are adopted, residents will be notified which two districts will be up for election first.
Current council members will serve their elected four-year terms regardless of where boundaries are drawn. The terms of Councilman Jerry Kern and Councilman Chuck Lowery end in 2018.
Upcoming community meetings will be held at 2 p.m. May 20, Bishop Recreation Center, 5306 North River Road; 6 p.m. May 23, Lake Elementary School, 4950 Lake Boulevard; and 6 p.m. May 30, Civic Center Library Community Room, 330 North Coast Highway.