The California Citizens Redistricting Commission delivered final maps for new congressional and state legislative districts to the California Secretary of State on Dec. 27. Although the commission prepared the maps through an impartial, nonpartisan process, the results could have a significant impact on local elections and how the coast is represented.
Changes to congressional districts
As currently drawn, Congressional District 14, held by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, includes essentially all of San Mateo County. The district stretches from San Francisco’s Sunset District to San Gregorio on the coast and from Bayshore to East Palo Alto on the bay side.
On the basis of the 2020 census, California will lose one congressional seat resulting in a cascade of changes to the remaining 52 districts. The new map for elections beginning in 2022 situates the San Mateo County coast in District 16. The district shifts south from the previous boundaries and runs from Daly City to the Santa Cruz county line.
The newly drawn boundaries encompass much of the area currently represented by Anna Eshoo who is expected to seek reelection in District 16, which includes the coast. Eshoo’s office did not respond in time for publication to requests for her comments on the new district and how she expects to represent the coast.
The new alignment separates the coast from bayside communities such as Redwood City and San Mateo. These municipalities form a new congressional District 15. Stretching from Daly City and South San Francisco to East Palo Alto, District 15 differs substantially from the area represented by Speier, who announced in November that she will not seek reelection in 2022.
Five candidates have declared their intention to run for Speier’s seat. The new district lines could impact their campaigns. El Granada resident Gus Mattammal now finds himself living in a different district. He reiterated his intention to seek election in District 15 even though it will no longer include the Coastside. “I've been campaigning there for the better part of a year. Additionally, my business is centered there, so I've worked with families in the 15th district for more than 14 years,” he told the Review. Members of Congress are not required to live in the districts they represent.
Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, who received Speier’s endorsement to succeed her, said in a statement that “The newly redrawn 15th Congressional District covers a great deal of the district I represent in the Assembly, so while I am eager to introduce myself to the new portions of this congressional district, I am confident that voters in the areas that overlap my assembly district are familiar with my track record … District lines change, but the issues that matter to everyday Californians are the same.”
San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, who also declared his candidacy for this seat, currently represents an area almost entirely within the new congressional District 15.
State Assembly districts
Similar changes realign state assembly districts in the county. Currently the coast is divided between two seats. Mullin’s District 22 runs along the coast from Daly City to Pillar Point Harbor. District 24, represented by Marc Berman, lies to the south and extends to the Santa Cruz County line.
The new map unifies these two districts on the coast but separates them from the bay side of the county. Assembly District 23 will include the entire San Mateo coast as well as numerous municipalities in Santa Clara County such as Saratoga and Los Altos. In a statement to the Review, Berman announced that he will run for reelection in the new District 23. “I look forward to representing new communities on the Coastside and in the South Bay in the new (district),” he said.
Several Peninsula politicians are expected to compete for Mullin’s seat. South San Francisco City Councilmember James Coleman has already announced his candidacy. The new map slightly shifts the boundary within South San Francisco, putting a small portion of Coleman’s base into a different district.
Coleman said he “is sorry to see that, but nonetheless happy that the redrawn district will become a majority-minority seat for the first time.” Diane Papan, city council member in San Mateo, which falls squarely in the new Assembly district, also declared she will run. Redwood City Councilmember Giselle Hale is rumored to be eyeing the race as well.
Communities of interest
The Citizens Redistricting Commission was formed following passage of the Voters First Act in 2008 and convenes every 10 years to draw new districts following each census. According to its website, “The Commission must draw the district lines in conformity with strict, nonpartisan rules designed to create districts of relatively equal population that will provide fair representation for all Californians.”
While abiding by these factors, the electoral maps must maintain local communities of interest without violating the Voting Rights Act. According to the commission, “A community of interest is a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.”
Supervisor Canepa believes San Mateo County should be considered a community of interest. Having a single representative in congress, he says, helps the county secure federal funding.
“When Pacifica was going into the ocean, it was Congress that helped get funding,” he notes as an example. He says he is “very disappointed that Pacifica and Half Moon Bay will be excluded from the district” he hopes to represent.
Half Moon Bay City Manager Bob Nesbit agrees that the coast shares social and economic interests with the rest of the county. “If we leave the Coastside to work, shop and play, we go over the hill to San Mateo and Redwood City, not to San Jose and Campbell,” he points out. “And residents of those cities come here when they want to be on the coast.”
He is concerned that if most of the population in the new congressional district lives far from the coast, the areas in Santa Clara County “will ultimately get the attention and focus of the congressperson who is elected.”
After the 2022 elections, State Sen. Josh Becker will be the only elected official representing most of San Mateo County. Daly City is not in his district, which will undergo modest changes but remain largely intact. He acknowledges the significance of the county as a “community of interest” on certain issues. He says that representing the entire coast enables him to “get everyone in the room (or on Zoom) to collectively address issues such as sea level rise and transportation.”
Becker insists that the coast remains a priority to him even if there are more voters on the other side of the hill. “I love the coast, my family loves the coast and I’m proud to serve on the California Coastal Conservancy,” he said.
Many office holders and candidates on the Peninsula emphasize that having legislators who agree on policy issues, such as affordable housing and combating climate change, and who can work together, is more important than where the district boundaries are drawn.
For his part, Nesbit says that he’ll “work with anyone we get to make sure the coast is a priority.”