Arroyo Grande is officially transitioning from at-large City Council elections to districts for the first time in city history.
At the March 22 City Council meeting, council members ratified a district map in a 4-1 vote, with Mayor Caren Ray Russom dissenting in favor of different map Plan 903.
In both maps, Highway 101 cuts Arroyo Grande into two horizontal halves. The 1st District and half of the 2nd District lie on the upper half, while the 3rd and 4th Districts lie entirely in the lower half.
The primary difference between the chosen map, a modified Plan 202, and Russom's choice, Plan 903, are the changes in size to the 3rd and 4th Districts. Plan 903 roughly evenly divides the Grand Avenue corridor commercial hub between the two. But in Plan 202, most of the corridor rests in the 3rd District.
- File Map Courtesy Of Arroyo Grande
- 'US V. THEM' Mayor Caren Ray Russom said she was worried that this modified Plan 202 district map, which doesn't evenly split the Grand Avenue corridor between Districts 3 and 4, could cause an "us versus them" mentality between commercial and residential sectors.
Arroyo Grande resident and former City Councilmember James Guthrie expressed this concern during public comment.
"I just want to reiterate my support for 903, which I realize is probably not going to be selected," he said at the meeting. "Each district would have a commercial district representative if we went with 903 versus 202 where we have a district that just represents a residential district and has no responsibility, if you will, to the overall district."
Guthrie said he was mirroring Russom's worry from the previous meeting on March 8, when council members closed in on a district map. At that meeting, Russom said the council members should think of the community at large, and not be "too parochial."
"District 4 has no commercial. I'm concerned there's a lack of balance in terms of the desires of each district and what their foci might be," Russom said at the March 8 meeting.
The modified Plan 202 won out for all the other councilmembers after they changed the election cycle for each of the proposed districts. Council members also believed it would ensure a larger voter turnout during the next presidential election.
Russom stuck to her choice of Plan 903 on March 22. At the previous draft map selection hearing, she claimed that evening out the Grand Avenue corridor could possibly ensure more sales tax revenue for the 4th District. It left Councilmember Kristen Barneich confused.
"Well, I just mean that Arroyo Grande is so small," Barneich said. "So, everyone in the whole city is going to shop everywhere in the city. So, they'll still be shopping in the same areas." Δ
Clarification: Arroyo Grande City Clerk Jessica Matson requested that New Times add a clarification about sales tax revenue. "While some districts may have more commercial areas than others, sales tax revenue is for the city as a whole. It does not stay within individual districts. ... The districts are voting districts and the council represents the whole city," Matson said.
March 30, 2022