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The Council District That Didn't Exist

Do you live in City Heights? KPBS wants to learn more about the issues that are most important to you. Your stories and insights will help inform our coverage.

The City Council's District 9 didn't exist a year ago.

The Redistricting Commission drew it up last year when adding a ninth district, creating a second Latino-majority district.

But that doesn't necessarily mean it's a Latino-controlled district. City Heights, the district's core, is an immigrant hub and only a fraction of the Latino majority is eligible to vote. That means plenty of power will be held in the district by the majority-white Kensington-Talmadge and College Area residents.


As KPBS points out:

According to census data, Latinos make up just more than 50 percent of the new district’s population. But only 26 percent of eligible voters are Latinos.

For whites, the numbers flip.

They make up just 23 percent of the district’s population, but are 45 percent of eligible voters, more than any other ethnic group.
Without a history, the district is a blank slate. There's no shared past. No voting patterns to draw on.

The district is cobbled together from pieces of Todd Gloria's District 3 (City Heights, Kensington and Talmadge), Marti Emerald's District 7 (some of City Heights and College Area) and Tony Young's District 4 (Mount Hope, Mountain View and some of Southcrest).

As I'm quickly finding out, it comprises very distinct areas with distinct priorities.

A quick civics lesson: The city needed at least another seat after losing its ninth City Council member when the strong-mayor form of government took hold in 2006. That shifted the mayor from being the ceremonial head of the council to being the city's chief executive.

Now, the City Council won't have tie votes anymore. And the mayor's veto power will mean something.


I'm spending the week in the new district talking to leaders and residents and covering the City Council candidates. I'm currently getting a crash course on the district's big issues and I'll be meeting with the candidates on Wednesday. Help me out: Let me know where I should go, whom I should talk to and what questions I should ask.

Some early story lines that are developing: non-car transportation issues in City Heights, such as safe crosswalks and infrastructure, bike lanes and public transit; the perennial issue of mini-dorms in the College Area; and what happens to neighborhood growth now that redevelopment's dead.

What am I missing? Email me at

I'll be filing dispatches throughout the week as I learn more. For now, here's a quick look at the candidates and some recommended reading.


Marti Emerald: The former television reporter specialized in consumer-protection investigations for 10News before running for the City Council's District 7 seat in 2008.

Redistricting split her current district, which includes Allied Gardens, Tierrasanta, Del Cerro, College Area and parts of City Heights, in half.

Emerald moved into the new district recently, says U-T San Diego:

The shifting political lines aren’t the only reason for Emerald’s decision. She recently sold her Tierrasanta home for less than what she owes on it in a short sale. Her late husband’s health issues and death led to loss of income that left Emerald struggling to pay her mortgage.

In her statement, Emerald said she now lives near San Diego State University, which is in the current District 7 and, after the 2012 election, in the future District 9.

For an analysis of Emerald's political calculus in the new district, check out the blog Two Cathedrals, run by Democratic consultant Lucas O'Connor.

On the council, she's been interested in public safety and funding services above all else. She focuses less on how to pay than on the need to pay for them and has been the most consistently liberal council member. Her biggest achievement: carrying from start to finish the water metering ordinance for apartments. As she showed in the wake of the late-night deal that led to the extension of downtown redevelopment, Emerald can be an aggressive investigator on the dais when she wants to be.

Mateo Camarillo: An activist and business owner, Camarillo told KBPS that part of his motivation for running was a frustration that no Latino was running. He's chairman of the Latino Redistricting Committee and, according to his LinkedIn profile, is manager of Reina's Hair Design.

"Let me just be very clear. I'm running as a citizen,” he told KPBS when announcing his run. “I'm running as a person who understands the life experiences of people that happen to be immigrants, because I happen to be an immigrant."

I'll be talking to him tomorrow and will have more info on his background then.

What to Read

Megan Burks of the media collaborative Speak City Heights has been doing a tremendous job of putting specific questions to Emerald and Camarillo to see how they stand on the issues.

Here's a collection of what she's done already:

Originally published by our media partner, Voice of San Diego.