I found this fascinating.
Why did the City of San Rafael transition to district elections?
In 2002, the Legislature enacted the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) (Elec. Code §§14025 – 14032), which prohibits California public agencies, including municipal governments, from imposing or applying an at-large election method “that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election” (Elec. Code §14027). A protected class is defined by the CVRA as “a class of voters who are members of a race, color, or language minority group, as this class is referenced and defined in the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965”.
In a lawsuit brought pursuant to the CVRA, a plaintiff who establishes a history of “racially polarized voting” under a city’s at-large election system can require a city to change to a district-based election system. This past November 2017, the City received a letter (English/Spanish) from an attorney, asserting racially-polarized voting in San Rafael. On January 16, 2018, the City Council adopted a resolution outlining its intention to transition from at-large to district-based elections, which included specific steps the City will undertake to facilitate the transition, and an estimated time frame for doing so. The CVRA provides that the City must adopt an ordinance implementing district-based elections within 90 days, or by no later than April 16, 2018.
This would be excellent precedent for encouraging cities to move from At-Large voting to a form of Proportional Representation.
District based elections don’t solve any “history of racially polarized voting” as long as they do not encourage proportional representation, and use “choose one” voting methods.