BERKELEY -- An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the city Wednesday, ordering the new City Council district boundaries must be used in the November election.

The boundaries were approved by the City Council in December, but the council suspended the plan after a successful referendum.

Judge Evelio Grillo wrote in his 35-page decision that "after considering all the maps that have been presented to the court ... and the criteria under the Constitution and City Charter, the court finds that the ... City Council approved plan is the one that best complies with meeting the mandates of equal protection and minimizing any disruption in the election process."

Without the lawsuit, the city clerk would have been obligated to direct the Alameda County Registrar of Voters to use the 2002 council district boundaries for the November election. Both the clerk and county registrar of voters were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

But the actual defendants -- called "real parties in interest" -- were Councilmen Jesse Arreguin, Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson and six citizens who initiated the referendum.

"Obviously I am disappointed," Arreguin said. "I hoped that the judge would have given more consideration to the several alternate maps submitted, which were constitutionally compliant and complied with the City Charter, rather than entering the 'political thicket' and picking a map that was stayed by a successful citizens' referendum."

In contrast was an email response from Mayor Tom Bates that said, "I'm pleased with the court's decision, and that this issue is now behind us and that we can get on with holding the election."

At issue was the redistricting map the council approved in December, with Worthington, Anderson and Arreguin dissenting. The city must adjust council boundary lines after each decennial census to equalize the population among council districts.

The ordinance approving those boundaries was set aside after opponents collected some 7,800 signatures supporting the referendum. The city sued to have the judge temporarily lift the stay, in order to use the council district boundaries approved in December for the November election.

The referendum on the November ballot will ask voters if they want to affirm the boundaries approved by council. At the same time, voters will decide on council members using the district lines ordered by the judge -- council seats in districts 1, 4, 7 and 8 will be on the ballot.

At the heart of the controversy were boundary changes the council approved in District 7, adjacent to UC Berkeley, which Worthington represents. Referendum supporters said the map approved in December was designed to hurt Worthington by removing the progressive voters at the student cooperatives north of campus from District 7 and adding the more moderate sorority and fraternity voters south of campus.

Supporters of that map, however, insist it was drawn to unite unique interests of the south of campus students, particularly with respect to public safety issues.

Judge Grillo heard the case Tuesday. Much of the discussion was on the question of using council boundaries set in 2002 for the November 2014 election.

Arguing for the city, Margaret Prinzing of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell said their use "violates the constitution" due to their current unequal population distribution.

Noting, however, that the city used these boundaries in the 2012 elections, attorney Richard Miadich, of Olson Hagel & Fishburn, representing Worthington and "real party in interest" Stefan Elgstrand, argued with irony that "It was OK to use (that map) in 2012, but now it's unconstitutional."

Representing Phoebe Sorgen, another "real party of interest," attorney Jose Luis Fuentes of Siegel & Yee, urged the court to "stay out of the political debate," contending the 2002 map was neutral but the council-approved map was tainted with "partisan viewpoints."

During the hearing, Grillo agreed with the city, saying the 2002 map was unconstitutional, but he continued to consider other maps the defendants presented.

Alejandro Soto-Vigil, an aide to Worthington and named as a real party of interest, represented himself and argued that if the court allowed use of the council-approved map for the November elections, it would prejudice voters addressing the referendum.

They would say, "'It seems pretty fair. The judge has authorized that. So I might as well just affirm it,'" Soto-Vigil said. "That's the psychology of the electorate."