National City sets stage for first district elections in November
BY TAMMY MURGA
National City’s four new council districts have each been assigned a number and the dates have been set for when each will be on the ballot.
District 1, which consists of the city’s west side and keeps together Old Town National City, and District 3, now known as the Filipino/Asian Pacific Islander District in the northeast area, will be up for election this year.
The move was decided Tuesday in a 4-1 vote, with Councilmember Ron Morrison opposed.
Two council members — Morrison and Mona Rios — live in what is now District 3. 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.
There will also be a seat up for grabs in District 1, one of National City’s most underrepresented areas. For decades, multiple council members have lived on the east side, but not Old Town, an area whose residents have long advocated for environmental justice due to the area’s proximity to industrial zoning.
Districts 2 and 4 will be up in 2024. Vice Mayor Marcus Bush resides in District 4 and Councilmember Jose Rodriguez in District 2. Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis’ term ends this year and the mayor’s seat will remain at large.
The City Council’s vote to select Districts 1 and 3 for the November ballot came after much back-and-forth.
The council initially decided last week that a random drawing would be conducted Tuesday to determine the order of district elections. But that approach was abandoned and the council ultimately made the choice.
Marianne Delatorre, a National City resident and member of the mayor’s advisory Filipino community group, said the initial decision on random drawing “caused immense confusion and frustration among community members, myself included, due to the momentum” to get Old Town and the Filipino districts a representative this year.
The move could have politically disempowered the API community, said Audie de Castro, who issued National City a notice of violation in November alleging the former at-large system marginalized Filipino/API residents, who make up nearly 20 percent of the city’s 56,000 population.
Morrison was in favor of the random drawing. He said District 3 has historically had “a larger proportion of representation than the other districts.”
“As long as I remember, they’ve always had at least two council members coming out of what is now being shown there as District 3, sometimes three, and we’ve even had as many as four council members at the same time,” he said.
Sotelo-Solis said selecting Districts 1 and 3 to be up first this year “makes sense.”
“I think they made the right decision,” said de Castro about the council’s vote. “It addressed the API community’s needs, as well as addressed the potential political chaos in possibly forcing two City Council members, whose terms are not yet up, to run.”
Here’s a breakdown of the now numbered district boundaries, which were designated colors initially:
- District 1, or Old Town National City, includes everything west of D Avenue and Highland Avenue from 16th Street.
- District 2 is west of District 3 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 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 Council is set to consider adopting an urgency ordinance on April 12 that would officially establish Tuesday’s sequencing and add by-district elections onto the city’s municipal code.