Demographer maps city for district council elections

By Tamara Steiner on February 19, 2018

The City Council took a major step forward in changing the way Concord voters elect their council members by selecting the map that will divide the city into five districts. Each district will elect its own representative rather than the age-old method of all eligible voters voting for at large candidates running citywide.

At the Jan. 23 council meeting, demographer Michael Wagaman presented four alternative maps labeled Orange, Yellow, Green and Blue.

All five council members favored the “Blue” map because it checked most of the boxes they had set forth as criteria for district boundaries. After some minor adjustments, they renamed it “Cobalt” and adopted it at their Feb. 6 meeting.

Cobalt keeps the downtown in one district, splits the naval base property and gives a better population balance. But the map does put both BART stations in the same district, a plan that was opposed by Sun Terrace resident Hope Johnson. “The North BART station comes with its own set of traffic and parking issues completely different from downtown,” she said.

The Cobalt map divides the city into five districts, roughly described as follows:

District 1: The area along Clayton Rd. between Farm Bureau and Ayers and includes the connecting base property between Willow Pass Rd. and Ayers.

District 2: North Concord, Sun Terrace, Holbrook, downtown and includes the base property west of Willow Pass Rd.

District 3: Covers the Monument bounded by Monument Blvd. and Concord Ave.

District 4: Lies between Monument Blvd. and Ayers up to Cowell Rd.

District 5: Turtle Creek, Crossings, Crystyl Ranch, Pine Hollow area and neighborhoods bordering Clayton.

Council members Ron Leone and Laura Hoffmeister both live in District 1 but Leone is not running for re-election this November. He said the best part of the Blue plan was that “Edi Birsan isn’t in the Monument.”

This year’s election also includes District 3 (no incumbent) and District 5 (Tim McGallian). Districts 2 (Carlyn Obringer) and 4 (Birsan) will be contested for the first time in 2020.

If the whole reason for going to district elections is to give voice to those unheard “it wouldn’t be fair to expect someone brand new to run against an incumbent,” Leone said.

The challenges in dividing up the city were great. Each district must have nearly equal population and comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act to avoid gerrymandering. The districts must be contiguous, meaning there can be no part of a district that is not part of the whole. In drawing the districts “’communities of interest”—neighborhoods, shopping areas and school boundaries—are to be kept together.

While race can be a factor in drawing boundaries for a district, it cannot be the predominant factor. Finally, the district boundary must not cut across a precinct or a census block. No partisan data was used in drawing the boundaries, Wagaman assured the council. Partisan data was blinded out on the data he used.

The final map and ordinance will be discussed on Feb. 27 and then proposed for adoption at the Mar. 6 council meeting.

In order not to complicate the process more than it is, Council put off the issues of a directly-elected mayor and appointing an independent commission to determine district boundaries in the future.

For a closer look at the Cobalt map and more information, go to and click on the District Elections tab.

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