One City Councilmember will be elected from each of these seven districts.

Future City Council elections will be determined by a seven-district map drawn by the plaintiffs in the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) case because the City of Santa Monica did not propose its own map, the judge in the case wrote in her statement of decision.

The City argues that Judge Yvette Palazuelos’s final ruling in the case, which requires City Council members to be elected in seven districts determined by a map drawn by plaintiffs Maria Loya and the Pico Neighborhood Association, undermines the democratic process. The City’s lawyers say state elections code requires that voters deserve to have a say in how districts are drawn.

Judge Yvette Palazuelos, however, maintains the City had plenty of time to draw districts based on public input.

She wrote in her statement of decision, which was released after her Friday ruling, that the City had almost three years while the case was pending to hold a public input process to determine district borders. She also wrote that the City could have held that process as late as November of last year, when she issued her tentative judgment in the case.

“It could have held the initial public meetings required by (the elections code) by November 19, and the additional public meetings the week of November 26, completing the process in advance of its November 30 remedies brief,” Palazuelos wrote.

The California Elections Code requires municipalities to hold two public hearings in a 30-day period before drawing election maps. After publishing those maps, the jurisdiction must hold two additional hearings over a 45-day period.

The City’s attorneys said proposing a district map by November 30 would have left little time for public comment. In addition, the City would have been proceeding without a final decision, as Palazuelos’ Nov. 8 decision was only tentative, they said.

“If the City is required to move to districts, a wholesale overhaul of the election system adopted by the voters deserves a full and inclusive public process, as called for in the California Elections Code, and that’s exactly what we proposed to the court,” said Theodore Boutrous, an attorney for the City.

The City is considering appealing the decision in California’s appellate courts, Boutrous said. City Council will hold a special meeting Thursday night to meet in closed session with its attorneys and hold public comment.

Kevin Shenkman, who is representing the plaintiffs, said he thinks Palazuelos made it clear in her tentative decision that the court had found the City’s at-large election system to be illegal and offered the City a chance to propose its own district-based system. He said some cities threatened with CVRA lawsuits have used public input to create districts.

“They could have done a public process since late 2015 and nothing stopped them from doing that at any point,” Shenkman said. “The court in its decision in November gave the City another opportunity to bring a proposed remedy, and they didn’t.”

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  1. Hello @madeleine – What would have been helpful is if you could have mapped what the current and/or historical data shows for City Council members and which district they reside in? The longstanding belief is that the great majority (all?) live in District 3 which is the most exclusive Santa Monica District and probably a bit out of touch with what is really going on. That info would have added another dimension to your article and helped shed some light on why this topic has been debated for years.

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