|The City of Chino Hills currently utilizes an at-large election system, which means that the electors from the entire City choose each of the five Council Members. A district-based election system is one in which the city is physically divided into separate districts, each with one Council Member chosen by the electors residing in that particular district.
At its regular meeting on September 27, 2016, the City Council authorized the execution of a Professional Services Agreement with National Demographics Corporation (NDC) with a proposed scope of work that included: analyzing Census and California Statewide Database Data; assessing the potential demographic liability under the CVRA; public engagement to solicit input and ensure transparency; minority group outreach; and creating draft district maps as required. Staff has met with NDC and the process is underway.
On September 28, 2016, the Governor signed AB 350 into law. AB 350, which became effective on January 1, 2017, sets forth a number of steps that a city must take before the public hearing at which the legislative body votes on an ordinance establishing district-based elections. The legislation also attempts to provide a “safe harbor” from litigation. If a city receives a demand letter, the city is given 45 days of protection from litigation to assess its liability. If within that 45 days, a city adopts the resolution declaring the Council’s intent to transition from at-large to district-based elections, outlining specific steps to be undertaken to facilitate the transition, and estimating a time frame for action, the legislation provides that 45 days, plus an additional 90 days to transition as a “safe harbor.” Under AB 350, a city’s liability is capped at $30,000 if it follows this process after receiving a threat, and the plaintiff must show financial documentation that these costs were actually incurred. Further, even if more than one plaintiff tried to file suit, if a city takes advantage of the AB 350 process, the City’s liability is limited up to $30,000. This provision was included because reportedly a number of cities have received letters and made pay-outs to multiple plaintiffs for claims under CVRA.
On November 22, 2016, the City Council adopted Resolution 2016R-054 declaring the City’s intent to transition from at-large to district-based elections. That Resolution describes the various steps the City has and will undertake to facilitate that transition. On January 26, 2017, the City held a public meeting which provided education on the differences of at-large versus district-based elections, an overview of the CVRA, and an opportunity for public input into the process.
The scheduled Public Hearing is the next step identified in the November Resolution. The hearing will again provide an opportunity for the public to participate in the process. The City Council will not take any action. The next City Council Public Hearing will be scheduled for March 14, 2017.