When we wrote about the city’s meeting on redistricting for City Council District 5 a few weeks ago, there were two overarching themes among stakeholders who spoke at the meeting: “Please keep my neighborhood/Neighborhood Council area united in a single city council district” and “Please keep my neighborhood/Neighborhood Council area united with its contiguous communities of interest in a single city council district.” All of the 30 or so speakers at that meeting voiced either one or both of those sentiments. And not surprisingly, the story was much the same at the city’s CD-4-focused redistricting meeting on August 4, though there were also a couple of new themes this time around.
Re-drawing city council district boundaries is something that is done every 10 years when new census data is released. The goal is to maximize representation of many different kinds of communities by creating districts that are as equal as possible in population, and which unite, as much as possible, certain kinds of “communities of interest,” including various ethnic or cultural populations (many of which have a history of less than equal representation), special kinds of geography (e.g. valley, beach, or hillside communities), or common issues such as transit, density, housing issues, etc.
As part of this year’s redistricting process (which is getting a later start than usual, because the 2020 U.S. Census was delayed, and initial data won’t be released until Thursday, August 12), the city’s independent redistricting commission is holding a series of 17 online community meetings, 15 focusing on each of our individual city council districts, and two with a city-wide focus, one in English and one in Spanish. The July 7 meeting focusing on CD 5 was the second meeting in the series, and the August 4 meeting focusing on CD4 fell about mid-way through the meeting cycle.
CD 4 Redistricting Meeting
As with previous meetings in this cycle, the CD4 session began with a welcome from Redistricting Commission chair Fred Ali, who explained the purpose of redistricting and said, “This is what democracy is all about.” Ali provided a quick overview of the redistricting process and its goals (information also easily accessible here, and here). In short, the process attempts to:
- Create districts “substantially equal” in total population.
- Comply with equality provisions of the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act.
- Create districts that are, to the extent possible, geographically contiguous.
- Maintain “the geographic integrity of neighborhoods and communities of interest,” and – to the extent possible -keep them intact within a single district.
- Draw districts using “natural boundaries and streets, and to encourage geographic compactness” to the extent possible. And…
- Avoid “favoring or discriminating against a political party.”
After the introductory presentation, the meeting – which had more than 100 attendees and Ali said was the largest in the series so far – was opened to public comments. More than 30 people voiced their concerns and requests. And as at the CD5 meeting, the single largest theme among the speakers was requests for certain neighborhoods or kinds of neighborhoods be united (or re-united) within a single City Council district, instead of being split between two more more council districts.
Among the more common comments in this vein were:
Keep all of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council area together in CD 4. Several speakers requested that the northwest corner of the GWNC area, which was moved to CD 5 in the 2010 redistricting be returned to CD 4, to make it easier to work on GWNC area-wide issues with just one instead of two different City Council districts.
Remove Sherman Oaks and Toluca Lake from CD 4 and reunite them with other San Fernando Valley communities in CD 5. These communities were removed from CD 5 in the last round of redistricting, and many residents at both the CD 5 meeting and this meeting asked that they be put back in CD 5 with their adjacent communities. One difference at this meeting, however, is that there were also a few Valley residents who voiced the opposite request – that their eastern Valley neighborhoods be retained in CD 4 or given their own district, because they prefer to be included in a less homogenous, more urban-feeling, and more politically progressive district than other Valley neighborhoods further west.
Unite the Miracle Mile neighborhood and Mid-City West Neighborhood Council areas (now split among Council Districts 4, 5, and 10) in a single Council District (most likely CD4, with which at least a couple of speakers said they have most in common).
Unite the various Hollywood-area neighborhoods and Neighborhood Councils in a single city council district, instead of splitting them between Districts 4 and 13, as they are now.
Unite all of the Los Feliz area in CD 4 instead of splitting it between districts 4 and 13, as it is now.
Unite the Koreatown area in a single city council district instead of the three (1, 10 and 13) it shares now. Also, at least a couple of people who live in the Western-Wilton neighborhood of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council area, Steve Kang and Jake Mallot, asked that their neighborhood and other GWNC eastern-border areas including Ridgewood-Wilton/St. Andrews Square, and Oakwood-Maplewood-St. Andrews, which now lie in CD 4 with most other GWNC-area neighborhoods, be moved from CD 4 into one of the districts representing Koreatown. Kang and Mallot said those areas’ density and greater population of renters gives them much more in common with the more urban Koreatown than with GWNC and CD 4’s single family neighborhoods to the west. This comment was met with almost immediate protest, however, by St. Andrews Square resident Patricia Carroll, who represents that neighborhood on the GWNC board. Carroll reported that GWNC’s three eastern border neighborhoods do have both multi-family and single family homes, as well as a long history and shared concerns that tie them firmly to the rest of the GWNC community, and that it would not be welcome to many of those residents to be split off from their historic CD 4 into a new City Council district.
Finally, there was also one new issue raised at the CD 4 meeting, which did not come up at the CD 5 meeting in July, and which – as the requesters acknowledged – is not really within the purview of the current redistricting commission. This was a plea to increase the overall number of city council districts to improve community representation across the city. Several speakers noted that other large cities have a much larger number of city council districts (for example, Chicago has 50 and New York has 51), while Los Angeles has only 15 districts, the same as much smaller Milwaukee…and each of our city council members represents more than 250,000 people – a number larger than the total population of many mid-size cities.
The current slate of community meetings will continue through early September.
If you would like to comment on the redistricting process, or make any neighborhood-specific requests, you can fill out the commission’s Community of Interest questionnaire:
You can also attend one of the remaining community meetings (while most meetings will focus on specific council districts, members of the general public are welcome, and welcome to speak, at all meetings)…
…or submit a written comment (with or without specific map suggestions) to [email protected].
Note that the sooner comments are submitted, the better, as the process will move quickly once census data becomes available. After the community meetings end in September, the Commission has just about three months to finalize its recommendations for new city council district boundaries, and for the city to approve them before the December 31 deadline required by the City Charter.