Split California into 2 States? Putting the Idea into Perspective

Photo via the Office of Jeff StoneA Riverside County Supervisor has proposed that several counties split from California and form a new state. Republican Jeff Stone said "the destruction of California has to stop" in a press release announcing his idea for the state of South California.

But don't be fooled by the name's geographic inclinations, South California would include 12 counties, some from Southern California, some from Eastern California and some from the Central Valley. Los Angeles County, for one, is not included.

The new state would swing from the U.S.-Mexico border, up through the deserts, over the Sierra mountains and into the agricultural fields of the San Joaquin Valley. It would be made up by Imperial, San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino, Kings, Kern, Fresno, Tulare, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa and Mono counties.

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The idea of splitting California is nothing new.

An adage oft heard here is that California is really two states. Depending on how you draw the lines, that's either a state of mind or politics.

Some like Michael O'Faolain even call for more distinct lines, dividing it into three states because there are already "three Californias," which has made the state ungovernable, he says on his website. To put it in perspective, O'Faolain notes, "In the first 150 years of statehood, there have been 27 serious proposals to split the state. It is an idea that has staying power!"

In one of L.A. as Subject's weekly posts on KCET earlier this year, Nathan Masters explains an attempt to split the state during the Civil War:

California entered the Union in 1850, but throughout its first decade of statehood many Southern Californians agitated for a split from the northern (and more populous) part of the state. They nearly succeeded.


In 1859, California State Assemblyman Andrés Pico, a Californio who had commanded the Mexican forces against the U.S. Army in 1846 at the Battle of San Pasqual, introduced a bill that would split California in two. Under Pico's proposal, the northern part of the state would remain California, while the state's five southernmost counties--Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, San Diego, and San Luis Obispo--would be reconstituted as a federally-administered territory and named after the Colorado River. (Present-day Colorado did not get its name until 1861.)

Supervisor Stone wants a part-time legislature paid a $600 stipend each month and to give local governments more control in decisions. "Our taxes are too high, our schools don't educate our children well enough, unions and other special interests have more clout in the Legislature than the general public. It has to change," he said.

The plan will be discussed at a supervisors' meeting in July.

About the Author

Zach Behrens is KCET's Director of News, Region and State, working on digital and on-air news products that relate to Southern California and beyond.
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