Paso Robles City Council chooses draft map for by-district elections

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles City Council narrowed its focus on a map for by-district council elections at Tuesday’s meeting, March 19.

The Council had five different draft maps to choose from and with a 5-0 vote asked staff to bring back Map E for additional consideration. This was the third public hearing as the City transitions from at-large to by-district elections in time for the 2020 election.

Map E consists of four districts — 1 through 4. District 3 and 4 seats on the Council will be decided in the 2020 election. Currently, John Hamon resides in District 1, Maria Garcia is in District 2, Steve Gregory is in District 3 and Fred Strong is in District 4. The mayor does not have a district and would continue to be elected by at-large voters. Steven Martin is currently the mayor of Paso Robles.

City staff is going to review the demographic information and census track boundaries of Map E to confirm that they allow for the inclusion of the Quail Run neighborhood in District 4 and boundary adjustments to square off the neighborhood.

Map E was designed by a community member Brian Kragh, who wrote the following in his description, “This plan was designed in a non-partisan fashion to allow the city councilmembers to represent certain areas. Garcia would represent a majority of schools and parks east of the Salinas River. Strong would represent where a prevalent amount of senior citizens reside which includes the Senior Center and Quail Run. Hamon s district would consist of the north side of downtown and the airport. Gregory's district would include the southern part of downtown including the library, city hall, and the public safety center."

A district-based election system is one in which a jurisdiction is divided into separate geographic districts, each with one representative who resides in the district and is elected only by the voters residing in that district.

In a district-based system, voters within each district may only vote for one candidate every four years.

On Aug. 13, 2018, the City received a letter from Kevin Shenkman of the law firm of Shenkman and Hughes, alleging that the City’s at-large electoral system violates the California Voting Rights Act. Because the CVRA establishes a fairly low threshold, numerous public agencies throughout California have been facing challenges to their at-large election systems. No public agency has succeeded in court when challenged under the CVRA.

No public entity has successfully defended itself against a CVRA challenge; some jurisdictions have paid millions of dollars in plaintiffs’ attorney fees.

The City intends to move to by-district elections and is also continuing to analyze the possibilities of transitioning to an alternative at-large electoral system, which will also be CVRA compliant.

While the Council has preliminarily chosen Map E, there is still time for the public to give their input. All of the draft maps are available for review on the City’s website at and at City Hall.

In other matters on Tuesday the Council:

Amendment for Rincon Consultants — authorized the City Manager to approve a contract amendment with Rincon Consultants, Inc. for the Gateway Annexation EIR for $52,500.

Fiscal Impact Analysis of Beechwood, Olsen-South Chandler Specific Plans — authorized the City Manager to initiate a Fiscal Impact Analysis of three geographic areas by appropriating $74,500 from the General Fund and authorizing the City Manager to execute a contract with David Taussig and Associates, consistent with the proposed scope of work, with the finding that a sole source professional services contract with David Taussig and Associates is in the best interest of the City; and authorize the City Manager and City Attorney to make any needed or desired non-substantive changes to the agreement that are fully consistent with Council direction.

Final Map for the Paso Robles Horse Park — accepted and recorded Parcel Map PR 09-0105, and accepted the offer of dedication for public sewer, waterline, access, and utility purposes, as shown on the map.

Community Development Block Grant Draft Action Plan — approved designating $147,007 of the anticipated 2019 CDBG allocation, along with the $9,445 in remaining 2017 public service funds, for a total of $156,452, to help initiate a warming shelter and support services for residents experiencing homelessness in the Paso Robles area, $25,700 for the two public service program applications, and $43,177 of the allocation for administration of the CDBG program.

Amended “Regional Commercial Zone” to allow Laundromats — amended the zoning code to allow laundromats as a permitted use in the regional commercial zone.

Oak Tree Removal Permit — approved the removal of a Valley Oak at 1636 Spring St., because it is in poor condition and likely will cause damage to the property if it were to remain, and approve the removal of the tree. Additionally, allowed for the waiver of the $600 application deposit based on the decline of the tree not being the fault of the current owner and to require the replanting of one native oak tree on site.

Mid-Year Budget Report and Adjustments — received the report and approved amending the budget for fiscal year 2018-19 by appropriating $80,000 from the Public, Education, and Governmental (PEG) Fund.

2018 Annual Report of the Implementation of the General Plan — approved the 2018 General Plan Annual Report, and directed staff to submit it to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

The next regular City Council meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on April 2.


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