Fear of San Jose being divided into four congressional districts is no longer an issue—the city will likely only be divided into three.
After aggressive campaigning by Mayor Sam Liccardo and San Jose residents, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is moving forward with a map that minimizes the splits to the seat of Silicon Valley.
“Your comments worked!” Liccardo wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. “Just hours ago, the commission decided to implement map #3, which preserves a Congressional district with a majority of San Jose residents.”
Redistricting occurs every decade when cities, counties and states redraw their political boundaries to account for population changes. San Jose and Santa Clara County recently realigned their districts. Early next week, the state commission will likely vote to approve a map finalizing changes to congressional districts ahead of a Dec. 27 deadline.
Commissioner Pedro Toledo told San José Spotlight that San Jose residents who contacted the commission mostly talked in terms of preserving neighborhoods, not their city. He noted that compared to other parts of California, relatively few residents from the city chimed in about district boundaries until recently.
“It’s why it came as a little bit of a surprise when we started hearing from San Jose,” Toledo said. “We’ve heard from neighborhoods in San Jose, but we hadn’t heard from San Jose about the number of districts they’d want to see.”
The new districts are still being tweaked, but one runs from Alum Rock down through San Benito County and into Monterey County. Another district captures the area around downtown San Jose, as well as Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and southern portions of Alameda County. Toledo said the commission received testimony from East Asian and South Asian communities in the area that want to preserve their communities.
“That is a region that is obviously very tech-heavy, and has much but not all of Silicon Valley,” Toledo said.
Two tech-focused cities—Mountain View and Palo Alto—were placed in a coastal district currently spanning from San Mateo County to San Luis Obispo. Some community leaders expressed concern about splitting up the core of cities that constitute Silicon Valley. Toledo explained each district requires an approximately equal number of people, and in a region as dense as the South Bay, it’s difficult to find convenient dividing lines.
The latest adjustment to the Bay Area’s congressional maps was inspired in part by the commission’s need to create a Latino-majority seat to comply with the Voting Rights Act. That district will include a portion of San Jose in the Alum Rock area that contains a population of Latino essential workers, plus communities in the Salinas Valley and agricultural regions of Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a Latino-majority seat in Congress, and it’s the only (Voting Rights Act) seat in Northern California,” Toledo said. “I think it’ll provide that community an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice in a congressional seat, which in some ways is historic.”
The state commission is still taking community input over the weekend. Residents can contact the commission here.