The most recent Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission meeting, held on Saturday, October 8, was the second in a series of four meetings being held by the Commission to collect public input on its chosen base map, Draft Plan K 2.5. As such, the lion’s share of the meeting (as with the previous public input meeting on Wednesday, October 6) was devoted to simply letting members of the public speak, in favor of, in opposition to, or with specific suggestions for changes to the draft map.
Map Suggestions from the People’s Bloc
Before the floor was opened to the public at Saturday’s meeting, however, the commission also welcomed a brief presentation by representatives of a group called the People’s Bloc, representing 43 different community-based organizations around the city, who addressed two of the biggest issues that have come up in the redistricting conversation so far: how to handle the division of major “economic engines” in two South LA city council districts (8 and 9)…and how to handle myriad requests to unite all of the Highland Park neighborhood, as well as other East LA communities such as Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, and Boyle Heights in CD 14, along with downtown, Little Tokyo, and all of a united Chinatown area.
Addressing the first of these issues, the People’s Bloc representatives presented a new suggested map for Council Districts 8 and 9, which would return USC and the Exposition Park area to CD 8 (from which they’d been taken in the last round of City Council redistricting in 2011-2012), and which compensates CD 9 for the loss by extending its reach northward to include the Staples Center and LA Live areas, as shown in the map on the right, below.
In addition to redistributing the economic assets of these two generally low income districts, the representatives said the suggested map for these areas would also address the commission’s priority of maintaining a 50%+1 percentage of Black voters in CD 8, and would keep the Black voting population above 20% in CD 9.
Next, the People’s Bloc representatives also presented a new suggested map for the East LA area, which would unite all of Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Downtown, Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, Montecito Heights and El Sereno in District 14, as many people have also requested. It would not, however, include Highland Park and Eagle Rock in CD 14, and would instead move those areas to CD 1.
In the public comment portion of the meeting, both of the above issues – which have loomed large in all of the redistricting conversations so far – received numerous comments, with many people associated with the People’s Bloc organizations and the Community Coalition endorsing the suggestions above, especially for CD 8. But there were also still a number of people speaking in opposition to the People’s Bloc, in favor of keeping the current CD 8 and 9 boundaries, and leaving the USC/Expo Park area in CD 9. Also, there were a large number of requests that Highland Park, especially, be united in a single council district, and that it be placed in CD 14 and not CD 1, as the People’s Bloc suggested.
As at the previous public input meeting on Draft Plan K 2.5, this meeting also included more than a dozen comments from people who live in the Greater Wilshire area, thanking the commission for keeping that area whole and together with other communities of interest in CD 5…as well as a number of people from the area represented by the Westside Neighborhood Council, likewise thanking the commission for keeping that area together in a single council district in Draft Plan K 2.5.
Comments from San Fernando Valley residents were a bit less positive, however, with quite a few speakers taking issue with Draft Plan K 2.5’s current layout for that part of the city.
These speakers criticized the plan for splitting up west Valley areas with similar interests, creating a very different version of CD 3 that would be much more white than the current district, splitting Shadow Hills away from other equestrian communities in CD 7, and splitting Sun Valley among three council districts (when it would prefer just one or two). There were also a number of people who disagreed with Studio City’s location in the draft plan, and debated whether it should be in CD 3 with other more affluent neighborhoods to the west, or in CD “2-or-4” with other more diverse and urban neighborhoods to the east and south.
Several San Fernando Valley residents, and representatives of various homeowner groups in the western part of the Valley, also said they would prefer a plan outlined in publicly submitted Map #57666 , which they said would solve many of the issues mentioned above, would create better ethnic and economic balance, and would more closely resemble current versions of council districts in the Valley.
Finally, a large number of commenters addressed what is becoming one of the biggest topics of the current redistricting conversation – how CD 4, currently represented by City Councilmember Nithya Raman, has been drastically re-shaped into what is now labeled “District 2-or-4” on the Draft Plan K 2.5 map, and how that configuration may retain only about 30% of the voters who elected Raman just last fall.
Members of the Redistricting Commission have suggested that the re-shaping is is largely a result of the concurrent re-molding of districts all around CD 4, many of which press up against the city’s various boundaries, and have less room to push out in other directions and thus have to push in on CD 4 in new ways. But a very vocal number of Raman supporters calling in to the meeting accused the commission of racism and deference to the wishes of wealthy single family homeowners, at the expense and disenfranchisement of renters, immigrants and the working class, in re-shaping the more central CD 4 in Draft Plan K 2.5.
Progressive political action groups Ground Game LA and Knock LA held a “pre-game” strategy session just before Saturday’s redistricting meeting, and several attendees speaking at the meeting quoted from talking points provided by those groups. But their protests do seem to be gaining some steam, even outside LA, as noted in a New York Times opinion piece yesterday, which asks “whether part of the future of civic politics might be defined by a new type of identity politics: homeowners versus renters.” (Another story, focusing on the homeowner side of the question, is promised there on Thursday.)
While there are officially two more meetings remaining in the public comment phase for Draft Plan K 2.5, at the close of public comments on Saturday, Commission chair Fred Ali suggested that the commissioners begin making some tweaks to the map at the next meeting, scheduled for tomorrow night (Wednesday, October 13).
In preparation for that work, several commissioners requested that the commission’s mapping consultant provide them with a some new overlays for the Draft Plan K 2.5 maps, showing additional information such as renter population, economic generators, an equity index, current city council district boundaries, Neighborhood Council borders, and the LA Times-defined neighborhood boundaries. They also asked to see Map #57666, which was not readily available at Saturday’s meeting.
As noted above, there are two remaining public input meetings for Draft Plan K 2.5 – tomorrow (Wednesday, October 13, and Saturday, October 16) – with the commission likely to start making at least some small map adjustments at those meetings. Then the commission will meet twice more to finish its map adjustments and recommend a final recommended map to pass along to the City Council.
All of the upcoming meetings will be virtual, using the same Zoom link. Dates and times for the remaining meetings are:
Wednesday, October 13, 6 p.m
Saturday, October 16, 10 a.m.
Monday, October 18, 6 p.m.
Thursday, October 21, 6 p.m.
Instead of (or in addition to) speaking at the meetings, members of the public can also submit written comments to the Commission at bit.ly/mapfeedbackla
The video recording of this past Saturday’s meeting is available here.