Fragment California: Will California Split into Six Smaller States?


If Tim Draper has his way, Los Angeles will be the dominant metropolis in the newly created state of West California.

Draper, a global venture capitalist described by a 2007 San Francisco Gate article as “more connected than a New Jersey construction boss,” believes that the State of California is too large and hefty as a political entity. By Draper’s estimate, the almost 40 million people that make up California’s population would be better off fragmenting into six smaller states.  According to Draper’s initiative, “California is the nation’s third largest state by geography, over two times larger than the average of the fifty states, with enormous and diverse economies, including agriculture, energy, technology, and entertainment.” As a result, he goes on, California is all but ungovernable due to its diverse population and politics.

Other than West California (green), territories that once formed California would become South California (orange), Central California (red), and North California (purple). California’s northernmost counties would form the state of Jefferson (blue), while San Francisco and San Jose would be incorporated into the new state of Silicon Valley (yellow).

Article IV of the U.S. constitution posits that new states can be cobbled together from the territory of already existing states only with the dual approval of said state’s legislators and Congress. The last time that a territory from an already existing state split off to go it alone was when the Appalachian counties of Virginia formed West Virginia during the Civil War. Nevertheless, Draper looks to the antebellum year of 1859, when, according to his initiative, “voters overwhelmingly approved the splitting of California into two states… but Congress never acted on that request due to the Civil War.” Draper now asks that Congress kindly act on the request (the ultimate example of the old adage better late than never).

There are innumerable disputes that could arise between the former states of California, but given the current drought, we’ll just point out one: as we reported in our September 2013 feature article on Water in L.A., California’s hydraulic system contains over a thousand dams and thousands of miles of aqueducts. All of that machinery would no longer be housed under the political umbrella of the state of California; it would be divided amongst the newly created states. If water policy in California is messy now, imagine a water policy divided between six thirsty states. 

On February 18, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced that Draper could begin collecting signatures for his petition. Draper has until mid July to collect over 800,000 signatures in order for to upgrade his initiative to ballot status.