This report has been updated following the Dec. 20 approval of the redistricting maps.
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission late Monday approved final congressional district boundaries that will please San Jose city officials, but create election-year turmoil for Santa Clara County incumbents.
The boundaries published Saturday and discussed at a Dec. 20 meeting of the bi-partisan commission keep the same number of congressional districts – 11 – for the greater Bay Area, but redraw boundaries of districts for San Jose, Silicon Valley, South County and the coast, based on the 2020 U.S. Census.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was ecstatic when he saw that the commission had revised its congressional maps for San Jose after the mayor complained a week ago.
“Your voices were heard!” he exclaimed on Facebook and Twitter, the day before the map was published. “Just hours ago,” he wrote, “the commission decided to implement map #3, which preserves a congressional district with a majority of San José residents.”
The redistricting commission consists of five Democrats, five Republicans and four unaffiliated voters, and faces a Dec. 27 deadline to create 52 congressional districts, one fewer than the state’s current allotment, plus state Senate and Assembly districts.
San Jose, the state’s third-largest city which topped the official 1 million population mark in the 2020 census, still is split by three congressional districts, but a week ago Liccardo was shocked by a draft map that allocated San Jose into four districts. Nearly all of San Francisco and Oakland, for example, are contained in distinct districts.
The three new congressional districts for the San Jose metro area include the first majority Latino district, and another that is the first predominantly Asian district.
Under the plan expected to be approved today, downtown and East San Jose, including Alum Rock, are included in a sprawling congressional district that extends nearly 150 miles south to Lake San Antonio. This district is 50.5 percent Latino, according to the census.
Portions of this district are currently represented by Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Jimmy Panetta.
Another district revises Silicon Valley congressional boundaries to exclude Fremont, home of Rep. Ro Khanna, as well as Palo Alto, Mountain View, Stanford and Menlo Park, while including Milpitas, portions of San Jose – including the Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport and Berryessa – and all of Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. This district is 46% Asian and 35% white, according to the census. Fremont will be added to the East Bay district represented by Rep. Eric Swalwell.
The third district that includes portions of San Jose includes South San Jose, extending from Campbell to the Hecker Pass, including western Santa Clara County communities of Saratoga,Willow Glen and the Coyote Valley. This region is currently represented by veterans Lofgren and Anna Eshoo.
Territory now represented by Eshoo and Panetta will be combined into a single long coastal district that stretches 200 miles from Pacifica to Pasa Robles, including Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park, Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur and Cayucos.
A revised Peninsula district begins at East Palo Alto on the south and ends at Daly City, including Redwood City, San Mateo, Foster City, Millbrae and Burlingame. Longtime San Mateo Rep. Jackie Speier announced she is not seeking re-election.
One hurdle was cleared easily last week for the commission courtesy of the California Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the court refused to hear an emergency appeal filed by several Republican voters who wanted the commission’s legal counsel fired and more disclosure of documents related to racially polarized voting. There was no explanation from the justices for why they refused to hear the request.
Commission Chairman J. Ray Kennedy said last week he hoped to finalize all maps today, to allow time before Christmas for final public review and comment.
Approving the maps takes consensus. The California Constitution requires at least three commissioners from each political subgroup for ratification. But with only four seats on the commission, that means even greater agreement among the panel’s “no party preference” voters.
“The Commission is grateful that the Supreme Court swiftly denied the petition and rejected the allegation that the Commission has not conducted itself in full compliance with the law,” said Kennedy last weekend.
Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney and member of the Republican National Committee, had asked the state’s highest court to fire the state independent redistricting commission’s legal advisors and force disclosure of private meetings and research into race-based voting patterns, a legal challenge made as the panel was in the final stages of crafting new political maps.