Salt Lake City is the largest ever. Here’s how the redistribution process will work

Construction of the Capitol Homes in Salt Lake City on December 9, 2020. Salt Lake City began the process of redistributing the city council on Thursday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Estimated reading time: 6-7 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY – Nationwide redistribution may be over, but the redistribution process in Utah’s largest city is just beginning.

Salt Lake City leaders opened applications for residents on Thursday to join the Redistribution Advisory Committee, a group tasked with offering the city council independently recommended maps of city districts for the next decade. As city officials note, it helps ensure a fairer representation on the city council.

Anyone living in the city can attend the commission, regardless of their eligibility status. This means that people who are not yet old enough to vote can apply.

“Salt Lake City aims to be as transparent and apolitical as possible … We encourage all residents, including young people and people from traditionally marginalized communities, to sign up,” said Darin Mano, vice president of Salt Lake City Council.

The deadline for commission applications is January 27 at 5 p.m.

Before approving the members, the city council will interview all applicants. While there may be more than seven people on the commission, the body must have at least one member from all seven current constituencies.

Members are expected to meet at least twice a month, starting in February and continuing until the city council adopts the new borders. It gathers all the information, including ideas and concerns from the population, and helps to present a list of core values ​​that are important in the redistribution process. They will also propose the final boundaries of the city districts on which the council will vote.

Ten years ago, the city tested having a Redisstricting Advisory Commission; city ​​officials were so pleased with the results that they used it again this year. It is similar to the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission, which was created last year for nationwide redistribution.

The city council must approve the redistribution by May 10, said Benjamin Luedtke, the city’s economics and public policy analyst, who briefed the city council on Tuesday. All cities have six months after lawmakers approve state maps to complete their own redistribution under Utah law.

Unlike the state, which needed to complete redistribution before 2022 so as not to interfere in the upcoming mid-term elections, Luedtke said the city council’s deadline ensures that it would not affect the city’s budget process.

Even distribution of the city

Once the commission is set up, it will help draw maps that evenly divide the city into seven city districts.

There were 199,723 people living in Salt Lake City on April 1, 2020, which, according to Mallory Bateman of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, was almost 60,000 more than in any other city in Utah – despite the suburbs of Salt Lake and Utah counties. . dominating Utah’s growth in the last decade.

It is also the highest population in the history of the city, but not only because it is more than in 2010. The population of the city originally peaked at 189,454 in 1960; it has been declining every year for the next three decades, but has been growing every year since the 1990 census.

“This growth was sustainable from 2000 to 2020,” Bateman said, presenting the data to board members at a meeting last week.

This map shows the Salt Lake City population in the 2020 census, broken down by borough.  District 4 in dark green has ended with the largest growth in decades.
This map shows the Salt Lake City population in the 2020 census, broken down by borough. District 4 in dark green has ended with the largest growth in decades. (Photo: Kem C. Gardner Institute)

However, growth was not evenly distributed. For example, District 4, which includes central and central city districts, ended up with 33,153 inhabitants – 6,437 more than in 2010 and more than 4,300 more than in any other district in the city.

Districts 3 and 6, which include The Avenues, Capitol Hill and East Bench, have also seen higher growth rates than other districts in the city over the past decade. District 2, which includes Glendale and Poplar Grove, was the only district to decline, falling 912 since 2010.

Bateman explained that there are several reasons why some districts have grown more than others, and these reasons go beyond mere new housing construction. For example, rental units usually have small household sizes.

COVID-19 may also have had an impact on the results, as the census took place on April 1, 2020 – just a few weeks after many college students returned home due to pandemic-related outages. They were not in the apartments they would otherwise be in.

Neighborhoods such as Ballpark, Central Ninth and Sugar House, where many new housing estates were built, grew, but not at the pace that experts would expect.

“There have been many shocks, the movement of people in general,” Bateman said, adding that the problem was so serious that the Census Bureau spent more time trying to locate college students off campus due to outages so they could be counted.

Racial and ethnic diversity has increased in the last decade, Bateman noted. The two western districts remain the most diverse parts of the city.

More extensive details from the ten-year census, such as age, background, family relationships, or whether individuals own or rent the houses in which they live, are expected later this year, probably after the city’s redistribution is complete.

With these results in hand, city officials say the optimal distribution size for the new district maps is 28,532 people. This means that all seven districts should be close to this number in order to remain the same.

District 3 is closest to this number, while Districts 2 and 4 are furthest away – meaning that these districts are more likely to change to reach a number closer to the optimal size. Any neighborhoods near district lines are now also strong candidates for moving to new frontiers.

City council members may remain on the council, even as new district maps place their residence in the new district, city councilor Katie Lewis said.

Inserting data into a new map

Most of the process will be about the same as last year’s national redistribution. Luedtke explained that the city would even use the same map software used by the state, meaning residents could draw and submit their own recommended maps as public comments.

“The city mapping tool will have some additional information, such as a layer showing the thermal map of the population,” he said. “It includes populations for specific blocks.”

This feature is important because not every city block is evenly spaced. Some blocks can have 400 people, while others 40, just because one block can have mostly apartments, while another has mostly businesses.

Luedtke recommended to the council on Tuesday that it would be beneficial for members to outline the different types of maps to create over the next few months. Even residents who do not apply for membership of the Redistribution Commission are invited to attend the meeting and make public comments as soon as the meeting begins next month.

“For this job to be fair and just, the whole community is needed,” said Salt Lake City Council Chairman Dan Dugan. “We need everyone to take care and get involved.”

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