Palm Desert city council to give direction on redistricting options
The Palm Desert city council will discuss redistricting possibilities Thursday after voters approved Measure B last year.
The ballot measure supported transitioning from the current two-council district system to five council districts. While the majority of voters favored Measure B in the November 2022 general election, the decision on redistricting rests with the council, as the measure was advisory in nature.
According to city staff, implementing five districts is the most legally viable option. The council will weigh in on the matter during Thursday's meeting.
The need for redistricting arose when the city switched from at-large elections to two districts in 2019 after facing a lawsuit for violating the California Voting Rights Act. The act mandates fair representation for minority voting groups. Presently, residents of District 1 in central Palm Desert vote for a single representative, while those in District 2 cast their votes for four councilmembers.
"It just comes down to that voters have spoken. And they need to respect the voters," said Mayor Pro Tem Karina Quintanilla
53 percent of voters last November supported moving to five districts. Election data showed higher rates of approval in District 1 and in the rapidly growing north Palm Desert area, where none of the current city council members reside.
Some argue that the north end of the city faces distinct challenges, such as blowing sand, and differs from other parts of Palm Desert. "We have to have a local representation for the parts of the city to be an effective solution," said Stephen Nelson, President of the Genesis Homeowners Association.
Approximately 78 percent of Latino voters supported Measure B, city documents show.
During Thursday's council meeting, three possibilities will be discussed: establishing five single-member districts, four single-member districts with an at-large mayor, or maintaining the current two-district system.
Quintanilla, who serves on the redistricting subcommittee with Councilmember Jan Harnik, expressed the importance of having district representation without the expenses associated with citywide campaigns.
Harnik, however, has not supported an increase in the number of districts. "I really support us being together as one community. And it's unfortunate that there are two districts now," she said.
Ultimately, the city council will provide guidance to the city staff regarding a redistricting route during Thursday's meeting.