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June 18, 2024
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Watsonville City Council split over redistricting plan

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville City Council at a special meeting on Jan. 20 narrowly advanced a new district map that would largely stick to the status quo, but make a significant change between the 2nd and 6th districts.

The map, dubbed the Rivera Plan, would move areas of Oregon, California and Washington streets, as well as Hill Avenue, from the 2nd District to the 6th District, eliminating a small region of the former known in local political circles as “The Thumb” because of its shape.

The plan was named after its creator, Watsonville redistricting committee member Nick Rivera, who was appointed to the committee by 6th District City Council representative Jimmy Dutra.

Council voted 4-3 to move the proposed map to its final public hearing. Rebecca Garcia, Francisco “Paco” Estrada and Vanessa Quiroz-Carter cast the dissenting votes.

The final public hearing will take place at the Feb. 8 city council meeting. Though the Rivera Plan is the council’s preferred map, all maps will be available for public review and discussion at that meeting.

The meeting should bring an end to the city’s redistricting process that began in earnest last fall. The seven-member redistricting committee appointed by the city council met six times from September through the end of the year to pore over census data gathered in 2020 and determine where the city’s population had significantly shifted since the previous decennial census was conducted.

The group also had to weigh the effect the pandemic had on the census, and evaluate how to best protect or unite “communities of interest,” or a group of residents with similar concerns and interests.

In all, third-party demographer Michael Wagaman prepared seven maps for the committee to review and discuss. Another map was submitted to the committee from the public and committee member Maria Isabel Rodriguez submitted her own plan that suggested drastic changes to every district.

Watsonville redistricting
Moving the neighborhood in gray from the 2nd and 6th district of the Watsonville City Council is one of few changes proposed in this round of redistricting. — courtesy of city of Watsonville

The committee ultimately recommended the city council move forward with the Rivera Plan, which is largely the same plan Wagaman prepared after the committee directed him to draft a map that kept changes to a minimum. Several committee members said they chose to stay close to the status quo because of concerns about census undercount and a possible dilution of power in the 1st and 2nd districts—historically representing large Latino populations.

The only difference between that plan, called the Green Plan, and the Rivera Plan came in the removal of “The Thumb.”

Councilwoman Quiroz-Carter, the 2nd District representative, had concerns about the move, which she said would make her district the smallest in the city. She questioned whether moving those homes to the 6th District would be an “equitable” exchange for her constituents.

Wagaman said that the committee believed the move would not have a large impact on the 2nd District because it felt that those neighborhoods near downtown Watsonville and around Watsonville High School were likely drastically undercounted during the census.

The committee also determined that the suburban neighborhoods on Oregon, California and Washington streets were more closely aligned with the communities in the 6th District, which is largely made up of the suburban neighborhoods off Brewington Avenue and Martinelli Street.

“These are all tradeoffs,” Wagaman said. “I don’t have a clean-cut answer to say ‘this is the more equitable plan than the other plan.’ It really is a decision of this body about which plan is going to result in the fairest representation going forward.”

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.


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