Following last week's vote by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission to approve final maps ahead of their Dec. 27 deadline and move to the next stage of the once-in-a-decade process, the Tri-Valley is set to be split into two senate districts, with portions of eastern Dublin and Pleasanton also being split from the rest of the Tri-Valley under new state assembly maps.
On Dec. 20, the commission approved final maps for new districts throughout the state, following a months-long process that coincides with the release of updated census data every 10 years. The process is meant to account for shifts in population and demographics revealed by census data, and to adjust district lines accordingly in order to ensure fair representation of populations.
“As Californians, my colleagues on this commission and I answered the call to serve for this great state we honor and love," said commission chair Alicia Fernandez in a statement. "We conclude our map drawing responsibilities with pride in our final product. We started this process leaving politics out of the equation in hopes of achieving fairer and more equitable maps. I think I speak for my colleagues when I say mission accomplished! Thank you to all that participated in this process.”
Changes under the new maps mean that Tri-Valley voters will be split between senate districts 9 and 5 starting with the 2024 senate race, and that some residents will vote within assembly district 20 in next year's election, rather than assembly district 16. In addition, next year's congressional race will see Mark DeSaulnier bid for re-election in the newly established congressional district 10, which now includes all of San Ramon and portions of northern Dublin.
The state redistricting commission was formed and adopted into the California constitution after voters passed the California Voting Rights Act in 2008. The goal of an independent, non-partisan commission has been to avoid, or at least mitigate, the effects of partisan politics in the redistricting process. Having been granted the authority to take on the process in 2010, the 2020 redistricting that led to the maps that were finalized last week marks the second time in the state that this work has fallen to the hands of the independent commission.
The commission's announcement of the final maps, and the end of this stage of their 2020 proceedings, additionally emphasized that "all districts were drawn within the permissible population deviation."
Balancing this with efforts to keep communities of interest in the same districts whenever possible has characterized the commission's challenges, and as new lines slicing through portions of the Tri-Valley on the state senate and assembly maps demonstrate, the latter can't always be done.
"California senate districts are the largest legislative districts in the nation, so you're always going to get groupings and pairings of communities that may not seem like they go naturally together," said commissioner Russell Yee in a public meeting on Dec. 20.
Yee pointed to the Tri-Valley, and senate district 9, as an example of these challenges.
"You'll notice we actually do split the Tri-Valley also, so there were hard choices that were made here," Yee said. "We sure wish we could have just given everyone what they wanted, we actually did try, but this is what we ended up with, and we are confident that you can make it work."
Although the previous state senate maps put into use in 2010 mostly kept the Tri-Valley area as one, under senate district 7, the new senate map, as well as smaller changes to the state assembly and congressional maps, show that not all communities of interest, such as the Tri-Valley, can be sustained under redistricting requirements and population changes.
"We became kind of the chopping block, so to speak, in some of the conversations," said Dublin Councilmember Shawn Kumagai.
Kumagai added that while Dublin and other communities had tried to make the case for the Tri-Valley as a community of interest to the commission, various factors including county lines had posed a challenge.
Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich said that this was not the first time the Tri-Valley had been the subject of difficult decisions in the redistricting process, despite longstanding efforts between its towns and cities to function as a unified community.
He said that while the new maps, especially in the senate, present a dramatic change, he was optimistic about having strong representation for the Tri-Valley at the state and federal levels.
"While change is difficult, it also brings new opportunities to build stronger support for local control and regional funding needs," Arnerich said in an email. "The bottom-line is having two State Senators and two Congress members advocating for the Tri-Valley can be a great positive in shining more light on the Tri-Valley’s five cities regional needs. I believe the Tri-Valley will be well represented by the multitude of state and federal representatives under the new redistricting maps."
Kumagai said that while there is cause for concern with some of the new district boundaries, particularly those concentrated around Dublin, he was also optimistic that they would not present any immediate challenges to constituents on the ground.
"From a California Voting Rights Act Perspective, in theory, Dublin's influence has been diluted," Kumagai said. "That's why in theory you don't want to be split. In practice, it's not like that."
While the new senate districts present the most dramatic change for the Tri-Valley under the new maps, eastern portions of Dublin and Pleasanton are also split from the rest of the area under new state assembly districts, despite most communities remaining together under assembly district 16.
"I am happy to see the Tri-Valley remain largely intact, and to continue representing the majorities of the Tri-valley cities," said state assembly member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, who was elected to represent AD 16 in 2018.
"I am sad that I will no longer represent parts of Dublin and Pleasanton, but it will not change how hard I work to deliver for the community. I will now have another partner to work with in completing Valley Link, continuing the incredible economic growth of the region, supporting our small businesses, protecting open space and clean air, providing excellence in education, protecting public safety and so much more," she added.
With state assembly and congressional races slated for next year, the finalizing of the new maps is a crucial step for candidates seeking to run for election or re-election in these races. The new assembly districts mean that Kumagai will now live within the new AD 20. With that district's incumbent, Bill Quirk, announcing that he will not seek re-election next year, Kumagai said that he plans to formally announce a run for that seat this week.
"I think the issues that are impacting families across this district are largely the same," Kumagai said. "They want quality education, they want clean and safe communities, they want access to transportation …and they want affordable housing."
The new congressional maps present additional changes for portions of southern San Ramon and northern Dublin, with boundaries shifting south and placing these areas within the new congressional district 10. Mark DeSaulnier, who represents district 11 under the old congressional maps, announced that he would run for re-election in the new CD 10 last week.
Following the final maps being sent to the secretary of state on Dec. 26, a spokesperson for that office said the next step was for them to inform and assign voters to new districts ahead of next year's election.
Complete maps, with the ability to zoom to an address, are available here.