"Don't split us up."
That was the common theme during a public hearing Tuesday at which Contra Costa County supervisors considered how to redraw their district boundaries based on the 2010 census.
During a three-hour hearing in Martinez, the board was urged by residents from throughout the county to avoid dividing cities between districts. The supervisors themselves split over the importance of "keeping cities whole."
"If there was ever an example of the phrase 'You can't please everyone,' today is the day," said Supervisor John Gioia, who represents western Contra Costa County.
Supervisor Mary Piepho, who represents Walnut Creek, the San Ramon Valley and part of East County, was adamant that no cities be split among districts.
"Keeping cities whole is very, very important," she said. "These lines don't do that."
Supervisor Federal Glover, who represents part of East County, north Concord and Martinez, said it might be impossible to avoid dividing cities.
"In order to create districts that make sense, some cities will have to be split," he said.
After the end of the hearing, the supervisors chose three maps from a list of 18 alternatives. They directed county planners to tweak those plans and bring them back for another public hearing July 12.
In one plan, known as Proposal 9, the map lumps the western portion of the county from Pinole to El Cerrito into District 1.
District 2 would stretch from Hercules, Crockett and Rodeo into Lamorinda and include most of Martinez and Walnut Creek.
District 3 would encompass the San Ramon Valley and the East County communities of Brentwood, Knightsen, Byron and Discovery Bay.
District 4 would include Concord, Clayton, Pleasant Hill and Bay Point.
District 5 would cover Pittsburg, Antioch and Oakley.
Under another plan, known as Proposal 12, District 1 would be much the same as under Proposal 9.
District 2 would encompass Lamorinda and the San Ramon Valley.
District 3 would cover much of East County and then snake over Mount Diablo to snare most of Walnut Creek.
District 4 would be Pleasant Hill, Concord and Clayton.
District 5 would stretch from Hercules to Pittsburg, along the waterfront.
Under a plan known as Concept 6, District 1 would again be much the same.
District 2 would again cover Lamorinda and the San Ramon Valley.
District 3 would cover all of East County except Pittsburg.
District 4 would encompass Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Clayton and the southern half of Concord.
District 5 would again stretch from Hercules to Pittsburg and include north Concord.
The board is trying to divide up its five supervisorial districts so each has close to 210,000 people. The county's population is 1,049,025.
In the past 10 years, the growth in the San Ramon Valley and East County has dramatically shifted the population centers in the county.
At Tuesday's hearing, the supervisors were asked by various speakers to do a number of things. Among them:
- Not to split cities between districts
- Keep the largest city, Concord, in one district
- Keep Clayton in the same district as Concord and Pleasant Hill
- Keep the entire San Ramon Valley in one district
- Keep the communities of Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga in one district
- Keep Pinole and Hercules in the same district with other western Contra Costa County districts
The speakers from Walnut Creek were perhaps the most vocal.
Mayor Cindy Silva told the supervisors that her city, Walnut Creek, was split between three districts in 2000. She said there have been consequences.
Silva said it's inefficient for city employees as well as residents because they need to talk to three supervisors about issues affecting the town.
"In this era of doing more with less, we can't afford any more inefficiencies," she said.
Silva added that the move also takes away some of Walnut Creek's clout because, instead of being the fifth largest city in the county, it becomes — effectively —one of the smallest cities because of the split.
"The bottom line is we want to be in one district," the mayor said. "If you have to split a community, we respectfully ask that someone else have a turn."
The speakers from Concord had a similar request.
Mayor Laura Hoffmeister said her community should be in one district and it should be grouped with Clayton and Pleasant Hill. She also asked that northern Concord, which includes the former naval weapons station, be in the same district.
"Our main interest is in keeping Concord whole," she said.
Several residents near the weapons station property also asked that they be kept in Concord's district. They said that they will be the site of one of the biggest development proposals over the next decade and they need to have the same supervisor as the rest of the city.
Clayton City Councilwoman Julie Pierce also spoke. She said Clayton contracts with Concord for some police services and is on numerous regional agencies with its neighbor. She said it makes sense for Clayton to be combined with Concord.
Not everybody, however, felt Concord should remain in one district. Several speakers said the county's largest community was the most logical one to carve up.
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, who represents the central portion of the county, disagreed. She said it's important to keep all of Concord, including the neighborhoods near the weapons station, in one district.
Gioia added that it's also important to keep towns with mutual interests in the same district.
"Combining communities of interest encourages people to speak with a stronger voice," he said.
Supervisor Gayle Uilkema, who represents Lamorinda and part of West County, said she prefers to change the districts as little as possible. She noted "radical changes" could temporarily leave up to 50 percent of the county's residents with supervisors they didn't elect.
"What we have now is working," she said.
Mitchoff noted that the final decision, no matter what it is, will displease some portion of the community.
"The bottom line is not everybody is going to be happy," she said.