A volunteer panel redrawing San Diego’s City Council district boundaries took steps to boost Latino voting power this week and is considering other changes that would affect Kearny Mesa, Torrey Hills and Torrey Highlands.
The panel, which must finalize new boundaries by Dec. 15, declined requests by UC San Diego students to reconsider severing the university from La Jolla so the school can be part of a heavily Asian district to the east.
The volunteer San Diego Redistricting Commission also declined to consider proposals to move Mission Beach into District 1 so it can stay connected to Pacific Beach.
One of the most significant changes included in a preliminary map the panel approved Nov. 13 is moving Pacific Beach, a longtime fixture of District 2, into District 1 with La Jolla and Carmel Valley.
The preliminary map leaves the rest of the city’s beach communities — Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and Point Loma — in District 2 and replaces the lost population from Pacific Beach by adding in the entire Clairemont neighborhood.
To help ensure San Diego has two City Council districts where Latinos dominate the voting rolls, the panel voted 8-0 Tuesday to move Mount Hope in southeastern San Diego from District 4 to District 9.
The move boosted the percentage of Latino residents in District 9 from 40.25 percent in the preliminary map to 41.46 percent in the new map approved Tuesday.
In the new map, Latinos would make up 29.25 percent of the citizens in District 9 who are old enough to vote. That’s up from 28.63 percent in the preliminary map.
Commission member Ken Marlbrough, who lobbied for shifting Mount Hope and its nearly 5,200 residents, said he was somewhat disappointed by the results.
“It didn’t move it as much as I had hoped, but it’s a starting point,” he said. “There may be some more work that needs to be done.”
The commission is trying to solve the problem of a shrinking Latino population in District 9, which had to be significantly redrawn during this redistricting process because of the shrinking overall population in that part of the city.
San Diego must redraw council boundaries once every 10 years when new U.S. Census data become available. The panel has to create nine districts that are close to evenly populated, while trying to keep connected communities together.
One challenge this year was shrinking population in District 4, which forced the panel to move some District 9 neighborhoods into District 4.
To replace that population, the panel had to move neighborhoods into District 9 from less ethnically diverse areas of District 3 and District 7, including parts of Mission Valley and Normal Heights.
Under the city’s existing boundaries created in 2011, District 9 has a Latino population of 48.2 percent. Latinos make up 35 percent of the citizens in District 9 who are old enough to vote.
San Diego’s other Latino district is District 8, which includes Barrio Logan, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. District 8 is 76 percent Latino.
Much of Tuesday’s meeting focused on fixing minor problems with the preliminary map, particularly its shift of Torrey Hills from District 1 to District 6 and its shift of Torrey Highlands out of District 5.
Torrey Hills residents say they have much more in common with Carmel Valley and Del Mar Heights in District 1 than they do with Mira Mesa in District 6. Torrey Highlands residents say they are tied together in many ways with District 5 neighborhoods Black Mountain Ranch and Rancho Penasquitos.
Commission members said they would like to reverse those changes, but there was less agreement how to handle any reverberating effects. Torrey Hills has roughly 7,000 residents and Torrey Highlands has roughly 9,000 residents.
One proposal from UCSD students would reverse those changes by also moving the university into District 6 and splitting 52,000-resident University City at Rose Canyon. The commission decided not to have that option analyzed by its consultant.
Commissioners also rejected having the consultant analyze moving Mission Beach into District 1. Some expressed support for that but said the impacts elsewhere would likely be too large despite Mission Beach having less than 5,000 year-round residents.
Another proposal would reverse the Torrey Hills and Torrey Highlands changes by dividing 41,000-resident Pacific Beach into eastern and western halves at either Lamont Street or Ingraham Street. Commissioners expressed strong objections to that but chose to ask the consultant to study it anyway.
Other changes the consultant will study include reversing the Torrey Hills and Torrey Highlands changes and uniting all of Kearny Mesa in District 6.
The panel’s final three meetings are scheduled for 5 p.m. on the following dates: Wednesday, Dec. 1; Tuesday, Dec. 7; and Thursday, Dec. 9.
For details on the boundary drawing process and to contribute feedback, visit the redistricting commission website.