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Board of Supervisors' conservative majority picks Patten map for redistricting

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The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors selected a new supervisorial map for the next decade on Nov. 30 that upends the current county map and sends upwards of 100,000 residents into new districts and election cycles.

THE PATTEN MAP On Nov. 30, the SLO County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to adopt the Patten map as part of redistricting. The map makes substantial changes to the current district lines. - MAP COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY
  • Map Courtesy Of SLO County
  • THE PATTEN MAP On Nov. 30, the SLO County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to adopt the Patten map as part of redistricting. The map makes substantial changes to the current district lines.

The Patten map, created by Arroyo Grande resident Richard Patten and backed by the local Republican Party, won over SLO County's three conservative supervisors in a 3-2 vote. Once it's formally adopted by the board in December, it will likely face a lawsuit challenging its alleged partisan tilt and other defects, according to public testimony.

"This isn't over," dissenting 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson said in a Dec. 1 Facebook post.

Changes ushered in by the Patten map include:

• Removing liberal-leaning Oceano from southern District 4, and grouping it into a district with Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, and Los Osos.

• Creating a new narrow, urban-packed district that has all of Morro Bay, most of SLO city (including Cal Poly), and the Chorro Valley.

• Pushing Cayucos, Cambria, and San Simeon into a North County district that also includes the city of Atascadero, west Paso Robles, and San Miguel.

• Generally expanding District 4 and northern District 1 to cover more eastern, rural territory.

The majority of supervisors chose the Patten map over the other finalist map from the SLO Chamber of Commerce, which proposed more minor changes to the existing district lines.

At the meeting and in prior public comments, 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton, 1st District Supervisor John Peschong, and 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold all voiced their displeasure with the current configuration of districts—at times labeling it a Democratic gerrymander—and said they wanted to make changes, starting with reducing the number of districts that intersect with the city of SLO.

On Nov. 30, Compton reiterated that point by noting that under the Patten map, SLO city is split into two districts instead of the three or four it's historically been in.

"What I'm looking at is one [map] that splits as few communities as possible," Compton said.

But while SLO is less fractured under the Patten map, several other cities and unincorporated communities are regrouped into new districts as a result. The county's redistricting consultant, Redistricting Partners, described the map as an "architectural change" not often seen in counties.

Roughly 100,000 residents are accelerated or deferred in their next elections by the Patten map—meaning they'd vote for their supervisor in 2022 instead of 2024 (accelerated), or vote in 2024 instead of 2022 (deferred).

In addition, Los Osos, Oceano, Morro Bay, part of SLO city, and other county areas would go without a supervisor for two years, between 2023 and 2025, as the map transitions. Other communities, like Atascadero and San Miguel, would have two overlapping supervisors for two years, according to officials.

A majority of public comment at the all-day Nov. 30 hearing favored the SLO Chamber map and less dramatic change. Critics were particularly opposed to separating Oceano from District 4 and breaking up communities along the North Coast, which is currently in one district represented by Gibson.

Underlying much of the opposition to the Patten map was the assertion that it favors the Republican Party. One group—Citizens for Preserving District 4—commissioned an analysis of county voter registration data to measure its partisan effect.

The analysis concluded that the Patten map does expand Republican advantages in three districts—Districts 1, 2, and 4—by moving more Democratic voters into Districts 3 and 5. It gives Districts 3 and 5 heavy Democratic strongholds (a 28 percent advantage in District 3 and 16 percent in District 5) while growing Republican advantages in District 1, 2, and 4 to 14 percent, 4 percent, and 5 percent, respectively.

The accelerations and deferrals caused by the Patten map also favor Republicans, according to the analysis, as more Republican voters are accelerated to 2022 elections, while more Democratic voters are deferred to later elections.

The conservative supervisors objected to receiving that partisan breakdown during the Nov. 30 meeting and voted down a motion by 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg to ask county staff to study it further. Peschong, a longtime political strategist for the Republican Party, said he thought it was illegal to look at it before making a decision.

Mike Normoyle, a Nipomo attorney and representative for Citizens for Preserving District 4, told New Times that his group believes the Patten map violates the 2019 Fair Maps Act, the state law on redistricting, on several fronts and hinted at a future legal challenge.

"We have to see what unfolds," Normoyle said. "Procedurally, we know a key and very unfortunate decision was made yesterday. We view it as flagrant and foolish, and not in keeping with what the Fair Maps Act requires."

If cemented into an ordinance at board meetings on Dec. 7 and 14, the Patten map would most immediately affect two county supervisor elections next year. Gibson and Compton are both up for reelection in June 2022.

Jimmy Paulding, Compton's challenger, who narrowly lost to her in a 2018 election for District 4, blasted the board's decision in a statement to New Times.

"Lynn Compton and her colleagues certainly knew the Patten map favored them politically, despite claiming otherwise," said Paulding, an Arroyo Grande City Council member. "Instead of doing the right thing, Compton removed Oceano from her district because the community supported me in the last election. ... So she voted to divide and weaken South County to benefit herself. I believe South County voters will see through this self-serving behavior." Δ

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