San Mateo County’s district boundaries on the move 

Changing populations in some of San Mateo County’s largest cities could shift the boundaries of supervisor districts south as the first redistricting effort in a decade kicks off.  

While county supervisors will ultimately decide the new districts, officials are working to schedule community forums in May and June that will allow residents to weigh in on the configuration of the five districts, taking into account recently released 2010 census data.  

By law, the districts must be drawn so they are as equal in population as possible. But officials must decide what to consider in drawing up the new maps, such as trying to avoid cutting cities in half or considering whether a district should have a mix of urban and rural interests.

“I’ve never done this before, so I don’t know exactly how you do this,” said Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, who will head a redistricting committee with Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson. “But whatever we do, it has to be very public and very transparent.”

County staff are planning to create a redistricting website and investigate software that will allow residents to analyze potential redistricting plans, Deputy County Manager Mary McMillan said.

Hanging over the process is a lawsuit filed last week by a civil rights group against the county challenging its system of electing the five supervisors via an at-large vote rather than by district. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights claims the at-large system is discriminatory and dilutes the political power of Asian and Hispanic voters.   

The group’s director of litigation, Robert Rubin, said the redistricting conversation won’t directly affect the lawsuit, but the group will keep an eye on the process.

“They should do it in a way that protects Asian and Latino votes,” Rubin said. “We think that probably means at least one majority minority Asian district and one majority minority Latino district.”

The county’s overall population has changed little in the past decade, from 707,163 to 718,451, but several cities had population shifts.

Those closer to the central Peninsula — San Mateo, Redwood City, Foster City and Menlo Park — tended to see population gains. Cities near the borders — Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, Daly City and East Palo Alto — lost residents.

Scrutinizing those variations will likely be one of the group’s priorities. It also will likely consider the issue of splitting cities, as the current supervisor boundaries divide several.

“Personally, I’d hope a supervisor district has a whole city in it,” Board of Supervisors President Carol Groom said, “but I also know our population stays pretty flat here, so that’s not always an easy thing to do.”

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