PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles City Council received public comment on Nov. 20 on the criteria and the timeline for drafting district boundaries for the transition from at-large City Council elections to by-district elections.
The City is required to transition to a by-district system because of a legal challenge that the current system violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2002. The primary criteria are census population data. All districts must have an equal population, as determined by indivisible census tracts.
However, the boundaries of council districts can be drawn based on logical divisions within the City, such as major roads, rivers, creeks, neighborhood boundaries, and school attendance areas.
There are other questions for which the City needs public input: Should downtown be in one district or split into multiple districts? Similarly, do neighborhoods want to be in one district or two? What other communities of interest or amenities should be grouped together?
City Council provided feedback and their common themes included: maintaining the current at-large mayor and creating four council districts, including downtown in at least two districts, and working to maintain east/west connectivity.
The Council directed staff to continue with extensive community outreach and provide examples and information regarding how residents can get involved through the website, social media, traditional media, and any other logical outreach opportunity. More information is available on the city’s website.
Numerous informational meetings and public hearings are scheduled to take place between Dec. 5 and April 16. Residents are being asked to help design the maps of the districts. Demographics and a mapping toolkit will be available to those interested in submitting draft maps.
The next three meetings are as follows:
• Community Meeting, 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 5, Centennial Park
• Community Meeting, 6 p.m., Monday, Dec. 10, Flamson Auditorium
• Public Hearing, 6:30 p.m.Tuesday, Dec. 18, City Council Chamber
Residents are being asked to suggest district boundaries for City Council consideration. Districts must have equal population and the most effective are based on communities of interest, are compact and contiguous, with visible (natural and man-made) boundaries such as a river or existing school or police precinct districts, and/or respect residents’ wishes for continuity.
The Dec 5 and Dec. 12 meetings will provide more in-depth information on the Federal and traditional criteria for setting boundaries and familiarize residents with demographic data, mapping tools and case histories of cities that have transitioned to by-district elections. The Dec. 18 public hearing will gather public input on the composition of each district.
Additional outreach and community meetings will be held in January to educate and encourage residents to utilize mapping tools prior to a February workshop to draft boundary maps and a potential election sequence.
In other matters the council:
— 275 Blackburn Street Oak Tree Removal — approved the removal of two oak trees based on them being in poor health, as indicated in the Arborist Report, and required two 1.5-inch diameter replacement trees (1 Blue oak and 1 Valley) be planted on site at the direction of the arborist.
— 944 Pine Street Oak Tree Removal — approved the removal of a 6-inch Coast Live Oak for the construction of improvements and reasonable use of the property for which it is zoned, as indicated in the Arborist Report, and required three 1.5-inch diameter Coast Live Oak replacement trees be planted on site at the direction of the arborist.
— Consultant Agreement for Environmental Impact Report and Traffic Impact Study for the Proposed Olsen/South Chandler Ranch Specific Plan — approved the hiring of Rincon Consultants to prepare an EIR in an amount not to exceed $224,340 and approved the hiring of Central Coast Transportation Consultants to prepare a Traffic Impact Study for an amount not to exceed $89,560. Both studies will be paid for by the developer.
— City Manager’s Signature Authority — approved a resolution continuing the previously approved amendments to the City’s Purchasing and Payment Procedures Manual, setting the City Manager’s purchasing authority limit at $35,000 into the future, with no specified end date.