Sonoma County redistricting commissioners say Board of Supervisors abandoned their work, sidelined community outreach

Members of the county’s Advisory Redistricting Commission have criticized the Board of Supervisors for bypassing their favored map for one drawn by the board Nov. 29 and up for a public hearing Tuesday.|

Several members of a county-formed redistricting commission said Monday that when the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors disregarded a proposed map unanimously supported by the 19-member commission, they devalued extensive community outreach that had prioritized equitable representation.

The criticism was first aired late Saturday in a letter signed by nine women of color who serve on the Advisory Redistricting Commission, created in February to help the county redraw its supervisorial district boundaries while infusing public input into the process.

The letter claims the Board of Supervisors “violated the meticulous, inclusive, and transparent process” undertaken by the commission when four of the county’s supervisors ‒ Lynda Hopkins, David Rabbitt, Susan Gorin and James Gore ‒ backed a new map posted by the county less than two hours before a Nov. 29 meeting.

On that day, the board had been scheduled to gather public comment and recommend modifications to a commission-backed map advanced to the board earlier last month, culminating four months of work by the appointed panel.

Now, supervisors are set to hold a public hearing on their new proposed map Tuesday, where they'll hear public comment and potentially hold a final vote. The board also could post a map with changes and make a decision on Dec. 14, one day before the state's deadline.

Stephanie Manieri, a member of the Advisory Redistricting Commission who signed the Saturday letter, said the statement was intended to highlight steps the commission took to make sure its map represented Sonoma County in an equitable way.

The process included gathering input from historically marginalized communities and creating a map that met federal and state guidelines, the letter said.

The county, however, failed to take those same steps when it selected the new map, the letter said. Drawing that new map at the Nov. 29 meeting, the letter added, may have violated the Brown Act, the state law that requires local governments to conduct public business in public, with advance notification about board agendas.

“The Board of Supervisors is choosing to go with a map that is no where near what was originally recommended and presented, and that is an equity issue,” said Manieri.

The letter is the latest chapter in what has been a tumultuous political process to redraw boundaries for the the county’s five supervisorial districts. The step is required by state and federal law every 10 years to achieve population balance documented by the nation’s decennial census.

Historically, such recommendations were made by the sheriff, district attorney and the county’s Clerk-Recorder-Assessor and then approved by the board, though changes to California law that went into effect last year allowed counties to create advisory redistricting commissions similar to the one created in Sonoma County.

While the new redistricting model was intended to involve community input in Sonoma County, where county supervisors have established racial equity as a pillar of its strategic plan, the process has been fraught for those who have participated in the commission.

The letter alleged that commissioners of color have faced microaggressions from county staff and consultants during the course of their work, though the letter’s signatories declined to elaborate on those complaints Monday in interviews. Microaggressions are comments or actions, often subtle, that communicate hostility or lack of respect toward marginalized groups.

To read the letter, click here: Redistricting Letter.pdf

Lyndsey Burcina, one of the commissioners, said she was “extremely frustrated” by the process, one that required a tremendous time commitment and had short deadlines without fair compensation.

“And then it was like, the Board of Supervisors just said no,” Burcina said of board’s decision to favor the new map over the one recommended by the commission.

Ana Horta, a Santa Rosa-based commissioner, said the process was “extremely rushed” and that a county consultant unfamiliar with the area slowed the work further.

Horta felt she and other commissioners had been tapped because of their connections, but the resulting produce was ultimately disregarded, she said.

“We were ambassadors and went into the community that trusted us and reached out to engage them in that process and then to have things turn around and change in this way is just shocking,” she said.

In response, Hopkins, the Board of Supervisors chair, said she admired the women who had written the letter but felt a shortened timeline ‒ driven by delayed delivery of census data ‒ did not leave the commission time to navigate the wide variety of challenges presented by redistricting.

Hopkins has objected to one key shift in the commission’s map: grouping Rohnert Park into her sprawling 5th District taking in west county. The commission didn’t have the time hear out residents displeased by that change, she said.

“I still don’t understand why that is necessary to achieve an equitable map,” she said. “The folks that I’m listening to in the proposed 5th District, including local leaders of color, they don’t support that.”

The proposed map from Sonoma County’s Advisory Redistricting Commission would put all of Rohnert Park in District 5, which includes otherwise mostly rural and coastal areas. (County of Sonoma)
The proposed map from Sonoma County’s Advisory Redistricting Commission would put all of Rohnert Park in District 5, which includes otherwise mostly rural and coastal areas. (County of Sonoma)

Rohnert Park leaders were surprised by the proposal, using the Nixle alert system – more often used during emergencies or to alert residents of crime or traffic closures – to urge residents to reach out to supervisors in the days immediately after the commission first revealed its map.

“It felt like it was something happening to them instead of with them,” Hopkins said of emotions in Rohnert Park at the time.

Commissioner Rocio Rodriguez said she did not know why Hopkins heard waves of opposition to the panel’s map that appeared to clash with the feedback commissioners themselves received.

Hearing from distinct voices was the purpose of the commission, Rodriguez said. “Half the members of the commission were chosen because we have specific connections to people of color, communities of color. Our spheres are just different than a supervisor.”

Hopkins said her intent with the new map is to attempt to change Tuesday some of the lines proposed to divide Santa Rosa, including downtown. Those divisions have inflamed the city’s leaders and Hopkins said she spent much of Monday seeking feedback on how best to shift them.

On Nov. 29, the Board of Supervisors endorsed a new map that splits downtown Santa Rosa along Highway 101, while unifying Roseland and Moorland with much of the rest of the city, and retains the split of Rohnert Park in two separate districts.
On Nov. 29, the Board of Supervisors endorsed a new map that splits downtown Santa Rosa along Highway 101, while unifying Roseland and Moorland with much of the rest of the city, and retains the split of Rohnert Park in two separate districts.

Supervisor Chris Coursey, a former Santa Rosa mayor, is the lone board member who opposed the Nov. 29 map. He said he’s been consistent in his support for the advisory commission’s map because it’s the best one he’s seen so far.

It made his Santa Rosa-based 3rd District even more city centered, adding Roseland and Moorland, which currently are in Hopkins’ 5th District.

“Can we create a better one on the fly? I don’t think our performance last Monday makes me optimistic that we can,” Coursey said, referring to the Nov. 29 meeting.

Eric Koenigshofer, a former 5th District supervisor and Occidental-based lawyer, was the only west county resident on the commission.

The commission’s chief goal, and the only goal shared by seemingly all parties involved in redistricting, was to place Roseland and Moorland into District 3, Koenigshofer said. The committee has likely achieved that goal, which was incorporated into the Nov. 29 map favored by the board ‒ a “profound” change, Koenigshofer said.

But placing Rohnert Park into District 5 risked upsetting a delicate balance between urban and rural voters, the unincorporated county and growing cities along Highway 101, Koenigshofer said.

And, ultimately, Koenigshofer contended, the board is responsive to its constituents, not beholden entirely to the work of the redistricting commission.

“The board is duty bound to respect the wishes of Rohnert Park and the unincorporated areas,” he said.

County’s redistricting progress, at a glance

Every 10 years state and federal law requires counties to redraw supervisorial districts in order to ensure each district contains a relatively equal number of residents and address other demographic concerns.

The board in decades past has given the sheriff, district attorney and county’s clerk-recorder-assessor responsibility for drawing up the maps, but changes to state law last year allowed counties to establish advisory commissions for that purpose. The Board of Supervisors has final say all the same.

This year the board opted to create a diverse redistricting commission to improve equity and representation in county government. Its charge was to draw more equitable boundaries that meet state and federal law.

The 19-member commission spent four months collecting public input via outreach sessions with local stakeholders, such as coastal residents and Roseland residents, and worked with a consulting demographer to explore map options.

On Nov. 2, the commission recommended map 51162 NDC D.

On Nov. 29, the Board of Supervisors endorsed a different map that splits downtown Santa Rosa along Highway 101, while unifying Roseland and Moorland with much of the rest of the city, and retains the split of Rohnert Park in two separate districts.

Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting

8:45 a.m., Board of Supervisors Chambers

575 Administration Drive, Room 102A

Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Click here for more information on maps under consideration by the board.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or and Staff Writer Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   


Andrew Graham

Business enterprise and investigations, The Press Democrat 

I dig into businesses, utility companies and nonprofits to learn how their actions, or inactions, impact the lives of North Bay residents. I’m looking to dive deep into public utilities, labor struggles and real estate deals. I try to approach my work with the journalism axioms of giving voice to the voiceless, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable in mind.

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