Fresno County supervisors on Tuesday ended their stalemate over how their legislative districts should be redrawn and unanimously agreed to new boundaries for the five districts.
Supervisor Henry Perea's central Fresno district, according to the tentative plan, will pick up nearly 25,000 new residents by extending east to Fresno Yosemite International Airport and deeper into south and west Fresno.
Supervisor Susan Anderson's north Fresno district will pick up about 8,500 new residents by moving farther east into Clovis.
The Board of Supervisors is required to do the redistricting every 10 years to rebalance the populations of the districts.
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The plan approved Tuesday, which puts an average 186,090 people in each district, must be submitted for public comment at two future board meetings before final adoption. Significant changes, though, are unlikely.
"It's exceptional that the board was able to agree," said the county's election chief Victor Salazar. "We can move forward now with this item that has taken up a considerable amount of time."
With tens of thousands of county residents in the mix – and an equal number of votes at stake – the board for weeks was unable to muster the four-fifths vote needed to approve a redistricting plan.
Supervisors pledged not to make the exercise political, insisting initially that the new districts would be reconfigured to reflect community interest. But the process devolved.
"Gerrymandering ... that's exactly what we're doing," acknowledged a frustrated Supervisor Phil Larson on Tuesday.
The board had appointed a citizens group to help draw the new districts but ultimately rejected the group's recommendations.
A final configuration came this week when Perea, who was looking to add several industrial neighborhoods in and around Fresno to his district, conceded most of the community of Malaga to Supervisor Judy Case.
Case currently represents most of Malaga and wanted to keep it. She said she wanted to shuffle around as few people as possible.
Still, Perea said he was pleased to add several industrial areas to his district and pledged a renewed effort to jump-start economic development there.
Under the new redistricting plan, the districts of Larson and Supervisor Debbie Poochigian lose the most residents. Their rural districts grew the most over the last decade.
About 9,000 residents in Larson's west Fresno County district, living in south and west Fresno, will shift into Perea's district, including a small number from Malaga. About 15,000 in Poochigian's east Fresno County district, living near the airport, also will move into Perea's district.
The new districts are scheduled to be in place for next year's elections.
If the supervisors had failed to reach an agreement Tuesday, the redistricting decision was expected to have been forfeited to an independent commission.