On May 2, 2023, the Glendale City Council initiated a process to undertake a transition in the makeup of its governing body. The City is proposing to transition from the current at-large election of its five (5) councilmembers to election by districts, along with an expansion to six (6) Council seats and a directly-elected Mayor, all subject to the voters’ approval. If put before Glendale voters and approved in 2024, commencing in 2026, the City will be divided into six (6) districts of approximately equal population.  In a district system, each councilmember must reside in an established election district and is elected only by voters residing within that election district.


Positive reasons cited for transiting the City of Glendale to districts:

Geographically and Socioeconomically Diverse Representation on City Council

The Council majority that voted to initiate the process to transition to districts believe that districts will diversify the Council geographically and socioeconomically. In particular, the residents of South Glendale and renters have rarely been represented by councilmembers who live in South Glendale or are renters.  The Council majority believes having district representation will ensure representatives on the City Council will hail from South Glendale and will increase the likelihood of councilmembers who are renters.  If approved by the voters, residents will also have a second representative at the citywide level in the position of elected mayor.

Constituent Services

In initiating the transition to Council districts, councilmembers also expressed their belief that by-district elections will lead to better constituent services as councilmembers will be closer to their constituents and the day-to-day issues affecting their quality of life.

Costs to Run for City Council

The Council majority expressed the view that running for a citywide race in a dynamic city like Glendale has become an expensive endeavor, with successful candidates usually having to raise upwards of $100,000 or more to run a successful campaign to get their message out.  This requires candidates to have to spend more time raising money and reduces the pool of candidates who run for office.  The council members who initiated this process believe that transitioning to by-district elections (along with an expansion of the size of Council) will facilitate running for council by reducing the outreach (and cost) necessary to run, thereby increasing the pool of candidates running to represent residents on the City Council.

Potential Legal Risks

Many cities, including Glendale, are also considering transitioning to districts due to the potential risks associated with the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). This law makes it easier to bring voting rights claims against public agencies in California based on allegations of racially polarized voting.  In addition to being easier to litigate than federal voting rights cases, CVRA cases are expensive to litigate, and successful plaintiffs are entitled to substantial attorneys’ fees.  No public entity has successfully defended a CVRA challenge and almost all have settled by agreeing to transition to districts.  Although the City has not been sued and does not believe its at-large election system dilutes the votes of minority voters, it is a substantial factor that the City must consider in weighing whether to maintain an at-large election system.  Other cities similar to Glendale, including Burbank, Santa Clarita and Thousand Oaks, have recently commenced or completed the district transition process out of concern for a CVRA challenge. Glendale Unified School District and Glendale Community College have also transitioned to by-trustee (by-district) elections to avoid the risk of a CVRA challenge.


Negative reasons cited for transiting the City of Glendale to districts:

Resource Allocation Challenges

When city council members represent specific districts, there might be competition for resources between districts, leading to potential unequal distribution of funding and services.

Difficulty in Addressing Citywide Issues

Some challenges faced by cities, such as transportation networks, infrastructure improvements or environmental concerns, require citywide solutions. District-focused representation can make it challenging to coordinate efforts and implement holistic policies.

Appearance of Disproportionate Control

A view has also been expressed that, as has occurred in other cities with council districts, councilmembers may come to view their districts as their “fiefdoms” – able to make all decisions affecting their district – despite the fact that all policy decisions will still require approval of the City Council.

Directly Elected Mayor

Some members of the community, including sitting council members, express the view that having a directly elected mayor is unnecessary and duplicative of the council’s role. The view has been expressed that a citywide mayor be wrongly perceived as more powerful or otherwise more important than other elected councilmembers even though the mayor’s duties and authority will be nearly the same as those of the councilmembers with the exception of some minor ceremonial and ministerial duties.