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    San Clemente goes back to previously approved map for by-district elections
    • January 23, 2024

    After six months of discussion and multiple options, the City Council majority has opted for a map that some say is the clearest choice for dividing San Clemente into voting districts because it cleanly splits the community along major arterials, canyons and the freeway.

    The council settled on the boundaries for creating four voting districts that will go into effect starting with the November election after the city attorney said a new law, the Fair Map Act, prevented the council from considering other maps after Jan. 1 without creating an independent panel of residents to start a new redistricting process.

    The San Clemente City Council chosen Map 109 to divide the city into four voting districts on Tuesday, Oct. 17. (Courtesy of City of San Clemente)

    The map the city will use for its new district-based elections, known as Map 109, was the last one the council approved before the new law went into effect at the start of the year.

    At least 30 residents representing the Southwest Community Association tried at the council’s latest meeting to convince it to change from Map 109 to another version that is similar, but doesn’t split a Pier Bowl neighborhood.

    But the council split on creating a new independent panel and the circumstances did not meet the criteria for an exemption from the requirement to now use one, which include following a court order, settling a legal claim, if there was a city boundary change, or if there were a decrease or increase in the number of council members.

    Since there were no exemptions that fit, two council members, Chris Duncan and Mark Enmeir, asked their colleagues to support the independent panel but failed to get support.

    “If we want to meet our March deadline, this is our only option,” Mayor Victor Cabral said of moving forward with the already approved Map 109.

    Map 109 makes the Talega and Rancho San Clemente communities one district and Forster Ranch and Marble Head another. The other two districts along the beach are divided by Avenida Victoria. One district goes toward North Beach and the other goes south toward Cypress Shores. From there, it crosses the 5 Freeway and goes around the golf course toward the Broadmore area.

    “We paid a consultant and looked at dozens of maps,” Councilmember Steve Knoblock said, adding that it was too bad more residents didn’t show up at the council’s earlier discussions of how to divide the city. “Map 109 is logical and clear. It applies all the rules properly, and the boundaries are major arterials, the freeway, and major canyons, and it made absolute, pristine sense to me.”

    The council began looking at the change to by-district elections – in which voters will chose a council representative from their geographic area – in August after the city received a letter challenging its at-large election system for being “racially polarizing” and diluting the voice of minority groups.

    As part of the new voting process, San Clemente’s mayor position will become an elected position and chosen by all voters, which councilmembers said would guarantee residents always have a voice in each election, regardless of whether their district is on the ballot. Currently, the mayor is chosen each year by councilmembers from among their ranks.

    In November, the council seats representing the more coastal District 3 and District 4 will appear on the ballot. In 2026, voters in District 1 and District 2 will choose their councilmembers and the at-large election for mayor will be held.

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    ​ Orange County Register