After a flurry of opposition and a threatened lawsuit from the City of Gilroy, the Santa Clara Valley Water District agreed Tuesday morning to reconsider its newly adopted redistricting scheme that lumps Palo Alto and Gilroy into the same district.
The district's board of director voted unanimously Tuesday to schedule new meetings Thursday and Friday to reconsider the redistricting plan the board had approved April 29. The vote came after officials from Palo Alto, Morgan Hill and Los Altos joined residents in blasting the new seven-district plan during the public comments portion of the meeting.
"It was a poorly informed decision," Board Member Joe Judge, who supported the redistricting plan, acknowledged at the meeting. "I was rushed and it was wrong.
"As I was driving home, it dawned on me that the map was just ridiculous."
Judge also apologized for his earlier vote and said the board is going to fix it.
The board's vote means that the awkward, boomerang-shaped District 7 that sweeps from Palo Alto to Gilroy could die as quickly as it was born. Tuesday's vote came after weeks of swelling opposition from District 7. The Gilroy City Council had voted unanimously to sue the water district over the new district, and the Palo Alto council pledged on Monday night to support Gilroy's opposition.
The board considered a series of redistricting proposals from a specially appointed blue-ribbon committee before choosing a different plan, which creates the narrow District 7. The board scheduled meetings for 6 p.m. on Thursday (May 13), for 1 p.m. meeting on Friday (May 14) and, if needed, for 4 p.m. on Monday (May 17).
On Tuesday, Los Altos Mayor David Casas was one of several mayors to oppose the new map. Casas said two of the city's five council members supported joining Gilroy's suit. Casas called the board's April 29 vote inappropriate and urged it to reopen the matter.
Gilroy Mayor Al Pineheiro said the plan "doesn't make any sense" and also urged the board to reconsider the districts. He also entered into a heated exchange with board member Cy Mann, who supported the redistricting plan.
Mann said he advocated for the new districts because he was trying to accommodate a request from Gilroy and Morgan Hill to have two district seats in the south county. The controversial map "Q2" splits the two cities into separate districts, though each now makes up only a small share of its new district.
Susanne Wilson, former member of the San Jose City Council and a member of the committee that worked on the redistricting proposals, was one of many speakers to emphasize the drastic differences between Gilroy and the other District 7 communities. She also asked the board to revisit redistricting.
"Gilroy doesn't have a single neighborhood that relates to Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills," Wilson said.
Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt and Councilwoman Karen Holman sent a letter to the board expressing the city's opposition to the redistricting plan. Joe Teresi, a senior engineer in Palo Alto's Public Works Department, read the letter to the board. The letter argued that the board gave the public insufficient opportunity for input, which compromised the integrity of the process.
"The City of Palo Alto supports Gilroy's action because it attempts to remedy this serious breach of fair representation," the letter read.
On April 29, board member Patrick Kwok was the only board member who voted against the new district (board member Rosemary Kamei abstained). Throughout the meeting, Kwok criticized the board's process and passionately urged his colleagues not to support Q2.
On Tuesday, Kwok praised his colleagues for reopening the issue.
"I think this shows good role modeling and good leadership," Kwok said. "Today, I'm really pleased and proud that this board is taking actions to remedy whatever we did in the meetings of April 27 and 29."