Draper’s Three States Map Could Use Some Revision

Joe Mathews

Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)


Why does Tim Draper hate Southern California?

I’m sympathetic to the venture capitalist’s attempts to split up California. Our state is more the size of a country than an American state. And splitting the state would give Californians to write new and at least semi-rational state constitutions for themselves. And that’s something we’ll never get to do if we remain one giant state.

But the way Draper draws his maps is another story. He keeps trying to split up California’s true regions, instead of turning them into states.

His latest “3 Californias” initiative, a follow-up to his “6 Californias” attempt, should have made it easier to keep the regions together. But instead, he seems want to split things up, so tens of millions of Californians will live in one state but work in a different one.   

He clearly has a death wish for Southern California. He would split L.A. and Ventura Counties (which would join the Central Coast counties in a state) from Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, thereby defeating regional governance that has been one of the area’s successes.

He also manages to split the San Joaquin Valley north of Madera County, which would weaken a region that already struggles to get its fair share of investment and attention.

Draper leaves his own home region, the Bay Area, intact.

The good news is that the initiative process now permits some amendments in the early stages. So time to redraw the map.

Draper should start not with a map of counties but with a map of regions. Protect the existing regions. You could split the state easily simply by turning the major regions – Bay Area, Central Valley, Central Coast, North State, the Sierra, Southern California, San Diego and the Borderlands – into states.

But if you’re going to go to fewer states – say 3—combine the regions. Southern California and San Diego would be one. The Central Valley, the Central Coast and the Sierra know each other well and might fit together. Let the Bay Area subsidize the North State by combining the two into a state.

But if you’re going to take the hard step of breaking up the state, why make things harder by breaking up the regions?

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