The county of Santa Barbara held a series of meetings last week to begin its redistricting process and educate the public about upcoming changes to district lines.
The county adjusts its internal borders every 10 years to best reflect the area’s newest population statistics which will be derived from the 2010 census results for this year’s redistricting. The meetings included discussion about the impact of Isla Vista’s student population on the unincorporated community’s placement within the county.
According to 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, the county will attempt to restructure the districts with minimal disruption to constituents.
“The goal of the redistricting process is to ensure that the districts are roughly equal in population,” Farr said. “The county is unable to disrupt census lines and we must also be sensitive to groups of interest, such as the student population in Isla Vista. We try to minimize the amount of people affected by the transition, so my first choice for a redistricting plan would be one that is closest to the current boundaries.”
The county is composed of five districts represented by their respective members on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. Residents of the largely rural third district voiced concerns about the wide range of needs and priorities within the district, which includes Isla Vista. Many third district residents suggested relocated I.V. into the county’s second district.
Farr said the county will take both students’ and local residents’ opinions into careful consideration before redefining the new boundaries.
“Isla Vista isn’t incorporated as a city, so all of the typical duties of city government fall into the hands of the county,” Farr said. “All of the redevelopment, community improvement projects and rent control efforts are conducted at a county level, so it is important to get input from Isla Vista residents about the new district lines.”
According to Dennis Bozanich, assistant to the county executive officer, the public will have the opportunity to voice their concerns with county staff at several meetings spanning from May 19 to 26.
“There is always a great diversity of opinions at these public meetings,” Bozanich said. “Many people want the lines to stay the same, and many call for radical changes to where the lines are drawn. The main goal is always to minimize disruption and to maintain the integrity of communities. Both Santa Barbara and Santa Maria are now too large to fit inside a single district.”
Bozanich said the upcoming meetings regarding the process will also clarify misconceptions about the redistricting procedure.
“This is a very interesting process to learn about, and it only happens once every 10 years,” Bozanich said. “It has a big effect on who represents you at the county level and has a significant effect on the local community in the coming decade.”