Millbrae, in its ongoing switch to district elections from its current at-large elections for council races, introduced three proposed configurations to divide the city into five districts.

The maps are a starting point as the city hopes to gather public input to refine the boundaries and eventually decide on an arrangement by Feb. 22. Members of the public can also submit maps for consideration and the next public hearing to review and refine maps is scheduled for Jan. 25.

Currently, the city’s entire population casts votes for all five councilmembers who rotate the mayor and vice mayor roles. District elections will mean voters will choose a single councilmember, who must also live within the district, for representation.

The maps put forward, drawn by a districting consultant hired by the city, can be viewed by going to Residents are encouraged to fill out community of interest forms to help identify communities that should not be divided between districts.

Communities of interest could include those with similar concerns like flooding, wildfires, airport noise or cut-through traffic. They could also be ethnic communities or those with similar socioeconomic standings, like areas with mostly renters. The hope is that districts formed will empower constituents with shared interests to elect their representatives of choice.

Map drawing software will likely be set up by this weekend for public use, according to the consultant, which will allow for district population size and other information to be viewed while forming boundaries.

Per state law, districts must also not deviate in population size by more than 10%, and districts must be contiguous and compact. They should typically also follow census block lines to accurately determine population size and makeup.

The switch to district election was spurred by a threat of litigation the city received last year that claimed the city was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act. The letter alleged that certain ethnic groups in the city have seen their votes “diluted” as a result of at-large elections, and the effect is a council that does not represent the population’s ethnic makeup. Given the difficulty involved with disproving the allegation, the city chose to not take the matter to court, which would likely have resulted in millions of dollars in fees.

Hundreds of cities in the state, including several in the county, have received similar threats and have also been forced to make the switch in recent years.

Of the three maps put forward, each contains a district with a majority Asian residents. The city of just more than 22,000 — encompassing roughly 3 square miles — is nearly half Asian, 40% white, 11% “Hispanic or Latino” and 1% Black. The five-member council is majority white with one Asian member.

The City Council expressed limited interest in the maps put forward during the city’s meeting Tuesday, voicing desire to review maps put forward by the public before moving forward.

Councilmember Reuben Holober said he was disappointed that the maps were similar to each other and were essentially “three versions of the same map.” He said, of the options, he would prefer draft map C, due to it having multiple districts along the downtown and El Camino Real corridor.

Councilmember Ann Schneider said she would not vote for any of the arrangements, citing concern that the Highlands Neighborhood in which she lives was divided in all the three maps.

“I can see Highlands being cut into two, but cutting us into three different [districts] when we share a host of community interests is wrong,” she said.

There have been nine maps so far submitted by the public and 30 community of interest forms, according to City Manager Tom Williams.

After a map is chosen in February, the city will decide which districts will be first up in the elections cycle. Elections for councilmembers are staggered every two years. Councilmember Holober and Mayor Anne Oliva will be up for reelection in November of this year, and districts in which they reside would likely be first up, the remaining three districts would be decided in 2024.

(650) 344-5200, ext. 105

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(1) comment


It's been reported before, but it bears repeating that the threat of litigation was brought by failed city council candidate You You Xue.

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