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Final county supervisor district map forged with a few surprises

Process proved difficult and wrenching for board members
Final county supervisor district map forged with a few surprises

By Jay Gamel

A supervisorial district map for Sonoma County was forged in a long and sometimes emotional meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 6. Its central message is a historic acknowledgement of the growing presence of non-European cultural groups, particularly those who speak Spanish.

The major accomplishment of the new map is unification of the Roseland and Moorland neighborhoods – currently split between the third and fifth districts; both half in and half out of Santa Rosa City limits. Unification will certainly give the communities a stronger voice in both Santa Rosa and Sonoma County politics. District Three’s Latinx population is estimated to become 42 percent.

The Board of Supervisors meeting also provided a rare glimpse of raw politics, with ongoing issues between Third District Supervisor Chris Coursey and Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins resulting in a tearful plea from Hopkins for reconciliation. The two disagreed strongly on a proposal to move all of Rohnert Park into either of their districts. Rohnert Park has been split for years between Districts Two and Three. It will remain so under the final.

The final vote on the county district map was 4 to 1 to approve the revised map, with Supervisor Coursey casting the lone no vote. He remained adamant that Rohnert Park not be split between two districts. The map will be formally adopted on Dec. 14 and sent to the state for approval the next day.

A point of contention was that the supervisor’s preferred final map was not the one presented by the 19-member Advisory Redistricting Commission (Commission), which was created specifically to address equity issues. Four of the five supervisors felt that achieving the Roseland and Moreland results required other changes not contemplated by the Commission.

The 2020 Census data shows Sonoma County lost nearly 10,000 people over the decade. Moving voting blocks among districts is complicated. Moving large numbers of residents from one supervisorial district to another causes imbalances that prompt more moves to keep numbers balanced among the districts. They to be sorted out considering communities of interest, geography, historic affiliation, equity and more, and all subject to both federal and state apportionment laws.

“I’m sorry the commission was angry that we modified their map,” First District Supervisor Susan Gorin said.

At the end of the day, however, there were few changes affecting the First District, which includes Sonoma Valley and the City of Sonoma, stretching down to San Pablo Bay and northeast as far as Mark West Springs.

“I think it’s going to work out well for constituents of District One,” Gorin said afterward. “It’s not an issue for me.”

A portion of Bennett Valley, which was formerly in District One, was moved to Santa Rosa’s District Three to unify the entire Bennett Valley area. Moving a thousand people out of District One, however, required other additions to maintain overall balance.

District One picked up areas near Montgomery Village and Chanate Road, and retained parts of Fountaingrove. It continues to keep the northeastern areas of the county heavily impacted by fires in the district: Mark West Springs, Wallace and Riebli Roads, and residents in the Mark West Springs watershed along St. Helena Road.

Santa Rosa residents will constitute 53 percent of District One voters under the new map.

Maps and population distribution numbers are available at Grants-and-Special-Projects/ Redistricting-2021/Draft-maps/ (or search “sonoma county redistrict”).