Representatives of 10 small cities are asking members of the San Diego Association of Governments board to stop using its weighted vote practice. As it stands now, with a weighted vote, larger cities can overrule the wishes of smaller cities. / File photo by Vito Di Stefano for Voice of San Diego

San Diego’s small cities want a favor. 

The cities face a disadvantage at the San Diego Association of Governments, where larger cities can overrule their wishes with a weighted vote. Ten of the 19 SANDAG board members representing 10 cities, majority of them Republican-led, are requesting the board stop its weighted vote practice.  

“What I’m hoping for is that people will agree to set aside calling for a weighted vote in 2023,” said Del Mar Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland, who is leading the effort. “We’re hoping that there will simply be a pledge or an agreement that the cities and the county will not call for a weighted vote.”  

The 10 representatives were from Del Mar, Coronado, San Marcos, Poway, Imperial Beach, Oceanside, Vista, Escondido, El Cajon and Santee.  

“The implementation of the weighted vote system has eliminated input from small and mid-sized cities while reducing board collaboration and public trust in the SANDAG Agency,” a letter sent to SANDAG on Thursday said. “Reforming this voting procedure is critical to ensure the voices of all cities in the county are heard.” 

In 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 805 into law, a bill by former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher. Before AB 805, SANDAG’s board would take a tally vote from each city as well as a weighted vote according to the population of each city. Measures then required approval from both votes to pass.  

Now, though, as few as three cities representing a majority of the county’s population can call for a weighted vote on an item and overrule the tally vote. 

The law shifted power from smaller cities like Del Mar and Coronado to larger cities like San Diego and Chula Vista. It also paved a way for the larger liberal-leaning cities to approve more transit and labor-friendly initiatives. 

Del Mar Councilwoman Gaasterland said the small cities aren’t trying to change state law, only reach an agreement. 

The board is heavily weighted in favor of the city and county of San Diego, which represent 57.4 percent of the county’s population and 57 percent of the board’s vote. The 10 cities that sent the letter collectively make up 23.5 percent of the county’s population and 24 percent of the weighted vote. 

Representatives for San Diego, San Diego County, Chula Vista, Carlsbad, Encinitas, National City, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Solana Beach did not sign the letter. 

SANDAG CEO Hasan Ikhrata said in a letter responding to the cities that the item would be placed on the Jan. 27 meeting agenda to allow time for the full incoming SANDAG board to be seated. 

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  1. Ha! That’s not a favor – that’s a demand for more subsidies and anti-democracy. One of the major reasons that we have a huge transit deficit is the lack of a democratic regional agency responsible directly to voters. Was a trolley out to Santee really the best investment for transportation at the time – or a reflection of the power of the little cities to manipulate the existing system for their benefit? If the reps don’t use the weighted vote to put this down, there’s something really wrong going on in democracy.

  2. Why is this sham change even seeing the light of day? This is dum dum power hungry leaders like the clown Mayor Bailey of Coronado that want to rig the system in their favor to ensure they keep their cities from diversifying and taking on the shared responsibility of safely and affordably housing the people of San Diego County.

  3. This is an attempt to block items that are necessary for the region such as transit improvements, equitable housing policies and bicycle/pedestrian enhancements in favor of exclusionary, unsustainable practices.

  4. This is an attempt to block projects that are good for the region, such as transit improvements, equitable housing policies, bike/ped enhancements in favor of exclusionary, unsustainable policies, programs and projects.

  5. The 500,000 residents of unincorporated communities in San Diego County are currently disenfranchised under the current SANDAG system. Time to walk the Social Equity talk.

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