Background on Transition to District Elections

This Page Was Last Updated December 2021

Latest News: Final District Election Map Chosen

After hearing a robust community outreach campaign, the Council has selected a final map for how the City will be split into five districts for future elections. View the final map or visit the Draft Maps for Review page to explore the new districts. 


The San Mateo City Council began the process to transition to district elections in July 2021. The process involved a robust community-engagement initiative that lasted about 5 months and influenced how voters elect future council members.

The City received a certified letter from attorney Scott J. Rafferty asserting that the City’s current at-large council member electoral system may violate the California Voting Rights Act (the “CVRA”) (Elections Code §§ 14025-14032) and stating that the City should voluntarily change to a district-based election system for electing City Council Members. Upon receipt of such a letter, the City could agree to transition to district elections, or be forced to defend against a lawsuit asserting a CVRA violation.  

The City of San Mateo currently employs an at-large elections system, which means voters of the entire City elect the five City Council members. A district-based election is one in which the City is divided into separate districts, each with one City Council member who resides in the district and is chosen by the voters in that particular district.


Community input and census data was used to determine how districts should be drawn in San Mateo. To assist with the transition, the City hired Redistricting Partners, a firm that specializes in drawing district lines for jurisdictions.

The formal districting process included five public hearings with the City Council. The City also hosted in-person community workshops and pop-up events to provide opportunities for the public to engage in the process.

There were two phases of public engagement:

Phase 1: Communities of Interest

Prior to any official draft maps being drawn, the public was encouraged to share input to help define local Communities of Interest (COI). This includes gathering information about racial and social demographics, neighborhood geography and how residents relate to their local City government.

Two public hearings were held to review the process and gather input. Residents could also provide input by filling out Communities of Interest forms.

Phase 2: District Mapping

Census data and COI feedback were used to develop draft maps. The public could also submit draft maps through online tools or by hand through printable maps that were provided by the City. Two public hearings were held to collect feedback and review draft maps. The City Council will consider adoption of a final district map and determine election sequencing during a fifth public hearing.


On Nov. 15, 2021, the City Council during a regular meeting had the second reading of the ordinance approving the final map and election sequencing.

On Nov. 1, 2021, the City Council held the fifth and final public hearing, and selected a final district map. The Council also determined election sequencing, with districts 1, 3 and 5 to be up for election in 2022, and districts 2 and 4 to be up for election in 2024.

On Oct. 14, 2021, the City Council held the fourth public hearing to collect feedback on the proposed draft maps and selected Draft Map 3b as the final district map.

On Sept. 30, 2021, the City Council held the third public hearing to collect input on proposed draft maps and decided to proceed with updating Draft Map 3 as the primary option to consider. 

On Sept. 13, 2021, the City Council held the second public hearing and decided to proceed with the map drawing process for creating five districts. Read a news release for more information.

On Aug. 23, 2021, the City Council held the first of five required public hearings to collect feedback on the transition to district elections.

On July 19, 2021 the City Council adopted a resolution to update a district elections transition process and public outreach schedule.

On June 21, 2021, the City Council held a public hearing to consider options for transitioning to district elections. Read a news release about the Council's adoption of a resolution intending to move to district elections.

On May 24, 2021, the City received a demand letter alleging the City's at-large election system violated the California Voting Rights Act. Read a June 17, 2021 news release announcing the City's consideration of district elections.

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