The city of Napa’s new district map that will determine how residents elect city councilmembers for the next decade could end up being the same map the city’s currently using.
The current district map was created last year, during the city’s switch to district-based elections, and it was used for the 2020 City Council elections. Creating that map involved a lot of community participation, including 44 proposed maps and 58 Community of Interest worksheets, according to city clerk Tiffany Carranza.
But the city, like all other California jurisdictions with district-based elections — including Napa County, the Napa Valley Unified School District, the Napa County Office of Education, and Napa Valley College — is required to redistrict every time new Census data is released at the start of each decade.
This city hasn’t yet seen close to the same level of community participation this year as it did last year. Indeed, zero members of the public showed up at the city’s first redistricting workshop on Dec. 1.
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At a redistricting public hearing Tuesday, one member of the public showed up. The Napa City Council also received a presentation on just the current map from demographer Elizabeth Stitt, given that no alternative maps had been submitted by community members by the Dec. 12 deadline.
The city is legally allowed to move forward with the current map — even with the switch from 2010 Census numbers to 2020 data — because the districts with the smallest and largest populations only deviate 7.6% in population from each other, Stitt said, which fits within a legal requirement that districts deviate less than 10% in population.
The Napa County Progressive Alliance submitted two maps after the deadline, both geared to reduce the population disparities between districts once the West Pueblo-Linda Vista neighborhood — the largest of the unincorporated “islands” scattered around the city, containing about 1,800 people — is incorporated into Napa, said David Campbell, a District 2 council candidate in 2020, at the meeting.
City attorney Michael Barrett has previously stated that the city has started the process of annexing the unincorporated islands into the city, but annexation will happen after the redistricting process.
Campbell, speaking on behalf of the progressive alliance, said the group has been urging the council to annex the islands so the population of those unincorporated areas can be considered in the redistricting process.
But at the very least, he said, the maps could be drawn in such a way that the largest island doesn’t automatically end up part of District 2 — which currently makes up most of Browns Valley, and has the largest population of 20,520 — and that part or all of it could be incorporated into the adjacent District 4, which has the smallest population of 19,029, instead.
“This solution would help equalize the population between Districts 2 and 4, guarantee flexibility in incorporating the island into a district upon annexation, and ensure island residents have an opportunity to participate in a meaningful way in the decision,” Campbell said.
Barrett said adding the island into District 2 would bring the map above the 10% population differential, but it wouldn’t violate any relevant laws. That’s because current law allows annexations and additions up to 25% of the city’s population before another redistricting process is triggered, he said, which would be around 20,000 people for the city.
Councilmember Beth Painter said in addition to the islands, it’s important to think about homes that will potentially be built over the next decade. That includes the Napa Pipe project, she said, which is planned to add up to 945 homes to the city, and Napa County’s former Health and Human Services Agency campus along Old Sonoma Road, which may add about 150 new housing units.
Painter added the city should balance considering the current maps with thinking about what the biggest changes will be to population over the next decade.
Mayor Scott Sedgley said the big required criteria for him is Communities of Interest, a term which refers generally to people with shared social or economic interests who live in a defined area. He said it seems to him that the West Pueblo-Linda Vista community of Interest is west of Highway 29, which serves as a dividing line between the current District 2 and District 4.
Carranza said that with five more community workshops scattered through January — including a virtual option on Jan. 6 — the city may still see an influx of submitted maps. The city has until April 17, 2022, to pass a final map
Carranza also said if community members don’t have suggested changes and think the existing maps are fine, that’s testimony the city needs to hear as well.
“It’s not just about what can change, what should change, but if you are acceptable of the map we have that’s also important feedback for the council and for the demographer,” Carranza said.
Painter reiterated Carranza’s point, saying if there’s an interest in retaining the current district map, the council does need to hear that.
“My sense is a lot of our residents are still getting used to the districts that we just created,” Painter said.
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You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.