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Release of Census Data Paves the Way for City Council Redistricting

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, March 14, 2011, at 01:52PM
Council Map blogdowntown

Los Angeles' City Charter requires Council Districts to be "geographically compact," but the politics of redistricting has left borders tangled.

Elections for half of Los Angeles' City Council seats may have just ended, but the race to redraw the city's political boundaries is likely to generate just as many fireworks between now and July 1, 2012.

The release of California's 2010 Census data last week provides a first look at who will be gainers and losers in the upcoming boundary changes, a process designed to make sure the districts "contain, as nearly as practicable, equal portions of the total population of the City."

This time around, that number would be 252,841, one-fifteenth of the city's official population of 3,792,621.

Population shifts have left several districts far from that number.

Council President Eric Garcetti's 13th district is geographically the city's smallest, and according to data computed by blogdowntown it is now also the least populous. His section of Hollywood, Silver Lake, Echo Park and Atwater Village now has a population of just 226,526, down nearly 8% from its 2000 numbers.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Valley areas represented by Councilman Dennis Zine's 3rd district added nearly 16,000 people over the past ten years to end up at 275,047.

In all, nine districts come in under the target number, while six are over it. Population numbers for each district can be seen on the chart above (Slide 2) or via this map of population change by district (Requires Chrome, Safari or Firefox).

Population isn't the only element in the redistricting process, however. Section 204 of the City Charter also mandates that the redrawn areas "to the extent feasible, shall keep neighborhoods and communities intact, utilize natural boundaries or street lines, and be geographically compact."

The changes made can range from a wholesale move to the shift of a single block. All were on display in the 2002 process:

  • The 6th council district and termed-out Councilwoman Ruth Galanter were picked out of Venice and moved to the East Valley.

  • Councilman Nick Pacheco mounted a campaign to take City Hall and the Civic Center area east of Grand Avenue.

  • Down in South Park, Councilman Ed Reyes eyed the Convention Center, saying that events held there affected his district. Councilwoman Jan Perry was able to fight off both efforts.

  • Pacheco was also behind a plan to have the 14th district annex Mount Washington, but narrowly avoid the home of Antonio Villaraigosa, his eventual opponent in the 2002 race. "He's taking over the hill but he's cut me out," Villaraigosa told the L.A. Times. "This is the worst sort of politics."

[Update (Tuesday): Pacheco disputes that he was behind redrawing the district lines in Mount Washington, attributing the changes to MALDEF. Pacheco did introduce the 2003 motion to place Villaraigosa's home inside the district boundaries.]

1999's charter reform introduced the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission, a 21-member body appointed every ten years by the Mayor (three members), the City Council (one member each, except for the Council President, who gets two), the City Controller and the City Attorney (one each). The charter requires the group, which can include no city employees or officers, to be appointed by April 1.

After public hearings and community outreach, the group must then submit its redistricting plan by March 1, 2012. The City Council then has four months to debate the plan, which must be passed by July 1.


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