More maps! Solana Beach School District to review new by-trustee area map

The Solana Beach School District's adopted by-trustee area map.
(Karen Billing)

Just as local cities and the county are undergoing the redistricting process with new census numbers, the Solana Beach School District will revisit its new by-trustee map next month.

Under the new election system, the district would be divided into five geographic areas and one board member living in each area would be elected by the voters who live in that area, rather than its past method of at-large elections.

The district has two schools in Solana Beach, three in Carmel Valley, one in Pacific Highlands Ranch and one in Rancho Santa Fe.

The district’s transition from at-large elections to by-area trustee elections was triggered in late 2019 when the district received a demand letter from a local attorney alleging that they were in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). The CVRA prohibits the use of at-large elections of governing board members if it “impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.”

The board selected its new map in February 2020 that was meant to be used in the November 2020 election but the process was delayed by the pandemic. The district picked up where it left off this year when the San Diego County Committee on School District Organization approved the new map in late summer, however, as it used 2010 census data it must be revisited again just months later.

Solana Beach’s map may need to be adjusted as the 2020 census better reflects the significant growth that has happened over the last 10 years in Pacific Highlands Ranch—there needs to be as equal as possible population density in all five trustee areas.

There was no requirement for the district to hold a public hearing at this stage but it was on the board’s Dec. 9 agenda.

“I think it’s very important to let the community know we’re having these conversations and afford them the opportunity to give us input as we look at possibly having to re-do our maps,” Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said.

No public input was received.

The map does not change district boundaries nor does it alter school attendance boundaries. Brentlinger noted that it also does not change how the district is governed: “Even though you might be elected by a certain trustee area… you represent the entire district not just the geographic area that you are elected from.”

The district plans to review potential draft maps from their demographer at their Jan. 20 meeting with the goal to come back on Feb. 10 to approve the revised map.

Neighboring Del Mar Union School District and Encinitas Union School Districts remain at-large districts for elections.

The San Dieguito Union High School District underwent the CVRA districting process in 2017—at the time it was done in response to threats of costly litigation for violations of the CVRA. That year cities, school districts and elected bodies across the state underwent the process, including the cities of Solana Beach and Encinitas.

At the Nov. 18 San Dieguito board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Tina Douglas said if the district’s demographer determines there is an imbalance between the current map’s boundary areas, it will be brought back to the board with options to approve.

San Dieguito President Mo Muir suggested the formation of a superintendent’s committee on the CVRA to meet and come back with more information at a future meeting (it was not on the agenda for Dec. 14). Trustees Julie Bronstein and Michael Allman volunteered to serve on the committee.