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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Variation in Structural Home Rule: Evidence from California City Councils

  • Author(s): Stone, Samuel;
  • Tucker, Justin
  • et al.

Much of the literature on home rule overlooks structural variations in city governance. Because structural features of city governance expand or restrict democratic participation, we take a comprehensive look at the 481 cities in California to identify correlates of home rule status and city council size. Roughly a quarter of the cities in the state have chosen to become charter cities while the rest remain general law cities with essentially identical governing bodies of five member city councils elected in at-large elections.  Some cities that have opted to become charter cities have altered their form of government or electoral systems, but many have not.  Among all cities in California, both general law and charter, variations in city council size, election method, and mayoral selection are largely unrelated to demographic factors but rather the year of incorporation, selection method of the mayor, and whether the city has adopted a charter.

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