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City Council redistricting process begins

The second meeting of the Redistricting Advisory Commission (RAC) was held in the City Council Chamber on December 15. Few people attended in person. On the agenda that night were two items, the first of which was a Public Hearing titled “Redistricting Process Overview and Input.” The Agenda Report recommended actions to “receive and file” a report from the demographer on the redistricting process and to “conduct a public hearing to receive community input on district boundaries.” The comingling of the two tasks made it unclear when and whether the intended public hearing formally occurred.

The demographer contracted by the City, Dr. Justin Levitt, Vice President of National Demographics Corporation, gave a presentation that included an overview of federal and state redistricting law, some Fullerton demographic information, and four mapping tools the public can use to create maps to submit to the demographer and the RAC for consideration. His presentation is available in the Supplemental Materials to the meeting.

District Boundary Criteria

The California FAIR MAPS Act (AB-849 of 2019) requires the City to review the current district boundaries using the 2020 Decennial Census data that, Levitt explained, was received in September rather than March of 2021, causing a “compressed time-frame” to complete the redistricting process. Charts containing population and other demographic information from 2016 when the districts were created, and with the 2020 adjusted census data, were made available in the agenda report.

In 2016 there was a 6% difference in “deviation from ideal” values between the most and the least populated districts, District 3 (D3) and D4, respectively. The 2020 census data counts 8,768 more residents throughout the City of which D3 received the largest share (42%) and D4 received the smallest (7%). The 2020 difference in “deviation from ideal” between the most populated (D3) and least populated (D4) is now at 16%. At a minimum, the districts must be adjusted to have no more than a 10% difference to meet the federal standard for “equal population” among the districts, according to Levitt.

The 2020 difference in “deviation from ideal” between the most populated (D3) and least populated (D4) is now at 16%. From a presentation by Dr. Justin Levitt, Vice President of National Demographics Corporation.

To comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act, Levitt explained, boundaries should not “crack,” or divide protected groups among districts, nor should boundaries “pack” or combine protected groups into a single district. “Race,” he also explained, “cannot be the only or predominate factor in the creation of a district.” But protected groups can be kept together based on communities of interest and other policy concerns other than the color of one’s skin or the language they speak.

Levitt presented the prioritized criteria created by the FAIR MAPS Act (section 21601(c) and (d)) that were not required when the current boundaries were drawn. “Districts shall be geographically contiguous,” meaning continuous and connected without skips or jumps. The “geographic integrity” of neighborhoods and local communities of interest, excluding relationships with political parties, incumbents, and candidates “shall be respected in a manner that minimizes its division.” Districts should also be easy to identify, following “natural and artificial barriers.” Last on the list of priorities is “geographical compactness,” where one group of people is not bypassed to get to a more distant group of people. As well, Levitt highlighted, an overall requirement that boundaries “shall not be drawn to benefit or discriminate against a political party.”

Levitt presented a set of “other traditional redistricting principles,” without citing case law or other sources that he said could be followed once the federal and state criteria are satisfied, such as minimizing voter shift, where boundary changes cause a voter to wait an additional two years for a total of six before they can vote for a councilmember. He also said that planned future building projects that may create a loss of housing or future population growth can be considered. He said that “continuity in office,” or not targeting a councilmember for removal can be considered despite what seems to be a conflict with the explicit exclusions in the definition of communities of interest. He also offered the goal of preserving the core of an existing district. During Public Comment, Julia Gomez, an ACLU attorney said via Zoom that this added criteria “should be disregarded” if it conflicts with the federal and state criteria.

Fullerton Demographics

Community input is used to learn about the geographic boundaries, landmarks, and buildings that define neighborhoods and to understand the shared identity, issues, and concerns that help define communities of interest. Demographic data is used to understand socioeconomics, ethnic composition, languages spoken, age breakdown, voter registration and turnout, levels of education, homeownership compared to renting, types housing, and more.

From a presentation by Dr. Justin Levitt, Vice President of National Demographics Corporation.

A chart was included in Levitt’s presentation that compared the current ethnic makeup categorized as Hispanic, Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black, or Asian American, for each district by total population and by Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP). D4 and D5 each have an Hispanic majority (at least 50% + 1) and a Hispanic plurality (largest group) of CVAP. D1 has a majority of Asian Americans and nearly an Asian American majority of CVAP.

Maps were provided in the presentation materials from the demographer that identified “Latino Neighborhoods” based on CVAP in nearly all areas throughout Fullerton, but “especially west Fullerton, south of Downtown Fullerton, and around Pearl Park.” A map showing “Asian CVAP” data, identified “Asian neighborhoods” in the northwest quadrant north of Bastanchury, and a development in the northeast-most corner of the City.

Other demographic data was presented on maps that showed where there are apartments and multi-family housing with a high concentration of renters around CSUF. Levitt said that there are many places where apartments are in areas next to housing ownership. Levitt commented on a map displaying income over $75,000 that the levels of income are higher north of Malvern/Chapman. Other demographic data can be requested. Vince Buck requested that the political party affiliation data be available in the district maps to allow the public to see whether the districts are creating a benefit to a political party.

Mapping Tools

The mapping tools were introduced and are available for the public to use. The tools will be demonstrated during the Community Workshops on January 13 and 29 and February 10. Maps can be submitted for a portion of the City or for the entire City. Public comments submitted in a variety of forms will also be considered as input to the maps proposed by the demographer.

The mapping tools provide data by population units, areas that are larger than the census blocks. A specific request can be made to propose a boundary within a population unit if it follows a census block boundary, according to Levitt. Only one type of demographic data can be displayed at one time by the online mapping tools that can provide demographic data.

Mapping tools can be accessed from https://www.cityoffullerton.com/government/departments/city-clerk/redistrict-fullerton/draw-a-map. The tools range from a paper map with population data that can be drawn upon, a map combined with an Excel Workbook, a browser-based tool called Dave’s Redistricting App (only available in English) or the Caliper’s Maptitude Online Redistricting tool (available in six languages). The deadline to submit maps is Thursday, February 10. 2022 at 11:59pm.

Commission and Public Comment

Following Levitt’s presentation, the Redistricting Advisory Commission (RAC) members asked questions about the redistricting process. The demographer answered their questions and then the public made comments and asked questions about the process, too. After the last public comment about the redistricting process, the public hearing was formally closed. However, it was not apparent that the public hearing to receive input on district boundaries had been opened. Rather than providing input on district boundaries, the questions and comments from the public were centered on the redistricting process and the lack of timely notification about the public hearing, where City Facebook posts and email blasts did not go out until the afternoon prior to the December 15 meeting, according to multiple public commenters.

The FAIR MAPS Act, requires “four public hearings at which the public is invited to provide input regarding the composition of one or more council districts.” At least one of those public hearings must occur before maps proposing the district boundaries are drawn. (See Elections Code section 21607.1.(a)(1).) This crucial step in the redistricting process should be completed before the demographer presents maps to the public.

The FAIR MAPS Act also requires the City to encourage participation in the redistricting process with “a good faith effort” that includes “providing information to media organizations that provide city news coverage including media organizations that serve language minority communities” as well as “providing information through good government, civil rights, civic engagement, or community groups or organizations that are active in the City, including those active in language minority communities, or that have requested to be notified concerning redistricting.” (See Elections Code section 21608.)

The Process

Levitt said he will “synthesize” public input and provide to the RAC his draft maps and the maps submitted by the public, grouped by the similarities among the maps to help “narrow the focus.” Revisions will be made based on direction from the commission or the demographer may provide options to the commission from which to select. Levitt specified that no maps will be eliminated until the RAC selects their final map to recommend to the City Council.

Future Meetings – All Virtual Through Feb. 15

The next three Redistricting meetings will be Community Workshops led by the demographer at three different sites throughout the City:

• January 13 at 6:00 pm, Fullerton City Council Chambers, 303 W Commonwealth Ave.

The public may attend in person or view the broadcast at www.cityoffullerton.com/meetings, on Fullerton Spectrum Channel 3, and Fullerton AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. Visit this link for more information: https://www.cityoffullerton.com/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/811/190

The Commission will hear public comments in person and via Zoom. Attend the meeting in person in the Council Chambers or via Zoom with the Zoom Meeting ID: 823 8575 9083 or Zoom Dial-In Phone Number: 1-669-900-9128. NOTE: This meeting was originally scheduled for 6pm, Chapman Park Building, 2515 San Carlos Drive, but will now take place at City Hall.

• January 29 at 10am, Orangethorpe Park Building, 1737 West Roberta Avenue

• February 10 at 6pm, Fullerton Free North Campus, 2904 North Brea Boulevard.

The next Public Hearing presided by the RAC is February 23 at 6:30pm in the Council Chamber, 303 West Commonwealth.

Questions about the redistricting process, map submissions, and to provide input about neighborhoods and communities of interest can be submitted by phone, (714) 738-6350 or by email DistrictElections@CityofFullerton.com.

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