Every 10 years, after new census data is released, the boundaries of our local, state and federal electoral districts are re-drawn, to help make sure each district is equitably balanced for population and representation of various local interests.
This year, because last year’s census was delayed, the redistricting process has been delayed as well. The new census data won’t be released until early August, but because the City of Los Angeles requires that new city council boundaries be fully approved by December 31, the city began the redistricting process this month, with a series of 19 public hearings (all conducted online) to collect residents’ feedback on the redistricting efforts in their areas. 15 of the 19 meetings, held between July 1 and September 25, will focus specifically on each of our 15 city council districts, and the remaining four will be more general sessions, one conducted in Spanish.
Of our two local city council districts, the CD 5 meeting, held on July 7, was an early entry in the series, while the one for CD 4 falls about midway through the meeting schedule, on August 4. While most of the meetings focus on specific areas, however, members of the public are invited to attend and comment during any session.
The city’s redistricting website provides a good, brief overview of what redistricting is, why it’s important, how the process works, and how people can get involved. A brief redistricting Fact Sheet also has good information. Here are the basics, quoted from these two sources.
What Is Redistricting?
Every ten years following the decennial U.S. Census, the Los Angeles City Charter requires that district boundaries for the City Council be redrawn so that each district is substantially equal in population. As part of this process, a twenty-one member Redistricting Commission is formed with members from the public with the authority to make recommendations on a redistricting plan to the City Council that sets boundaries for the City Council districts. Redistricting is primarily done using U.S. Census data, which is usually released around March 31, 2021, but is expected to be delayed until August or September 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Per the City Charter, the redistricting process for the City of Los Angeles must be completed by December 31, 2021.
Why is Redistricting Important?
Redistricting helps assure that communities have equal access to political representation. How and where district boundaries are drawn can shape the communities’ ability to elect the representatives of their choice. It is important that each elected official represent about the same number of constituents.
Where district lines are drawn may determine who residents can vote for and even how responsive elected officials are to your requests. Representation is power. Who represents you in City Hall can mean more or less affordable housing, cleaner streets, and better parks. And making sure your district is drawn in a way that gives you fair representation can make a big difference for you and your family. Redistricting should never deny you to have a voice in city government. Maps must be drawn in ways that allow your neighborhood to be treated equally.
How does redistricting work?
The Mayor and City Council have appointed an independent citizen’s commission to advise them how to draw new districts that reflect the interests of the hundreds of communities in Los Angeles that make it unique. The 21-member commission is made up of diverse citizens from every part of the city. The Commission is committed to making sure that everyone has equal and fair representation in City Hall.
Before the lines are redrawn, the commission will conduct a series of 19 public hearings and community meetings. There will be one for each City Council District and four regional meetings. Once the commission has completed the public hearings they will take the information you provide along with data provided from the Federal Government and draw new maps.
A set of maps will be drafted and presented to the community online and via public hearings to ensure the commission gets your feedback. We will then revise the maps and send them to the City Council for approval.
What Criteria Is Used For Redistricting?
- Each district shall be substantially equal in total population to the other districts.
- Districts shall comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
- Districts shall be geographically contiguous.
- The geographic integrity of neighborhoods and communities of interest shall be kept intact to the extent feasible.
- Districts shall be drawn utilizing natural boundaries and streets and to encourage geographic compactness to the extent feasible.
- Besides the above criteria, districts shall not be drawn for purposes of favoring or discriminating against a political party.
How To Get Involved
- RSVP For a Public Hearing Meeting
- Submit a Community of Interest Form
- Register for the Early Notification System
- Attend Commission Meetings
- Currently, Commission meetings are being held virtually on the internet and telephonically in conformity with the Governor’s Executive Order N-29-20 (March 17, 2020) and due to concerns over COVID-19. In-person meetings may be held in the near future as health measures permit.
- Members of the public can participate by logging on to the meetings via Zoom Webinar or by telephone. Access instructions can be found on the meeting agendas.
- During Commission meetings, members of the public are provided an opportunity to provide public comment on related matters. Instructions for providing public comment during a meeting can be found on meeting agendas.
- The public may also provide written public comments by submitting them via email to: [email protected]
CD5 Redistricting Meeting
As noted above, the redistricting public hearing focusing on CD5 was the second in the city’s 19-meeting schedule, held on July 7.
At that meeting, members of the city redistricting commission introduced the redistricting process and how it works, as described above. Then the hearing was opened to public comments. In all, 30 people representing various neighborhoods and neighborhood organizations spoke, and although they included such disparate areas as Sherman Oaks, Palms, Westwood, Encino, South Carthay, Venice, Greater Wilshire, Bel Air, Beverly Crest, Benedict Canyon, Rancho Park/Cheviot Hills, and more, there were just two common requests, voiced by almost every speaker: 1. keep established neighborhoods, neighborhood council areas, and Community Plan areas united in a single city council district instead of splitting them between two or more districts…and 2. keep adjacent neighborhoods with common interests (e.g. adjacent coastal communities, adjacent foothill communities, UCLA and its adjacent Westwood neighborhood, Encino and the Sepulveda Basin area, etc.) united in a single council district.
For example, several speakers from Sherman Oaks noted that that community was historically included with neighboring San Fernando Valley areas in CD 5, but during the last city council redistricting process, following the 2010 census, it was moved to CD 4, which generally represents areas both further east, and on the other side of the Hollywood Hills. Each of these speakers urged the city commission to reunite Sherman Oaks with its neighbors in CD 5.
In a similar vein, Brad Kane, president of the South Carthay Neighborhood Association, argued in favor of keeping all three Carthay neighborhoods (South Carthay, Carthay Circle, and Carthay Square) together in one city council district, because of their shared history and historic preservation efforts.
And John Gresham, a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council board (who spoke as an individual and not a representative of that organization), noted that a small corner along the northwest edge of the GWNC area was moved from CD 4 (which represents most of the GWNC area) into CD5 during the last redistricting process, and asked that it be returned to CD 4 this time around, for more uniform representation in the neighborhood council area.
In summary, it was clear that all speakers agreed with Steve Sann, chair of the Westwood Community Council, who asked the redistricting commissioners to do their best to avoid “cracking, packing, and stacking” – in other words, gerrymandering – the new council districts to create artificial boundaries that would divide and dilute the voices of various kinds of communities across the city.
The CD 4 redistricting hearing is coming up on Wednesday, August 4 at 6 p.m. It will be held online. If you are interested in lending your voice to those who would like to have a say in the shape of our City Council districts for the next 10 years, you can sign up here to attend.