Six Stupid Californias: A Definitive Ranking of Efforts to Splinter the Golden State

The Wire was so sure Six Californias is the worst plan to partition California in recent memory that we decided to prove it.

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This week over a million Californians surprised the world by signing a petition to put a billionaire venture capitalist's criminally stupid Six Californias plan on the ballot. But people familiar with the state's history of trying to tear itself apart weren't surprised. Californians — specifically, Republican Californians — have a long and embarrassing history of wasting time and money on poorly conceived attempts to make the state more manageable. Still, Tim Draper's idea to create six states, including an incredibly wealthy Silicon Valley, is probably the worst.

In fact, we were so sure this is the worst plan to partition California in recent memory that we decided to prove it. It is. Using a complex rating system based on the criteria below, we ranked the four major plots to divvy up the Golden State in the last few years: Six Californias, the State of Jefferson, Southern California and Coastal California.


Each plan can earn up to 40 points, with a total of 10 points awarded for each of the following categories:

  • State Names: The general rule of thumb is there can only be two variations of the same name. West Virginia and Virginia. North Dakota and South Dakota. South Carolina and North Carolina. More than two and you're just being ridiculous.
  • Cultural Cohesiveness: Are you grouping NorCal people with SoCal people? That's dumb. Or, translated into NorCal, that's hella dumb.
  • Fairness: Is wealth evenly distributed? Or does your plan exile the poorest parts of the states?
  • Honesty: If you're honest about your plan's true motives — creating a Republican state, creating an island of tech plutocrats – then you deserve a few points. 

Six Californias, 2014

Mastermind: Tim Draper

Status: The effort has enough signatures to appear on the ballot two years from now. If it passes, Congress would still have to approve it.

The Plan: Draper, a venture capitalist, argues that California is too big to offer proper competition and representation. The six states would be Jefferson, Silicon Valley, Central California, Northern California, West California, and South California.

Names: This doesn't pass the two variation rule. "Silicon Valley, USA" is the type of place where obscenely rich people would rather invest in apps that say "Yo" than in projects that would help people. In other words, some of the worst people. 2/10
Culture: Separatists have been trying to create Jefferson since 1941, though usually Jefferson includes parts of southwest Oregon. Other than that, it's so specific each area would be cohesive. 8/10
Fairness:  Why is Silicon Valley so small? Probably to keep it separate from Fresno, Modesto and Bakersfield — in 2012, those cities were among the five poorest areas in the country. The San Francisco Chronicle also raises a lot of good questions about how pensions would be paid out, how water contracts would be divided and how state schools would be doled out. 1/10
Honesty: Republicans (or in Draper's case, former registered Republicans) attempting to divide the Democratic state to increase representation is nothing new. But not everyone's willing to admit that. "With six, you do get a good sense that you can drive 45 minutes in any direction and maybe be part of a different state and it keeps those states on their toes," Draper said this week, according to CBS News. 0/10
Total: 11/40

State of Jefferson, 2013 - Present

Mastermind: The State of Jefferson has been a pipe dream for decades, but the most recent iteration has been voted on by several counties over the last year.

The Plan: As The Wire explained in June, the northern part of California (north as in Humboldt, not Berkeley) would join with southern Oregon to create a state attentive to the needs of rural people.

Names: Jefferson is a cool name for a state. 9/10
Culture: The whole point is that would be Jeffersonians live in poor, rural, conservative areas and are represented (poorly) by liberal city slickers. Also, the fact that Californians think San Francisco is "northern" California shows how relevant the top of the state is to everyone else. As The Wire's Adam Chandler noted last month, none of places mentioned in Tupac's "California Love" are in Jefferson. 9/10
Logistics: The same issues with shared resources apply, but this is an idea proposed by the people who would benefit from it the least. 3/10
Honesty: The Jefferson dream is pure, if ill-advised. 10/10
Total: 31/40

Southern California , 2011

Mastermind: Former Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone

The Plan: Turn everything from Fresno to San Diego (except for coastal counties) into Southern California. The new state would also free up time to protect the border. From CBS LA:

The creation of the new state would allow officials to focus on securing borders, balancing budgets, improving schools and creating a vibrant economy, he said.

“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,” Stone said in his statement.

Names: This is what people already call southern California. It would have been an easy transition. Some people wouldn't even have noticed. 9/10
Culture: No one in Southern California would say hella, or leave out articles when giving directions (it's not "take 5 north," it's "take the 5 north"). This would allow for a new era of clarity in the southern part of the state. 8/10
Logistics: At least the public universities would be evenly divided. As always, everything else would be a mess. 3/10
Honesty: As CBS LA pointed out, Stone introduced his plan at the same time Gov. Jerry Brown signed a budget that spent licensing fee revenue from four new cities in Stone's county. Protesting that seemed to be the actual point. 4/10
Total: 24/40

Coastal California, 2009

Mastermind: Former conservative Republican State Assemblyman Bill Maze

The Plan: Literally, take all the coastal Democratic counties and turn them into Coastal California. Or Western California. Maze was serious. The now-defunct website read: "Citizens of our once 'Golden State' are frustrated and desperately concerned about the imposition of burdensome regulations, taxation, fees, fees and more fees, and bureaucratic intrusion into our daily lives and businesses." Maze also started a non-profit called Citizens for Saving California's Farming Industries.

Names: There would be Coastal California, then a misleadingly named "California." What is California without its beautiful beaches? Its vibrant entertainment community? Its excessively wealthy coastal communities that seem to go against its liberal streak? Nothing. Also, "coastal" is not a very dignified adjective for a state. 2/10
Culture: To be fair, inner California is more conservative than coastal (gag) California. The protest that turned away a bus full of migrant children happened in non-coastal California. 8/10
Logistics: "California" would have lost some of the best state schools to its coastal counterparts and be left with most of the poorest counties. 3/10
Honesty: He was pretty straightforward. 9/10
Total: 22/40


As we expected, Six Californias is literally the dumbest of several not very good ideas.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.