The future looks very different for San Luis Obispo County voters, in so far as their respective Supervisorial Districts will look.
A split County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on Nov. 30 to adopt a new district map submitted by South County resident, Richard Patten, and rejected over a dozen other maps, including a status quo map, that were developed by a diverse list of people — from a County staff redistricting committee, to the SLO Chamber of Commerce.
Patten’s map was also endorsed by the local Republican Party, and coupled with the majority of County Supervisors being conservative leaning (County Supervisors are officially non-partisan offices), has Democrats in the County crying foul and leveling accusations of Gerrymandering.
With the so-called, “Patten Map,” each supervisory district is changed dramatically, but none more so than Dist. 2, where Supervisor Bruce Gibson has held the seat for four, 4-year terms and has already announced intentions to seek a fifth term in 2022.
Currently, Dist. 2 encompasses Los Osos, Morro Bay, western SLO, Cayucos, Cambria and San Simeon, all very like-minded communities that favor environmental protections and slow-growth.
But the Patten Map cuts out Morro Bay and Los Osos from Dist. 2, and adds all of Atascadero and San Miguel. So Gibson would lose his two biggest areas of supporters in Morro Bay and Los Osos, and pick up constituents in Atascadero that tend to be more conservative.
It also dilutes the weight of North Coast voters, throwing them in with the folks of the North County.
Dist. 3 has perhaps the oddest changes, as currently, that district represents Pismo Beach, about a third of SLO, Grover and Avila Beach.
Under the Patten Map, Dist. 3 is reduced to a thin strip of land that encompasses nearly all of SLO — including the residential areas around Cal Poly — and stretches out the Chorro Valley/Hwy 1 corridor to include all of Morro Bay.
Current Dist. 3 Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg, who along with Gibson voted against the new map, commented that this new Dist. 3 only has about 1,300 residents that actually live in the County’s jurisdiction.
Los Osos would be moved into Dist. 5 along with Avila, Grover and Pismo Beach, plus Oceano, and including the County Airport and Oceano Airport as well.
Currently, Dist. 5 is mainly in the North County, and includes Atascadero and Santa Margarita plus chunks of Templeton and SLO. The Patten Map makes Dist. 5 a coastal district.
Dist. 4 also severely changes both its shape and constituency, as the new 4th District would include Arroyo Grande, Nipomo, and the sparsely populated Eastern SLO County (California Valley), and even include the Oceano Dunes OHV Park as it wraps around the southern edge of the County Line.
Dist. 1 changes the least of the five and would encompass Paso Robles, Templeton, Shandon, Creston, and Santa Margarita, as well as the vast empty in the northeastern part of the County.
With his once safe district now carved into three pieces, Dist. 1 Supervisor Gibson was not happy. “The Board majority, to no one’s surprise, pushed through their outrageously gerrymandered map,” Gibson said. “From start to finish, they fought desperately to exclude some key information: a simple analysis of voter registration numbers shows their map explicitly favors Republicans — a violation of state statutes.”
In a post to the County’s Facebook Page the SLO County Democratic Party wrote, “By selecting the Patten map, supervisors have chosen to affect half the county’s population, even though the county only experienced a 3.5% change since the last census. With a change this low, a redistricting process was not even required, but that didn’t stop them from disenfranchising voters.”
Morro Bay Mayor John Headding told Estero Bay News, “I am very disappointed on the selection of the Patton Map by the County Board of Supervisors. This map fractures the significant community of interest that the North Coast towns share from Cambria to Los Osos.”
Morro bay doesn’t belong with SLO. “Putting Morro Bay in a district with San Luis Obispo in my opinion,” Mayor Headding said, “makes no sense and will impact our city’s ability to work collaboratively through our elected supervisor with other coastal communities.”
With their new, preferred redistricting map chosen, Supervisors were slated to introduce the accompanying ordinance, on Dec. 7 with a final vote on Dec. 14 [post press time] to put it into effect. If approved at that time, the map would go into full effect a month later (Jan. 14) and be in place for Supervisorial Elections for the next 10 years or until the results from the 2030 U.S. Census are tabulated. Re-districting happens with each new Census.
Opposition has already started getting organized with one group from the South County reportedly considering a lawsuit or possible petition drive for a ballot Initiative. Once the Supervisors finalize a new map, likely on Dec. 14, the opponents have 30 days (to Jan. 13) to file notice to circulate a petition with the county clerk.
A petition drive would need 10% of the signatures of voters in the last Gubernatorial Election (2018) or about 12,650 verified signatures. A vote would be scheduled for next June’s Primary Election.
Otherwise, the county clerk-recorder, who is in charge of running local elections, is expected to issue a report laying out what the next elections will look like, as only two Supervisors are up for election in 2022 — Gibson, and Dist. 4 Supervisor Lynn Compton.
The changes will make the order of elections go somewhat haywire with some communities having to skip voting and others voting early.