BY TAMMY MURGA
It’s official: National City’s newly established Old Town and Filipino/Asian Pacific Islander districts will be up for election in November.
The City Council last week concluded a four-month process to switch from city-wide elections to a by-district system. They officially codified the move via a 4-1 vote when they adopted an ordinance that established the transition and selected two of its four new districts that will be up for election this year.
The move to council districts means that voters can only choose candidates living within their districts. The mayor will continue to be elected at large.
National City’s four districts are as follows:
- District 1, or Old Town National City, includes everything west of D Avenue and Highland Avenue from 16th Street.
- District 2 is northeast of District 1 and runs along D Avenue between Division and 16th streets. It includes several Filipino/API businesses and is known to have a high concentration of Filipino seniors. It also has the largest population of Latino voters at 65 percent.
- District 3, adjacent to District 2, is the “Filipino/API empowerment district,” which has about 8,000 API residents and 34 percent of them are eligible voters. Its boundaries include the northeast portion of the city. Parts of Division, 4th, 8th and 16th streets and Plaza Boulevard create its jagged western terminus.
- District 4 is the southeast region of the city, with west boundaries along Highland Avenue between 16th and 30th Street and portions of Sweetwater and Bonita roads. It has the second-largest population of Latino voters at 63 percent.
The city decided to switch in November when they received a letter from San Diego-based attorney Audie J. de Castro. He alleged that the city’s at-large elections violated the California Voting Rights Act and marginalized the local API community, who make up nearly 20 percent of the city’s 56,000 population.
To avoid potential litigation — all California cities that have tried to fight by-districting have lost — National City moved forward with the process. In San Diego County, Coronado, Del Mar, La Mesa and Lemon Grove continue to operate under at-large systems.
The city’s demographer conducted several public hearings and community workshops to receive feedback on where council district boundaries should be drawn. In total, the city reviewed 13 maps, 10 of which were drawn by the public and three by the city’s demographer.
“Thank you to everyone who has been part of this process, who is present here today, who has been present in past meetings and all who have participated in this four-month process,” said Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis.
On March 21, the City Council agreed to hold one final public hearing last week to determine the sequencing of the districts and seal the process with an ordinance. There was no opposition during public comment.
As he did last month, Councilmember Ron Morrison cast the lone “no” vote, saying he was opposed to the change in procedure to determine the sequence. The council had initially decided to determine the order of district elections via a random drawing but abandoned that decision and, via a vote of 4-1, with Morrison opposed, instead selected districts 1 and 3 to be up first.
Sotelo-Solis said the public raised a sensible concern that if Districts 1 and 3 weren’t selected in a random draw for the November election, the API and Old Town communities would face another election without representation.
The November ballot will ask voters to select representatives for District 1, an area that has not had a council member reside there for years, and District 2, where council members Morrison and Mona Rios live. Their at-large terms are up this year and, come November, only one will be able to represent the district. In July 2021, Morrison filed paperwork to run for mayor, a position he previously held from 2006 to 2018.