Solana Beach council endorses voting system changes


Since Solana Beach incorporated 32 years ago, voters cast ballots for any candidate in council elections regardless of where they lived within the city.

That will change in 2020, as a result of council action Tuesday, June 26, barring legislative intervention in state law.

Council members voted 4-1 to endorse a map for future elections that divides the 3.5-square-mile municipality of about 14,000 residents into four districts.

Also, the council agreed the entire electorate will vote to choose the mayor, rather than continuing to rotate the post among the group’s five members.

The council is scheduled July 10 at 6 p.m. to give final approval to the changes.

“To me this has been a miserable experience ... and yet we have been forced into doing it,” Councilwoman Judy Hegenauer said of the circumstances leading to the council’s actions.

They came in response to a legal challenge, based on theCalifornia Voting Rights Act enacted 15 years ago, that alleges the at-large election system hinders representation by Latino candidates.

In recent years, such challenges alleging voting discrimination have been levied against jurisdictions with at-large elections throughout the state and most of those who fought the lawsuits have lost at great expense.

Even when agencies win rulings in their favor, they wind up losing money because the law prevents governments from winning court awards and litigation costs.

Solana Beach residents as well as council members lamented the predicament in Tuesday’s meeting. Yet, the majority believed having four districts and an elected mayor was the best approach without the expense of a legal battle.

“In this case, we prefer four districts with a separately elected mayor, so we will at least be able to vote for two of our representatives,” said Lisa Montes, one of 14 residents who spoke to the council.

A representative of Solana Beach’s oldest and most heavily Latino community, La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Montes was among eight of the speakers who supported the map labeled 410e.

It was one of several dozen configurations drafted by the city’s demographic consultant over the last few months in response to public and council comment.

Under the 410e map, District 1 covers the city’s northwest section going east from the coast and stretching eastward beyond Interstate 5. District 2 encompasses Eden Gardens and also touches the coast south of Fletcher Cove.

District 3 is the southernmost section bordered by the coast, Via de La Valle to the south and neighborhoods east of I-15. District 4 encompasses almost the entire east side, including the Lomas Santa Fe community.

Supporters said the configuration adheres to the goals of creating districts with about the same number of people, sharing assets such as the coast, parks and commercial sectors, and avoiding the division of neighborhoods, including Eden Gardens.

“I think that ‘e’ is the one that we should be going with ... for a lot of the reasons given,” Councilman Peter Zahn said. “It’s also the most balanced across districts. ...

“It does a decent job of running east to west, though not for the full length of the city. And it does all of this while conserving a strong Latino community of interest in District 2 and is really the least damaging in terms of breaking up neighborhoods.”

David Zito, the city’s acting mayor, cast the dissenting vote after stating he favored the alternative map labeled 410f.

If the council’s decision stands, Solana Beach residents will be voting for a mayor, and council members representing Districts 1 and 3 in 2020. In 2022, Districts 2 and 4 will be up for election.