San Jose redistricting angers downtown residents
Houses line the Naglee Park neighborhood. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    The redrawing of city lines has some residents in an affluent downtown neighborhood fired up.

    And the county’s redistricting process — happening simultaneously — is raising questions in a highly-contested supervisorial race.

    In the city’s process, a redistricting map being floated by the city’s consulting group would move residents from the historic Naglee Park neighborhood — part of downtown’s District 3 — into District 5 which includes mostly East San Jose.

    And residents in this neighborhood known for its historic mansions and sprawling single-family homes aren’t having it.

    “In the 15 years I’ve lived here, my community of interest has been going west,” said Naglee Park resident Marni Kamzan during a redistricting meeting Thursday. “Dissecting District 3 and removing Naglee Park from all the communities we’ve worked together for decades makes no sense whatsoever when you’re discussing communities of interest.”

    Some commissioners, such as Dee Barragan of District 3 and David Ditleveson of District 6, also voiced concerns about splitting historic neighborhoods like Japantown and Naglee Park. They had hoped to keep the “minority-majority” areas of the city, such as Districts 4, 5 and 7, intact for Asian and Latino residents.

    “Are we going to be adding to the economy or taking away from the economy? Those are really big considerations to think about when we do this,” Barragan said. “When it comes to the downtown core, there are so many neighborhoods and they’re really the older neighborhoods of the downtown core. We want to make sure we’re not dividing these older neighborhoods.”

    Residents on Thursday worried that splitting neighborhoods such as Naglee Park, Japantown and Willow Glen, will dilute the area’s voice concerning issues such as homelessness, parking, property taxes and city resources.

    Naglee Park and the area surrounding it is currently in District 3, highlighted in green. The eastern part of the city is in the top right. Photo courtesy city of San Jose.
    One of the city’s proposed draft maps places residents in Naglee Park, highlighted in purple, in the eastern part of the city. Photo courtesy city of San Jose.

    The meeting Thursday included a look at six citywide maps drawn up by Sacramento-based firm Redistricting Partners. The maps are based on research, input from the commission and the public. No vote was taken by the commission.

    Redistricting Partners has worked with various cities across the Bay Area to draw district maps.

    The city’s redistricting committee, which is comprised of 11 members, will meet again Thursday. The committee meets weekly and is tasked with reviewing the maps before recommending one to the City Council in December.

    The Unity Map

    A competing city and county map, the so-called “Unity Map,” was drawn by a labor-led coalition of Working Partnerships USA, the Asian Law Alliance, the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP, the Latino Leadership Alliance and the La Raza Roundtable.

    This coalition is the only special interest group to draw up its own maps.

    The proposed San Jose Unity Map. Photo courtesy Silicon Valley Rising/Working Partnerships USA.

    “We think this (map) does an important job of bringing together some of our leading civil rights groups to look at how we can ensure the voices of our Latino, Asian American, Black, low-income and renter voices that typically have not been as well-served in the city have an equal say going forward,” said Jeffrey Buchanan, director of policy at Working Partnerships USA.

    The Unity Map claims to better represent underserved low-income neighborhoods and communities of color while keeping historic neighborhoods together. But some claimed it was drawn by “special interests” and nonprofits with deep pockets and an agenda.

    “Sounds like we have a lot of outside influence in this city, and that really bothers me,” said resident Brenda Dohman. “It looks like you’re trying to fix elections or redistrict for some sort of political gain instead of for the best interest of the residents.”

    The Santa Clara County Unity Map. Photo courtesy Silicon Valley Rising/Working Partnerships USA.

    Though the Unity Map is just a proposal, the county one could cut out certain business-backed candidates running for elected office.

    A Unity Map drawn for the county’s simultaneous redistricting process could exclude two supervisorial candidates: Former San Jose Councilmember Johnny Khamis and Los Gatos Vice Mayor Rob Rennie. Both are fiscal conservatives backed by the area’s business interests.

    “The way they’ve drawn it, it’s clear that they don’t want me and Rob to be in the race,” Khamis told San José Spotlight. “This isn’t the final map of course. I won’t get my temperature up until I see a more realistic map the county is going to vote on. I want to see a less politically-motivated map.”

    Rennie also isn’t sure if the map will actually move forward, but he wants to see a fairer and more equitable layout.

    “It’s less about what leaves me in the district or not,” he said. “Are we drawing districts for a political reason? Is this more about districting out somebody who is running? I’ve got to question whether or not this is the best solution for the county.”

    Next steps

    Redistricting, or the redrawing of district lines, occurs at the local, state and national level each decade after the release of census data. But historically, a lack of transparency and backroom conversations have posed a threat to district representation in cities throughout the state.

    The 11-member San Jose Redistricting Commission is responsible for redrawing the city’s 10 council districts, each with roughly 100,000 residents. The county’s 15-member redistricting commission is responsible for redrawing the county’s five supervisorial districts.

    The city’s commission must select a final redistricting map by Dec. 15. The map will go to the City Council for approval on Jan. 11.

    Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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