Palm Desert Begins Board Redistricting Process with Hearing Workshop

Palm Desert’s first public hearing on the redistricting passed without much input from residents Thursday, as city council members heard from the demographer about the process and criteria for redrawing the boundaries based on the new 2020 census population figures.

Jann Buller was the only resident to comment, sending a letter to the council asking that in addition to considering census data, the city consider potential ways Palm Desert could change and grow over the next 10 years.

“Does the 2020 census data suggest areas of population growth and demographic trends in the two districts that could affect their composition in years to come? was among the questions Buller said the city should ask during the process.

Thursday’s public hearing was primarily for demographer Mal Richardson of law firm Best, Best & Krieger to outline the process and receive feedback from council members and the public on the criteria for redesigning the boundaries, based on new population figures from the 2020 census figures.

This was the first in a series of public hearings planned by the city to redraw the boundaries of Palm Desert’s two electoral districts.

A public workshop will be held at 6 p.m. on January 20 where attendees will receive an overview of the redistricting process and learn how to use the map creation feature on the city’s website to create and submit their own draft map.

Residents can attend the workshop in person at the Palm Desert Community Center at Civic Center Park, or online via Zoom by clicking the link at engagepalmdesert.com/2022-redistricting. Those present in person will be required to follow health and safety guidelines, including wearing masks.

The city moved to a two-district system with the 2020 election as part of a settlement agreement with two Palm Desert women who sued the city in 2019, claiming the general voting system went against mandates of the California Voting Rights Act.

The law requires cities to turn into districts, bringing together “communities of interest” to ensure protected minorities have a better chance of being represented.

Boundaries must be reconfigured every 10 years, based on new census figures.

District 1, called the Civic Center Core District, is the smaller of Palm Desert’s two districts, currently encompassing approximately 18.1% of the city’s current population of 51,317.

District 1 has one representative elected every four years, while the larger District 2 has four representatives elected at-large to four-year terms, with elections staggered every two years.

One of the complainants, Karina Quintanilla, is now the District 1 council representative. She was elected to her first four-year term in November 2020.

The number of population is not the priority

This map outlines the boundaries of Palm Desert's two-district voting system.  District 1, the

District 1 must encompass 18.4% to 21.6% of the current population — or 163 to 1,800 more residents than those currently residing within the boundaries, which must be contiguous, Richardson said.

With plans to return to council on January 27 with the first draft of a map, he asked if there was a preferred population range to target for District 1. Council members said this should not not be the priority in redistricting.

“The key goal shouldn’t be a fixed number,” said board member Kathleen Kelly.

“District 1 was created to be as close as possible to a majority minority district in Palm Desert,” Kelly said. “So the top priority is to preserve that identity. This might involve getting to the lower end of the (population) range. That might involve coming to the high end.

Quintanilla echoed Kelly’s comment, saying it’s important to let residents participate and say where they think the boundaries work best for them.

“There is no magic number that should be our goal,” she said. “I think the importance of maintaining contiguous borders and communities of interest is the ultimate priority not just based on the law, but what makes sense to the community.”

Quintanilla requested that some presentations also be made at the library or at a school where residents can access computers with mapping software that they may not be able to get on their home computer.

Upcoming auditions and workshops

Key dates of the redistricting process:

January 27, 4:30 p.m.: A second public hearing is scheduled where Richardson said the first draft map will be presented for comment.

February 11th : Deadline for the public to submit draft maps for review.

February 17: Draft maps will be published online.

February 22, 5 p.m.: Public workshop to review draft maps.

February 24, 4:30 p.m.: Third public hearing for council and residents to review maps drawn by consultants and community.

March 10, 4:30 p.m.: Fourth public hearing to select and adopt a final map.

All but the January 20 workshop are expected to be virtual.

For more information on the redistricting process and upcoming meetings and workshops, visit the city’s website engagepalmdesert.com/2022-redistricting Where cityofpalmdesert.org.

Recordings of all redistricting meetings and workshops will also be posted on engagepalmdesert.com/2022-redistricting.

The council is weighing the possibility of a ballot measure asking voters if they want to move to five districts or stay at two. This will be on the agenda for the January 27 council, Mayor Jan Harnik said.

Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the cities of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherryBarkas

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