City gets 32 applications for committee to draw council district maps

Daily Post Staff Writer

The Menlo Park City Clerk’s office received a sudden surge of applications for a citizens committee that will draw the boundary lines for city council districts.

The city received 32 applications by today’s (Jan. 8) 5 p.m. deadline, nearly 10 times the number the city got by Friday, which was three.

The applications began flowing in after the Post printed a front page story about the apparent lack of interest in the committee.

The city is switching from at-large elections for the five-member council to districts to enable residents of the Belle Haven neighborhood to have a better shot at electing one of their own to the council. The city is making the switch at the threat of a lawsuit by a Malibu attorney who is representing an anonymous Menlo Park resident.

Interim City Clerk Clay Curtin said by noon yesterday he had around a dozen applications submitted and a steady stream were submitted throughout the afternoon.

On Jan. 16, Curtin will randomly select three members to be on the committee. Those three will then choose up to six additional committee members. The appointment process for the committee will be completed by Jan. 20.

There was concern there would not be enough applicants because there were stringent guidelines for committee members. For instance, members would be disqualified if they had run for council or applied for any city board or commission in the past eight years, or be related or married to anyone who has.

Applicants must have also voted in two of the three last council elections.

Once the commission is created, the group will meet every week between Jan. 25 through Feb. 22 to discuss and, eventually, select a map of the council’s five districts. The map would then go to the council for approval on March 13. If the council does not approve the map, the commission will have to meet again and select another map for the council to consider at a meeting during the first week of April.

The city is ditching the idea of having all of its council members elected at large in response to an Aug. 21 letter from Malibu attorney Kevin Shenkman, who contends the city is racially polarized. He contends that the city is required under state law to switch to district elections to make it easier for Belle Haven residents to win at the polls. If it doesn’t, Shenkman says he’ll sue the city for damages, something he’s done in other cities.