Santa Clara County officially has a new map of its political boundaries for the next decade.
The Board of Supervisors adopted a map Tuesday proposed by Supervisor Cindy Chavez. Officially known by the number 90195, this map makes several significant adjustments to the five district boundaries, most notably moving Los Gatos and Almaden Valley out of District 1 and into District 5.
The new map—which will stand until the next redistricting a decade from now—was approved on the consent calendar with hardly a word, one day before the statutory deadline to adopt new boundaries. Redistricting occurs once every 10 years on the local, state and federal levels to make sure political districts have roughly equal populations.
Supervisors voted 3-2 last week to advance with 90195, one of several variations of the Yellow Map—a proposal backed by a collection of civil rights and labor groups. Supporters of 90195 say it will boost representation for marginalized communities in Santa Clara County.
“I felt that voices were heard, and there was real consideration for everything that was asked for,” Bob Nunez, head of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP, told San José Spotlight. “I’m grateful the Board of Supervisors saw that and listened and voted the way they did.”
The 90195 Map has a population deviation of 4.1%, not as low as the map promoted by Supervisors Mike Wasserman and Joe Simitian. Both voted against the map last week and did so again Tuesday. The map preserves a majority-minority Asian Pacific Islander district in District 3, maintains a Latino influence district in District 2 and puts all of Sunnyvale in District 3. It also moves Evergreen from District 3 to District 1.
The most controversial aspect of the map is its removal of Los Gatos and Almaden Valley from District 1, traditionally a conservative stronghold in the county. Some community leaders complain the map is diluting the voice of rural towns in District 1 by clustering them with large San Jose neighborhoods.
“It takes away the strength that we have and we go back to being the ugly stepchild,” Don Gage told San José Spotlight. Gage served two terms as Gilroy mayor from 1991 to 1997 and from 2012 to 2016. He also served as a county supervisor from 1997 to 2010.
The move also excludes two candidates from the District 1 supervisor race—former San Jose Councilmember Johnny Khamis and Los Gatos Vice Mayor Rob Rennie. Rennie has already publicly stated he plans to run in the 2024 election for District 5 when Simitian is termed out. Khamis told San José Spotlight he intends to remain in the race, noting he’s already looked at possible houses in District 1.
“I’m extremely serious about staying in the district,” Khamis said.
Some local politicians, including Khamis and Gage, have argued the redistricting process is rife with legal and ethical concerns. In letters to the county, several argued Chavez should have recused herself from voting on the Yellow Map and its variations because she threw her support behind Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine in the District 1 election. Gage himself is a supporter of Khamis.
The Fair Maps Act forbids stakeholders redrawing political boundaries from considering incumbents or candidates running for office as a factor in their map-making.
Several Asian American leaders claim the 90195 Map will reduce their community’s voting power by splitting a major chunk of the population into three districts instead of just two.
“What they’re doing is discriminatory, diluting and silencing the Vietnamese and Asian American voices,” Bien Doan, a candidate for San Jose City Council District 7, told San José Spotlight. Doan has also rallied residents to protest a redistricting map for San Jose backed by the same groups that created the Yellow Map.
Richard Konda, executive director of the Asian Law Alliance, which helped create the adopted map, said it creates a strong presence for the Asian community in the county by unifying Sunnyvale.
“I’m happy the map was adopted,” Konda told San José Spotlight. “It’s a great map and I think it’ll be good for the community.”