San Mateo County’s Board of Supervisors has appointed 14 county residents to the Supervisorial District Lines Advisory Commission, the panel that will be responsible for redrawing the county’s electoral district boundaries based on 2020 census data and public input.
The county is divided into five districts, each represented by one supervisor. Every 10 years, state law requires counties to redraw their district maps based on census data to ensure that each district has an equal population and that each board member has the same number of constituents.
While counties usually have county staff and consultants redraw the district maps, San Mateo County supervisors decided to form a commission of resident volunteers to oversee the process.
After receiving 65 applications for the commission, the supervisors on Tuesday selected the 14 members based on recommendations from the League of Women Voters of South San Mateo County, a nonpartisan education and advocacy group that encourages participation in government.
Members were selected based on associations with “good government, civil rights, civic engagement, and community groups or organizations that are active in the County, including those active in language minority communities,” according to a staff report.
Meet the commissioners
The 14 members are: Nirmala Bandrapalli, Nathan Chan and Hermes Monzon Ruiz for District One; Marcus Barber, James Lawrence and Kailen Sallander for District Two; Benj Azose, Nadia Bledsoe Popyack and Marian Lee for District Three; Mark Dinan and Rudy Espinoza for District Four; and Rita Chow, Miguel Louis (Rudy) Guerrero and Priscilla Romero for District Five.
The board also appointed two alternates: David Chu and Mark Olbert.
To ensure each district has three members, the county will accept applications for the 15th seat for District Four. Applicants must live in District Four, which includes Redwood City, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park (east of El Camino Real) and the unincorporated area of North Fair Oaks. Applications will be accepted until noon on Aug. 16. Residents can apply online or apply by mail.
During Tuesday’s meeting, several callers expressed support for the board’s decision and requested that there are enough public workshops to help people understand the process and provide input.
Julia Marks, a voting rights attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, said that the commission should host more than two meetings before census data is released.
“We have found that initial engagement can be really challenging since this is complicated subject matter,” Marks said based on the caucus’ involvement in redistricting efforts in other California communities. “People often need multiple opportunities to listen and engage before they’re ready to provide the very detailed input that the line drawers will need to do their job.”
Drawing new boundaries
Following a series of public workshops, the San Mateo County commission will recommend changes to the current district map and create a new draft map or maps. A professional demographer and county staff will help with the process.
The Board of Supervisors will then approve the final map.
Current laws require the new district map to be fully approved by Dec. 15 and the county is asking the commissioners to complete the map by Nov. 15. However, with census data expected to be released in October, County Counsel John Beiers said it was a compact timeline and he did not know whether legislation would extend the timeline.
Board President David Canepa, who oversaw the recruitment efforts along with Supervisor Don Horsley, said their goal was to create a commission that reflects the diversity of the county.
The commission consists of a group of eight men and six women, between 23 and 73 years old, who are ethnically diverse and from communities across the county.
“The next step is inviting every resident, regardless of age or immigration status to get involved in the process and contributing to our future,” Canepa said in a statement. “Where those lines go helps to ensure everyone has an equal voice.”