August 2019

Orange exploring options for new district boundaries

By Tina Richards

The Orange City Council moved a step closer to creating electoral districts by affirming the parameters that will define them, via a resolution passed July 23.

Having agreed to explore districting last April, the city has hired a demographer, held two community workshops and encouraged residents to participate via an online mapping tool. Justin Levitt, the demographer, reports that he has so far received six draft maps from community members. He noted that “Orange citizens are definitely more involved than other cities,” and that workshop turnout “was great.”

The deadline for draft map submissions was Aug. 1; maps will be available for public review Aug. 20.

Council will call it
Much of the districting process is guided by state law, but the city’s transition from at-large to by-district voting will be set by the city council as terms expire and seats need to be filled. The criteria that will guide the formation of districts is based on community feedback, legal requirements and “the unique circumstances of the City of Orange.” 

In part, districts must be equal in population (within 10 percent), not be gerrymandered or discriminatory. They may consider communities of interest, contain contiguous territory and observe topography and geography. Natural boundaries and communities identified at the community workshops include the 55 Freeway, Santa Ana River area, North Orange, East Orange, El Modena, Old Towne, Chapman University and The Village.

Participants noted the challenge in defining districts within a city that’s not always contiguous, surrounding Villa Park and the El Modena county island.

Population and demographics used in the mapping process are based on the 2010 census; districts may be modified once the 2020 census results are in. According to 2010 data, 38 percent of the city’s population and 26 percent of its eligible voters are Latino, and are concentrated in the west end, along the 55 Freeway and in the El Modena area. Orange’s Asian population is concentrated along Serrano and Cannon. There are no “ethnic pockets” of other minorities.

Peace and quiet
With the city now legally bound to embrace district voting, there was little more to be said on the subject at the July 23 council meeting. Three people addressed the council, all encouraging the city to “listen to the community” in terms of continued outreach, recognition of neighborhood commonality and inclusiveness.

Councilman Chip Monaco agreed, noting that he wanted to make sure the decision making was transparent and easy to understand. Mike Alvarez asked for assurances that the council will have complete citywide ethnic and household breakdowns for each proposed district map, and that its input will be considered on the final version.

Levitt confirmed that the council (and community) will continue to have input. Draft maps will be presented on Aug. 27, at which time they can still be modified, based on public comments or council review. 

Maps can be tweaked up until Sept. 10, when a public hearing will be held and a final vote of approval expected.