Jul. 2—The boundaries of the Santa Fe City Council districts are changing after months of talk to better align them to the ideal population size following the 2020 census.
The city's Independent Citizens' Redistricting Commission — a panel of seven residents selected by the City Clerk's Office — voted 5-2 in favor of a more equal council district map at its final meeting Thursday.
The map now heads to the City Council for review but not a vote of approval. The City Charter gives the commission the sole power to approve the district boundaries. Santa Fe's charter is the only one in the state that allows for an independent commission to make a final decision on redistricting.
While the process took several months, with multiple public comment sessions and meetings, the commission went with a modified map crafted just a few days before Thursday's vote.
The map is dubbed Modified Concept A3 and is similar to an original A3 map, but eliminates a precinct split by slightly shifting some of the district boundaries.
"I guess it doesn't seem like it presents much of a change. It is pretty much a status quo sort of — which I guess there is nothing wrong with that," said Gail Rekers, the commission's statistician. "But I also think that there is nothing wrong with change, either, and change often helps us move into a different place. I guess I don't see a lot of that."
Rekers, who cast one of the two no votes against the map, said she preferred a different concept that would have provided more of a radical change.
State statute limits the population difference between each district to 5 percent. Commissioners also were asked to take into consideration shared characteristics like neighborhoods, cultural and historical traditions, geographic boundaries and lived experiences.
Santa Fe's population in 2020 was 87,505, a 29 percent increase from 2010. About 21 percent of that change is due to annexation. Another redistricting process was conducted in 2015 to adjust for the new residents prior to the 2016 municipal election.
An ideal population for each district would be between 20,783 and 22,969 residents. Over nearly seven years, the districts had become lopsided in population. For instance, before the new map was approved, District 4,
which includes much of central Santa Fe, had 12.7 percent more residents than the ideal population.
According to Brian Sanderoff, president of Albuquerque-based Research and Poling Inc., the modified map takes into consideration expected population growth in Districts 3 and 4.
To reduce the populations in those districts, commissioners had to increase the populations in Districts 1 and 2, areas that commissioners and city officials don't believe will grow as quickly as some of the southern-most neighborhoods.
The boundaries for District 1 moved south a bit from Alameda Street to Canyon Road, and picked up two precincts near the state Capitol. District 1 also moved west on Siler Road.
In District 2, the boundary now crosses Yucca Street and heads farther toward Camino Carlos Rey.
To avoid splitting a voting precinct, a neighborhood between Airport and Jaguar roads was moved from District 3 into District 4, and two precincts along Agua Fría Street moved from District 4 into District 3.