San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is urging a state commission not to adopt political boundaries that would potentially weaken the power of Silicon Valley’s biggest city.
Liccardo is asking the California Citizens Redistricting Commission to not approve a map that will split San Jose across four congressional districts. Most of the city is now located in the 19th District under Rep. Zoe Lofgren.
“None of the four San Jose districts would have a majority of San Jose residents, so California’s third largest city would become the only major city without a congressperson primarily representing the city’s collective interests,” Liccardo said in a statement.
States are charged with redrawing political boundaries once every decade to make sure a relatively equal number of people are represented in each district. The process occurs on the local level, too: Santa Clara County is about to approve a new map of its five supervisorial districts, and San Jose is still tinkering with its lines.
California has to establish its final map of political boundaries by Dec. 27. The commission is meeting Tuesday for discussion and to receive public comments.
Shaking up Silicon Valley
The latest iteration of California’s congressional map would dramatically shake up Silicon Valley. It would split San Jose into the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th districts. Cupertino, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara would be split from Mountain View and Palo Alto.
Lofgren, who was not available for comment, would have her district shifted further south. She would have constituents in King City and Salinas in neighboring Monterey County. Rep. Jimmy Panetta, based in that region, would have a district with hundreds of thousands of South San Jose residents.
Liccardo said farmworkers in the Salinas Valley and coastal residents in Monterey deserve to have a representative who lives close by.
“(They) deserve the full attention of a congressperson who does not need to drive an hour north to a district office located near the world headquarters of Adobe, Western Digital or Zoom,” he said in a statement.
Commissioner Isra Ahmad told San José Spotlight the state Redistricting Commission follows six criteria for redrawing congressional boundaries: districts must be of equal population; comply with the federal Voting Rights Act; be contiguous; minimize the division of cities, counties and neighborhood communities of interest; and ensure each Senate district has two complete and adjacent Assembly districts. The commission does not consider how maps will affect incumbents or candidates.
“Our mission here is to really prioritize communities and center communities of interest in these maps,” she said.
Terry Christensen, a retired political science professor at San Jose State University, said it’s difficult to see what communities of interest the commission considered when crafting the congressional districts. As an example, he said it doesn’t make sense to redraw lines that place Edenvale and Evergreen together, and Palo Alto with Half Moon Bay.
“The mayor is right that it would be best to have a single San Jose-dominant district,” Christensen told San José Spotlight. “On the other hand, if the city is split into four districts we could, at least in theory, have not one but four representatives.”
Palo Alto Councilmember Greg Tanaka says Liccardo is right to be upset about San Jose splitting into multiple districts. Tanaka, who is running for Congress, is similarly concerned with how redistricting will potentially split the handful of tech-heavy cities that form the heart of Silicon Valley.
“They basically carved out Cupertino, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara away from Mountain View and Palo Alto—the traditional Silicon Valley cities,” Tanaka told San José Spotlight.
He noted some of the tech cities are being mixed into districts with rural communities, such as Pescadero and La Honda. Tanaka is worried these new political boundaries will break up Asian communities in Silicon Valley, diluting their voting power. This concern has been echoed in local redistricting battles, with political leaders saying some maps will harm Asian American voting power.
“I don’t think (the commission) was preserving communities of interest—I think they were trying to keep the same racial balance as ten years ago,” Tanaka said, referring to a time when Silicon Valley had a higher proportion of white residents.
Ahmad noted communities of interest have to be defined by geography. This makes it difficult when considering how to preserve regions unified by a dominant industry, such as tech.
“When we say Silicon Valley is a tech community of interest, where is it? Does it run from Palo Alto to Santa Clara or Sunnyvale, or does it run all the way to San Francisco?” she said.