Yesterday afternoon, the Los Angeles City Council held its final public hearing on its recommended draft map of new City Council districts, and then voted to accept the map as its final choice for redistricting. This brings the process one step closer to conclusion, with a final vote scheduled for Wednesday, December 1.
USC/Exposition Park Controversy
Although the focus on specific redistricting trouble spots has narrowed considerably over the last few meetings, yesterday’s session was not entirely without controversy, with one glaring issue – whether USC and the Exposition Park area (two important revenue-generating venues) should be located in CD 8 or CD 9 – receiving by far the most attention.
Both USC and Exposition Park (including its several popular museums and sports stadiums) were formerly located in CD8, but were moved to CD 9 in the 2012 redistricting process. The move was intended to make up for portions of downtown that were moved from CD 9 to CD 14 in that same round of changes. But it also left the low income and majority Black CD 8 without any major economic generators (except for the struggling Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall), so CD 8 residents and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson have been fighting hard throughout this year’s redistricting process to return USC and/or Exposition Park to CD 8. Meanwhile, however, CD 9 residents and their Councilmember, Curren Price, have been fighting just has hard to keep both assets in CD 9, arguing that the areas have prospered under Price’s leadership (especially with the development of the new Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, now under construction) and should be allowed to continue under his oversight…even though the district is also home to other major income-generating venues, such as LA Live, Staples Center, and the LA Convention Center.
At the beginning of yesterday’s meeting, Harris-Dawson made what was at least his third attempt to introduce a motion for a map amendment that would move the Exposition Park area back into CD 8 (as had previously been recommended by the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission before the City Council took over the mapping process).
And public sentiment was with him during the public comment section of the meeting, with more than 40 of the 71 speakers during the session specifically pleading with the Council to honor Harris-Dawson’s request. Many of the speakers also pointed out that in addition to being a low income district, CD 8 is currently the only remaining majority-Black district in the city…and they contended that leaving it without any major economic engines is a matter of racial justice and equity, with some even comparing the loss to an “economic lynching” of Los Angeles’ Black community. Several speakers also reminded Council President Nury Martinez that she recently moved another major economic asset – the Van Nuys airport – back into her own CD 6 after it had previously been moved out of that district, and requested similar consideration for their own area.
After the public comments, Harris-Dawson made an impassioned speech to his fellow Councilmembers, predicting that 10 years from now, people will ask how the Council could have left CD 8 with no major economic assets. But he said it doesn’t have to be that way. With a nod to the popular Broadway show, “Hamilton,” Harris-Dawson reminded his colleagues that they are now “in the room where it happens,” and that they have the power to help the only majority Black district in Los Angeles – also the largest majority Black district in the state of California – achieve economic parity with other parts of the city.
“I can’t not fight for this,” Harris-Dawson said. “I will contend until the last day I’m on this council that [moving USC and Exposition Park out of CD 8] was wrong in 2011, and it’s wrong today.”
In the end, however, the Councilmembers seemed to agree more with CD 9 representative Curren Price, who spoke much more briefly but argued that his district is still the most impoverished in the city, despite its many major venues, and “now is not the time to roll this back.”
In a final vote on the matter, Harris-Dawson’s amendment was defeated by a vote of three votes (Harris-Dawson, Mike Bonin, and Nithya Raman) in favor, and 10 opposed.
Other Lingering Issues
While the USC/Exposition Park placement was the only one discussed by Councilmembers themselves during the session, several other issues were raised by one or more stakeholders during the public comment period. These included:
- A plea from Miracle Mile resident Hana Kawano to unify all of the Miracle Mile HPOZ area in CD 5 (the currently recommended map places the SE corner of the area in CD 10).
- Thanks for unifying Koreatown, using boundaries recommended by the Koreatown Redistricting Taskforce, in CD 10.
- Opposition to the KRT boundaries for Koreatown, and to the fact that the KRT did not consult the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council during its mapping discussions.
- Complaints about splits of the Studio City and Toluca Lake areas
- Thanks for keeping most of Hollywood united in CD 13
- A request to keep the 800 block of N. Citrus Ave. in CD 5 instead of CD 13, as currently recommended
- Opposition to the split of the Lincoln Heights neighborhood between two council districts
- A request to return the Miracle Mile area to CD 4, to honor late City Councilmember Tom La Bonge
- Complaints that because of the recent suspension of Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, CD 10 has been “disenfranchised” and has not had a voice in the current redistricting process.
Finally, however, after all the comments, and after Harris-Dawson’s unsuccessful attempt at a final map amendment, the Council voted unanimously to accept the current map as its final choice for redistricting.
The Council is scheduled to take its final vote on the matter at its meeting on Wednesday, December 1.