City Beat

Bid advances to redraw Sacramento’s District 5 to include medical center

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s attempt to reverse a contentious redistricting decision from 2011 is moving forward.

The City Council voted 5-3 on Tuesday to bypass its Law and Legislative Committee and to ask city staff to draw up an altered council district map that places the UC Davis Medical Center in the district with Oak Park. The council is poised to approve the new map as early as Dec. 16.

Unlike three years ago, when influential pastors and hundreds of Oak Park residents jammed multiple City Council hearings on redistricting, Tuesday’s vote lacked drama. The council quickly approved the motion by Johnson without debate and only one member of the public testified on the issue.

“As a council, we’re looking for ways to improve how we govern in the future, and we have a chance to right a wrong,” the mayor said.

Despite opposition, the council voted 6-3 in 2011 to place the hospital campus in District 6, the district representing Elmhurst and Tahoe Park. Johnson and council members Jay Schenirer and Angelique Ashby voted against the move.

Schenirer represents Oak Park in District 5, where the hospital campus would stand if the council places its final approval on Johnson’s motion next month. Councilman Kevin McCarty represents District 6, but will be sworn in to the state Assembly next month and is leaving City Hall.

“I think this is unfortunate,” McCarty said. “I think it was the right call in 2011.”

Very few homes are expected to be affected by the change. Daniel Conway, the mayor’s chief of staff, said “the goal is to make this change to the district boundaries with minimal to no impact to residents in the area.”

Shifting the sprawling hospital campus to the Oak Park district is mostly symbolic. Neighborhood residents have said the hospital is a symbol of pride for the area.

Elmhurst and Tahoe Park residents told the council three years ago they wanted to be represented by the district covering the hospital because of concerns related to traffic created by the campus. And while Oak Park residents testified against the map in large numbers, the community’s own neighborhood association had submitted a map in 2011 that separated the neighborhood from the hospital.

Joe Debbs, an Oak Park native who testified in 2011, told the council on Tuesday that the hospital “had a lot of symbolic value especially for folks like myself.”

“This is the right time (to make the change), now that you don’t have all that angst and emotion you had a few years ago,” he said in an interview.

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at