Entrance to City Hall
The entrance to San Diego City Hall. Photo by Chris Stone

History is replete with famous demarcation lines used to establish prominent geo-political borders and manage territorial agreements and disputes. For example, there is the Mason Dixon line—the demarcation line between four U.S. states. At the international level we’ve had the Radcliffe Line, used as the controversial line between India and Pakistan at the time of India’s partition back in 1947.

However, I want to let San Diegans know about a local, lesser-known demarcation line. I call it the Via Las Cumbres Political Demarcation Line—Via Las Cumbres being a street in the southwestern area of San Diego’s Linda Vista community. This demarcation line is not as famous as those mentioned above, but it does possess a significance worthy of San Diego voter attention.

In spite of running entirely through Linda Vista, Via Las Cumbres has curiously served for the past ten years as a demarcation line for political boundaries at the city, state, and federal level. Many in the community are not pleased with the street being used as a dividing line that splits the community into different districts (with the area east of Via Las Cumbres) reflecting approximately 75 to 80% of Linda Vista’s population).

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As San Diego’s Redistricting Commission prepares to use 2020 U.S. Census data to draw up new council district boundaries, some Linda Vista residents continue asking the proverbial political question: ”What are we, chopped liver?”

There doesn’t appear to be anything remarkable about Via Las Cumbres. If you walk, jog, or bike up this street you might curse its steepness, but that’s not too unusual a feature. At the top of Via Las Cumbres, where it intersects with Linda Vista Road, you’ll find educational institutions on both sides, with the University of San Diego to the west and the San Diego County Office of Education, Twain High School, and Francis Parker School to the immediate east.

If you are a Taco Tuesday fan you may appreciate the presence of three great eating establishments spread among both sides of the Friars Road and Via Las Cumbres intersection—Kiko’s Food Truck, Mr. Peabody’s, and Los Panchos. Again, nothing too remarkable.   

Yet, city and state redistricting commissions have chosen to assign Via Las Cumbres a special political importance over the past decade. Though running entirely through Linda Vista, and straddled on both sides by Linda Vista residences, Via Las Cumbres has been used to help demarcate the boundaries for City Council, State Assembly, and U.S. Congressional districts. 

Check it out…Via Las Cumbres serves as a boundary between City Council Districts 2 and 7, between State Assembly districts 78 and 79, and between the 52nd and 53rd U.S. Congressional districts. In the process, city and state realignment commissions have chopped Linda Vista in two, making portions of the community smaller parts of different political districts, and thus diluting its already muted political influence/stature.   

Is it fair that the Linda Vista community remains politically divided? Does Linda Vista deserve to be the sacrificial lamb when it comes to redistricting results that dilute the community’s influence? Or is it possible Linda Vista residents benefit from being represented by more than one representative at each of these three levels? 

These questions currently face the San Diego Redistricting Commission in its efforts to formulate new council district boundaries by its mandated deadline of Dec. 15.  According to the Redistricting Commission website, the City Charter “requires that the districts be drawn to provide fair and effective representation for all citizens of the City, including racial, ethnic, and language minorities. Additionally, to the extent possible, they preserve identifiable communities of interest.” 

Some residents believe Linda Vista should be considered such a community of interest and stay politically intact in District 7. This racially/ethnically diverse community is not a beach community like the rest of District 2, and with a relatively lower medium income level, it has its own needs requiring constant lobbying from local activist groups and non-profit agencies for the kind of support and assistance provided by elected officials. Linda Vista’s division into different political sectors makes lobbying more difficult by spreading responsibility and accountability at the city level, for example, between two city councilmembers. 

One could make the case Linda Vista’s political division has little effect on the community.  In this sense, the city’s Redistricting Commission may have decided back in 2011 to have Linda Vista serve as a guinea pig for determining the validity of such a claim.  And they may choose to do the same again this time around.  

If so, an awkward question will continue to linger: Why are people at both the city and state level so eager to have the Linda Vista community play the role of guinea pig?

Steve Rodriguez is a retired Marine Corps officer and high school teacher who last taught at Olympian High School in Chula Vista.