Shortly before Wednesday night’s meeting of the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission, City Council Member Nithya Raman replaced Alexandra Suh, the Commissioner Raman had originally appointed, with Los Angeles Unified School District board member Jackie Goldberg.
Goldberg, a former member of both the Los Angeles City Council and the California State Assembly, lost no time making her presence felt, asking to introduce herself at the beginning of the meeting, and using her time to decry the near total re-shaping of City Council Districts 2 and 4 in the Commission’s chosen draft map, which the group is now refining. During her remarks, Goldberg said she has been in politics for more than 40 years, “and I have never ever, ever, ever seen a process like this,” accusing the commission of drawing the current Draft Plan K 2.5 map “behind closed doors,” and calling on Commission Chair Fred Ali to scheduled a Special Meeting to specifically discuss Districts 2, 3 and 4, which she said have not yet been properly addressed and which “deserve equal time” with other boundary issues the commission has focused on in recent meetings.
After this opening blast, however, Ali reminded Goldberg that she has joined the discussions well into a very long process, and that Draft Plan K 2.5, including its versions of Districts 2, 3 and 4, were very thoroughly discussed by the commission before it voted to proceed with this specific plan. Ali also reiterated his previous statements that the Commission’s choices and boundary-drawing has been very intentionally directed by census and population data, neighborhood council boundaries, requests from specific communities of interest, and other more objective criteria…and not the convenience or inconvenience of any specific Councilmember. (Indeed, although not noted at the meeting, Los Angeles does have a long history of sitting city council members being redistricted out of the territory that elected them – one well known example is Ruth Galanter, who was at the time one of the most senior members of the City Council, and was moved from her westside district to a district in the San Fernando Valley in the 2002 redistricting process.)
More Community Maps
Moving into the agendized items for Wednesday’s meeting, the Commission received presentations from representatives of two community organizations, the Mexican American Legal and Defense Fund (MALDEF) and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. MALDEF representative Steve Ochoa presented a new alternate redistricting map, which he said would more evenly distribute Latinx representation across the city…
…while Jewish Federation speakers Alisa Finsten and Irving Lebovics recounted the history of the Jewish community in Los Angeles since 1945, and spoke in favor of the commission’s current Draft Plan K 2.5, which for the first time unites many of the largest local Jewish communities in CD 5.
After the two group presentations, the commission once again opened the meeting to 90 minutes of public comments. During this period, members of seven neighborhood councils spoke about issues of concern in their geographic areas, and nearly 75 individuals weighed in, mostly on now-familiar topics that have been mentioned frequently at previous meetings.
On the positive side, there were messages of thanks for keeping many Jewish communities, and all of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council area, united in CD 5 in Draft Plan K 2.5…and for also keeping the Westside Neighbohood Council area united in a single council district.
But there were still plenty of suggestions for map refinements, including:
- Uniting all of the Melrose neighborhood (and the Mid City West Neighborhood Council area) in CD 5
- Keeping Eagle Rock united and in CD 14
- Keeping Downtown united in CD 14
- Uniting Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, and El Sereno in CD 14
- Uniting all of Highland Park in CD 14
- Uniting all of Chinatown in a single district (either 1 or 14)
- Whether or not to return economic assets taken from Districts 8 and 9 during the last round of redistricting to those districts, or to leave the borders as they currently are.
- Keeping the Hollywood sign in CD4 with the Hollywood hillside communities adjacent to it
- Unifying Silverlake, Echo Park, Koreatown, Thai Town and Historic Filipinotown together in a more pan-Asian CD 13
- Keeping Los Feliz, The Oaks, and Griffith Park united in a single district
- Uniting renter-heavy neighborhoods in CD 4
- Using publicly submitted Map #57666’s version of Valley districts, instead of Draft Plan K 2.5’s vision for that area
- Making the proposed CD 3, spanning the southern edge of the San Fernando Valley, less white and affluent
- Whether Studio City should be located in CD 3, CD 2-or-4, or CD 4-or-2
- Keeping Valley Village and North Hollywood together in the same district
- Reuniting Shadow Hills with other equestrian communities in CD 7
- Keeping Encino and the Sepulveda Basin area in the same district
- Moving Watts out of CD 15
And as before, there were a also large number of speakers who simply and emphatically objected to Draft Plan K 2.5’s large-scale redrawing of CD 2, 3 and 4’s boundaries — especially the latter, which would move newly elected Councilmember Nithya Raman away from nearly 70% of the voters who elected her just last fall.
Commission Discussion and Map Changes
Opening Commission discussion after public comments, Ali responded to another major theme of recent public input meetings, asking Executive Director Frank Cardenas for a report on how many how many Neighborhood Council areas across the city are currently split between two or more city council districts, and how many would be split under Draft Plan K 2.5. (Keeping NC areas united, to the extent possible, has been a stated goal of the commission throughout the redistricting discussions.)
Cardenas reported that of 99 Neighborhood Councils, 62 are currently split among two or more city council districts, while 54 would be split under Draft Plan K 2.5. More specifically, he said, the number of Neighborhood Councils split between two districts would fall from 45 to 41 under Draft Plan K 2.5, while those split among three city council districts would fall from 13 to 12, and the number of NCs split among 4 city council districts would fall from 4 to just 1 under the current draft plan.
Moving on to more specific border issues that have received much attention from stakeholders, the commissioners looked at whether it would be possible to make an adjustment in the Franklin Canyon area that would reunite more of its neighborhoods in CD 5, along LAPD and LAFD division lines. The Commission’s mapping consultant, Paul Mitchell, said part of the area could easily be moved back into CD 5, but if all of it were moved, it would raise the overall CD 5 population too far above the target goal for the district.
A number of commissioners commented on this exercise, saying it provided a good reminder of the population goals, and how even small adjustments can have much larger effects across the larger city map.
Other commissioners asked if there are other places the CD 5 border might be adjusted to balance out a full Franklin Canyon addition, which turned the discussion to the Melrose area, where a swath of that neighborhood (part of the Mid City West Neighborhood Council area) north of Melrose Ave. was recently split off from CD 5 into CD 13…leading to much outcry from Melrose community members who very adamantly requested at the last redistricting meeting that their community be kept united and in CD 5.
Mitchell cautioned that, as with moving the full Franklin Canyon area into CD 5, moving this section of the Melrose/MCWNC area – which contains close to 7,000 people – back into CD 5 would also make CD 5 too populous. And he said there are no other nearby areas that could easily be carved off of the district to compensate. At least not without digging into the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council area, which the Commission had previously agreed – based on many public comments – should be kept together in a single district.
After further discussion, Commissioner Rocky Delgadillo suggested that instead of reuniting both halves of the Melrose neighborhood in CD 5, it could be reunited in CD 13, which would add needed population to that district, and remove a bit more from CD 5. Mitchell said that could indeed be a good solution, and pointed out that the change would also make room to add the rest of the requested Franklin Canyon area to CD 5.
But the idea did bring an objection from Goldberg, who noted that the part of Franklin Canyon that would be moved back into CD 5 was coming from the proposed District 2-or-4. Said she doesn’t want any adjustments to that district until a larger discussion takes place about the general CD 2-or-4 configuration.
This sparked a bit of debate among the commissioners, with commissioner Denis Cagna agreeing with Goldberg, saying only two people have spoken up in recent meetings about the Franklin Canyon issue, but many more have mentioned CD 2-or-4 and CD 4-or-2. Other commissioners disagreed, however, saying that comment volume is sometimes just a reflection of community organizing skills in a particular area…and meeting comments are only a small sliver of the overall volume of public input that has come in through a variety of channels, including e-mail, map submissions, and more. Finally, Ali reminded everyone that this is “not a popularity contest,” and that data and judgement are more important than specific council members.
So Delgadillo moved that the above adjustments to the Melrose and Franklin Canyon areas be adopted (pending further input from the Melrose community), and the commission voted to make the changes, with Goldberg the only vote in opposition.
Next, the commission turned to a request from residents of the Ladera neighborhood in southwest LA (dark red in the map below) to remain in CD 11 (the district to the left in the map below), rather than be moved to CD 8 (the area to the right in the photo below), as proposed in Draft Plan K 2.5
During the discussion of this issue, however, there was some disagreement about the population of the area – neighbors had reported it contains only about 600 people, but Mitchell’s numbers were larger – so the commission tabled further discussion until more research could be done.
Next came a request to reunite all of the three Carthay neighborhoods (Carthay Circle, Carthay Square and South Carthay) in a single council district, a request that apparently involves only about four blocks between Pico and Packard, just west of Fairfax, and does not significantly change the population of either district. There were no objections among the commissioners, so the change was made.
Next, Ali addressed an issue that has been mentioned frequently during public comments in each redistricting meeting so far – the division of economic assets – especially the USC and Exposition Park area – between Council Districts 8 and 9. But instead of digging into the issue, Ali suggested it would be better dealt with at the City Council level, and even though Commissioner Valerie Lynne Shaw said she would like the Commission to weigh in with a vote, Ali declared that it will be held over for discussion at a future meeting.
The next issue addressed was the question of reuniting the Sepulveda Basin area with Encino in the proposed CD 3, an adjustment involving only about 300 people, which would not affect population balance in either CD 3 or CD 4-or-2, from which it would be moved.
Goldberg objected again to this move, noting that the move subtracts an asset from District 4-or-2 without a larger discussion of that district’s shape. But there were no other objections, and the adjustment was made.
The same was true of a small adjustment a bit further north in the Valley, where a small strip of land along the LA Aqueduct was moved from CD 12 to CD 7, just west of the 405, with no objections and no major population effects.
Finally, the last specific mapping issue addressed at Wednesday’s meeting was the reunification of Chinatown – including the district’s distinctive gate and a large senior citizen housing development, in a single council district. Maps of the area showed that only a small part of the neighborhood had been separated from the rest of the neighborhood in Draft Plan K 2.5, and after confirming that the change would not upset any district population balances, this change was made, too, moving the area back into CD 1.
The commission will tackle further specific mapping issues in its next meeting, which will be held tomorrow, Saturday, October 16, at 10 a.m. via Zoom. One local issue that will surely take center stage is the separation of the Melrose district from the rest of the Mid City West Neighborhood Council area, as noted above, and its apparent sacrifice to facilitate the reunification of Franklin Canyon. The MCWNC met this afternoon and voted unanimously to send a strong letter of protest regarding this issue. According to the letter:
“Mid City West doesn’t just wish for Melrose to be “unified” so both sides of the street are in the same council district. We want to remain in CD5.
We have never been in CD13 in 22 years and we have very little in common with the needs of Atwater Village and other places in CD13. CD5 (and CD4) have been our home and we do not wish to have a third council office to speak with.
We understand that you are saying CD5 is “over populated” and you are trying to balance everything. However, this is a choice you are making.
Franklin Canyon’s 1,500 residents’ desires – despite them being a wealthy community in the hills – should not take precedence over keeping Melrose’s 7,000 residents (north of Melrose) unified in CD5. Neither should the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s desire to be unified in a single council district.”
After tomorrow’s final public input meeting, there will be two more meetings next week as the commission finishes up its map adjustments and votes on a final Draft Plan to forward to the City Council for its input. Then, after the map adoption, the Commission will hold one more meeting to finalize its official report to the Council.
The remaining meetings are:
10-16-21, Saturday, 2021, (10AM) – Presentation #4 of Draft Map
10-18-21, Monday, 2021, (6PM) – Amend the Draft Map
10-21-21, Thursday, 2021, (6PM) – Adoption of Final Map
10-28-21, Thursday, 2021, (6PM) – Adopt Final Report
All meetings will be available at the same Zoom link.
Video of the Wednesday, October 14 meeting is available here.
The Hollywood Grove HPOZ has been part of Los Feliz since 1916 and should not be in a different council district from the rest of Los Feliz.