Staff directed to further study aspects of commission with 4-1 supervisor vote

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — The county has advanced closer to potentially having an independent redistricting commission after a special meeting on Tuesday with the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

The Tuesday, Jan. 14, meeting included a study session overviewing different independent redistricting commission options. 

Federal and state laws mandate a decennial review and adjustment of supervisorial district boundaries for equal public representation. The Fair and Inclusive Redistricting for Municipalities and Political Subdivisions (FAIR MAPS) Act outlines criteria and procedures for cities and counties to adjust or adopt council and supervisorial district boundaries. Traditionally, the county redraws district maps every decade through a public process. During the Sept. 12, 2023, meeting, the board directed staff to draft an Independent Redistricting Commission ordinance, scheduling a Brown Act-compliant “study session” meeting for community input and cost estimates, with the Administrative Office determining the optimal timing.


The proposed ordinance aims to establish a Citizens’ Independent Redistricting Commission comprised of 11 members tasked with redrawing supervisorial districts. Aligning with Assembly Bill (AB) 764, which amends provisions of the 2019 FAIR MAPS Act, the ordinance outlines roles, responsibilities, amendment requirements, and options for creating a compliant commission process. The commission, defined as a non-legislative body, is designated to adopt legislative body district boundaries. 

The proposed ordinance outlines the creation of an 11-member Citizens’ Independent Redistricting Commission tasked with redrawing supervisorial districts. To ensure independence, members, chosen through an application and selection process, must be county residents without ties to elected officials, lobbyists, candidates, or campaign donors. The board can either pass the ordinance by majority vote, place it on the ballot, or seek state legislation. The outlined process includes qualifications, application steps, and the selection of commissioners from subpools by random drawing and subsequent public appointment.

District 5 Supervisor Candidate and current Atascadero City Councilmember Susan Funk spoke in favor of the independent redistricting commission.

“You can set up a process that people believe in, that voters support and that will ensure a process that has integrity to it. That’s what voters are asking of us — and we can do that,” said Funk.

The study session was approved with a 4-1 vote, with District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold voting against the study. County staff stated they will return with an updated plan in about a month, offering supervisors another chance to decide how they will move forward.

In years past, the Board of Supervisors and staff have handled the redistricting themselves. The independent commission idea has come forward following controversies with the board’s 2021 map.

The district map approved in 2021 was appealed by two local groups — SLO County Citizens for Good Government and SLO County League of Women — who sued the county in early January 2022. The suit was taken to state court under the allegations of “illegal partisan gerrymander under the Fair Maps Act and the California Constitution.” 

The 2021 approved map was given the green light by the previous board, which included Bruce Gibson (District 2), Lynn Compton (then District 4 supervisor), Dawn Ortiz-Legg (District 3), Debbi Arnold (District 5) and John Peschong (District 1), with Gibson and Ortiz-Legg dissenting.

In March 2023, a settlement was reached, leaving the county to again draw new boundary maps to comply with the Fair Maps Act. In that settlement, the county will pay $300,000 to the SLOCCGG. However, at the time, Peschong noted this redistricting is costing the county nearly $1 million.

In September 2023, Arnold and District 1 Supervisor John Peschong voted against the commission, arguing that the map selected did comply with the law and did not violate the Fair Maps Act.

The next San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 23, at 9 a.m.