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The new 9th City Council District was drawn with two goals in mind: to empower Latinos, who will make up more than 50 percent of the district’s population, and to unite City Heights — currently divided among three districts — into a single one.
But City Heights alone does not a district make, so to reach the required population numbers, the Redistricting Commission included Kensington, Talmadge and the College Area.
Though they share their southern border with City Heights, Kensington and Talmadge have closer bonds with the neighborhoods that line Adams Avenue, like Normal Heights. They’re wealthier and whiter than City Heights, and shop along the same commercial corridors. So their inclusion in a City Heights district came as a surprise.
“We were really caught off guard,” said Tom Hebrank, a Kensington resident and former chairman of the Kensington-Talmadge Planning Group.
Now Kensington residents, led by Hebrank, are petitioning the Redistricting Commission to be drawn back into the city’s 3rd District, where they’ve always been. In Talmadge, however, leaders aren’t so sure. There are a couple of reasons. Here’s a look at the map and an explanation of what’s going on:
The Future of El Cajon Boulevard Is at Stake
Talmadge residents are increasingly trying to shape the future development of El Cajon Boulevard. It marks that neighborhood’s southern border with City Heights, but few Talmadge residents actually shop there because the boulevard lacks many mainstream businesses that appeal to them.
David Moty, a Talmadge resident and current chairman of the Kensington-Talmadge Planning Group, said that being part of the new 3rd District stretching from downtown to Talmadge might drop El Cajon Boulevard lower on the council member’s list of priorities.
“If we’re part of District 3, I’m concerned about losing that influence on El Cajon Boulevard, which is important to Talmadge,” Moty said.
It is less important to Kensington, which has a much smaller border with the boulevard than Talmadge does, Hebrank said.
Greater Political Influence
The new 9th District achieves a Latino majority. But that doesn’t mean it’ll get a Latino council member. City Heights has a large non-voting immigrant population. Only 26 percent of eligible voters in the 9th District will be Latino, while 45 percent will be white, many of them residents of Kensington-Talmadge.
That will give Talmadge residents a major share of the political clout in the district. By contrast, their influence as a neighborhood would be diluted in the 3rd District, which they would have to share with the politically active LGBT and downtown interests.
The Kensington-Talmadge Dilemma
Kensington and Talmadge are both in the same city planning group. Their residents work together to reach consensus on development projects in their neighborhoods.
Leaders from both communities agree this makes it crucial the two neighborhoods aren’t split apart during the redistricting process.
But now Kensington leaders want to be drawn back into the 3rd District, while the greater political clout that would come from being drawn into the 9th District appeals to leaders in Talmadge.
“We’re conflicted,” Moty said. “We can’t ignore what happens on El Cajon Boulevard.”
Adrian Florido is a voiceofsandiego.org reporter. He covers San Diego’s neighborhoods. What should he write about next?
Contact him directly at email@example.com or at 619.325.0528 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adrianflorido.