Almanac

News - October 2, 2013

Committee recommends splitting Menlo Park in county redistricting move

by Barbara Wood

Menlo Park would be split into two San Mateo County supervisorial districts under all three possible redistricting maps an advisory committee has forwarded to the Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to make a decision on district boundaries on Oct. 8.

With slight variations in boundaries, all the plans given the nod at the Sept. 24 meeting of the San Mateo District Lines Advisory Committee put the western part of Menlo Park into District 3, which also includes Woodside, Portola Valley, Atherton, San Carlos, part of San Mateo and the coastside; while leaving the eastern part of Menlo Park in its current district, District 4, which also includes East Palo Alto and Redwood City.

Several Menlo Park City Council members have said they oppose dividing the city into two supervisorial districts.

But several speakers at the advisory board meeting asked to have East Palo Alto, the eastern part of Menlo Park and the North Fair Oaks neighborhood of Redwood City end up in the same district. "If we have people with similar interests, similar cultures, language, income, people who go to school together, and keep them together, I think it's going to be better for us," said Julio Garcia of the North Fair Oaks neighborhood.

District 3 is represented by Don Horsley and District 4 by Warren Slocum.

Menlo Park opposition

The Menlo Park council briefly took up the topic during its Sept. 24 meeting, reviewing a letter that Councilwoman Kirsten Keith had drafted to send to the advisory committee.

"A split of Menlo Park, would negatively impact the City and its residents. It would undermine City efforts toward community building in our Belle Haven Neighborhood and reduce the ability of residents to build strong relationships, solve problems that reach across new district boundaries, and further complicate access to County resources," Ms. Keith wrote.

During the council's discussion, Vice Mayor Ray Mueller said he saw a political argument, but not a strong policy argument, for keeping the city together. A lawsuit opposing county-wide elections highlighted the difficulties of minorities being elected to the board of supervisors, he said, and two Menlo Park districts would also give residents two points of contact on the board.

Councilman Rich Cline said that splitting the city in two was the wrong solution, comparing it to a Band-Aid.

The council ended up voting 5-0 to send the letter once Mayor Peter Ohtaki had reviewed the final draft. Mr. Mueller stated that he was supporting the letter as a courtesy vote.

Voters wanted change

In November San Mateo County voters approved a measure changing the way county supervisors are elected. Previously, the supervisors representing each district were chosen by all county voters. Now only the voters in each supervisorial district can vote for their own supervisor.

San Mateo County was the only one of California's 58 counties not electing supervisors by district voting.

As part of the settlement of a 2011 lawsuit brought by three Asian and three Latino county residents represented by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and demanding an end to county-wide elections, the supervisors agreed to also consider changing current district boundaries.

The nine-member San Mateo District Lines Advisory Committee, made up of supervisors Adrienne Tissier and Warren Slocum plus council members from Daly City and East Palo Alto and a resident from each current district, has held 10 meetings, taking public comment and studying district boundaries. William Nack of Menlo Park represents District 4.

The Board of Supervisors can choose to leave the district boundaries as they are, but the advisory committee did not recommend a plan that does so.

Mr. Nack said he would be happy with any of the three plans the committee is recommending to the supervisors.

Atherton resident Greg Conlon told the advisory committee that he supports a plan that changes the current boundaries to include Menlo Park and Atherton in the same supervisorial district, because they share school districts and commercial services.

"I think the temptation is going to be very great for you to leave things the way they are," he said. Doing so, he added, might lead to trouble. "I think there is a risk of being challenged," he said.

Redistricting plans could be submitted by anyone, with the three that were ultimately recommended coming from the Community Unity Group, the Republican Party Central Committee of San Mateo County, and former San Mateo County resident James Nakamura, each having been modified by the submitters several times.

The advisory committee, with the supervisors and Mr. Nack abstaining, also prioritized the redistricting proposals they have recommended. Their unanimous top choice was the Community Unity 4 plan, which was submitted by a group attempting to give more representation to minority groups in the county.

Second priority went to the Republican AA plan, which at the request of South San Francisco Mayor Pro-tem Karyl Matsumoto, a Democrat, will be renamed the Equity plan. Third priority was given to the Nakamura 1G plan.

The three plans that were recommended each divide Menlo Park at a different location. In the Community Unity plan the line is at El Camino but includes Menlo Oaks in District 3. The Nakamura plan draws the line at Middlefield and Bay roads, and also includes Menlo Oaks in District 3 while the "Equity" map draws the line at Bay Road and Highway 101.

Go to tinyurl.com/SMCMaps to see the three recommended versions.

—Sandy Brundage contributed to this report.

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