The Solana Beach School District adopted its new by-trustee area map that will be used for the upcoming November 2020 elections. The map now moves on for approval by the San Diego County Committee on School District Organization.
Throughout the process, the board’s goals for the new map were equity and inclusiveness, keeping like-minded communities together to promote leadership opportunities and establishing clear boundaries that make sense.
With the new map in 2020 the seats up for election will be SBSD President Julie Union’s seat in the new Area 5 and Area 2, which represents Solana Beach east of I-5. The Area 2 board seat is currently vacant—the board plans to appoint the new board member at its Feb. 27 meeting following a public interview session with the candidates. The district received five applicants to fill the vacancy.
The district’s transition from at-large elections to by-area trustee elections was triggered when the district received a demand letter from local attorney Craig Sherman alleging that they were in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). The CVRA prohibits the use of at-large elections of governing board members if it “impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.”
The district was given a 90-day litigation free safe harbor period to complete the districting process and as Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said, they struggled with the confines of using data from the 2010 census to draw the maps. Maps must be redrawn every 10 years after a census and the district’s map will likely look very different in 2022 as the 2020 census will better reflect the growth that has happened over the last 10 years in Pacific Highlands Ranch.
Union said the board asked if they could delay the trustee maps until after the 2020 census but it would’ve left the district open for legal challenges.
“We do have to make a decision to maintain our safe harbor to prevent us from being subject to any litigation,” Brentlinger said.
The new map will just be used for the 2020 election and when they go through the process again in the coming years, that new map will be used for the 2022 through 2030 elections.
The district held several public hearings as they debated various maps, starting with three options which evolved to five maps following board input. The board received very little public participation in the process. There were no public comments at the Feb. 13 meeting.
The selected Orange 2 map includes five areas with Area 1 including Solana Beach west of I-5 and Skyline School, which is also included in Area 2 which includes Solana Beach east of I-5 extending out to Calzada Del Bosque in Rancho Santa Fe. The wide-ranging Area 3 includes Carmel Valley and Rancho Santa Fe; Area 4 includes Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe; and the Area 5 is the smallest, most dense area including Carmel Valley neighborhoods Carmel Creek and Solana Pacific.
SBSD Vice President Debra Schade wanted to vote no on all of the maps— “I don’t believe we achieved what we set out to do with this exercise,” she said. After a long board discussion, Schade reluctantly voted in favor of Orange 2 in order to keep the process moving forward.
Schade said she did not think any of the maps were balanced and she had a lot of concerns about keeping the community of Eden Gardens together. All board members had concerns about keeping communities together— SBSD Clerk Gaylin Allbaugh stressed she did not want to split neighborhoods and streets, worrying that it could create confusion and, possibly, voter apathy.
“I sit alone (in Area 1) and the other three board members are clustered in one location on the map and I’m really struggling with that because when I look at our district there is so much area that does not have representation,” Schade said. “Regardless of what happens, you can’t have three board members live so close, it’s not good for district so somebody is going to lose a seat. One of the three clustered in the Carmel Valley area will not be able to run in 2022.”
Schade also did not agree with any map that cut through the Eden Gardens neighborhood or carved them into an area mostly associated with Carmel Valley schools because it was not meeting the goal of keeping like-minded communities together.
While the other board members supported different map options that kept Eden Gardens together, Schade recommended moving forward with the Orange 2 map and re-evaluate capturing all of Eden Gardens in one area after the census.
Union said that the map is “not perfect” but she believes it best serves the district’s needs for 2020 election.