ENCINITAS — Encinitas voters are getting a glimpse at what voting districts could look like in their city as the city has unveiled the first round of draft district maps.
The City Council recently reviewed five maps created by the demographer contracted by the city to guide the district formation process.
“We are trying to show you a range of options and different approaches,” said Douglas Johnson of the National Demographic Corporation.
Encinitas is considering transitioning from an at-large electoral system (where the public votes for each council member) to a by-district system (where voters elect one member from their respective districts) as a result of a lawsuit threat from a Malibu law firm that accuses the city’s current system of disenfranchising Latino voters.
Though a number of residents and two of the council members oppose the move, which they said would be divisive, the City Council voted to start the process and has been working the past two months on developing potential district maps and determining the order in which the districts would be up for election.
The Oct. 11 City Council meeting was the first time any of the draft maps were made available to the public.
The first map split the city into five districts closely mirroring the city’s five communities, with the Olivenhain District capturing a section of Cardiff east of El Camino Real along Manchester.
The second map was intended to capture the council’s stated desire to have horizontal districts that touched the coast and inland. It accomplished half of the goal; each of the districts touched El Camino Real, but one of the northern districts did not reach the coast.
The final three maps were four districts rather than five. The third map included vertically oriented districts. The fourth map kept three of the communities largely intact but joined Cardiff and Olivenhain, and the final map largely ignored the community boundaries.
Following the presentation, the council discussed whether it should limit the map submittals to four districts, which would preserve the at-large mayor, or continue to accept submittals with five districts.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath argued that the city should only consider four districts because the public voted in 2012 to elect its mayor.
Councilman Tony Kranz disagreed, arguing that the city’s previous mayoral rotation system could return with a five-district council.
“It worked in the past,” he said. “The one time it didn’t work led to the vote to change the system.”
Boerner Horvath disagreed and said that she believed voters didn’t approve the directly elected mayor as a result of the time when the former council denied Teresa Barth the mayor’s seat, which set off a firestorm of controversy.
“In my opinion, the bully (Shenkman & Hughes) has asked for four council seats, and I am disinclined to give him one more,” Boerner Horvath said. “I think when people voted for that, they wanted a voice in who would be their mayor, in the person who would be setting the agenda and representing the city.”
The council ultimately decided to continue to accept four- and five-district maps.