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Legal Hitch May Keep Thousands In District 4 From Voting For New City Councilmember

San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria talks to KPBS about the District 4 election.


Katie Keach, is communications director for San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria who represents District 3

Anna Orzel-Arnita, President of the Redwood Village Community Council


Photo credit: City of San Diego

This section of San Diego's Municipal Code dictates that the special election in District 4 must be held using the old district boundaries.

A perfect storm of unusual election events may keep some residents of the newly redistricted San Diego City Council District 4 from being able to vote for their own City Council representative.

Former San Diego City Council President, and District 4 representative, Tony Young is leaving the council, which means San Diego has less than 90 days to hold a special election to replace him. But redistricting has changed the boundaries of District 4, and city code mandates voters live within the old boundaries of District 4. That means anyone living in the newly added neighborhoods of Redwood Village and Rolando Park cannot take part in the district election.

Council President Todd Gloria called the result "an unfair situation." He said he's still researching the reasoning behind this code.

"It's my understanding that it was at some direction of the state of California," he told KPBS.

Redwood Village and Rolando Park residents have been vocal in calling this situation unfair, and Gloria said he agrees with them.

"When it brought to my attention, I just couldn't believe it," he said. "But it's what we're dealing with."

Some residents of the new District 9 will also get to vote in the District 4 election, which means voting for a representative who will never represent them.

Also excluded from the District 4 election are candidates residing in Redwood Village and Rolando Park. Anna Orzel-Arnita, president of the Redwood Village Community Council, told KPBS she would have liked to run but is excluded because of these rules.

"I intended to run in 2014 when Tony Young stepped down," she said. "Of course his resignation changed the timeline."

Orzel-Arnita estimates about 5,000 registered voters live in the two disenfranchised neighborhoods, or about 7 percent of the district's population. She said those residents are very civically active.

"Both Redwood Village and Rolando Park have amazing constituents," she said. "We have so many projects that we are concerned about, and that we've been active in, and just having our voice out there. The turnout is amazing."

Gloria said City Council can change the code, which he hopes to do, but said the code's origination with the state may make it difficult to do. He said they are consulting with the city attorney, and will be presented with a number of options, "hopefully all of them legal," at Monday's City Council meeting.

On Monday, the City Council will vote on when to hold the special election. The city clerk is recommending an election date of March 26, which could allow it to be consolidated with a special election to fill state Senator Juan Vargas' seat.

Gloria said that code will likely not be fixed in time for the election. But he said all District 4 residents will be represented by the same staff until a new councilmember is elected.

Orzel-Arnita said many residents of Redwood Village and Rolando Park will be at the Monday meeting, and said she still harbors hope that the code can change.

"I'm an optimist. Let's see," she said. "We want to approach the City Council. Can something be done? We look forward to hearing from the city attorney as to whether something could be done. And we don't want to delay an election or anything, but we certainly want to know if there's a chance to get our 5,000 votes in there."

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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