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What Should Downtown Want in Redistricting?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, August 23, 2011, at 07:57AM
Council Map blogdowntown

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

The process of reshaping Los Angeles' City Council districts will kick off in earnest in the coming weeks with the first meetings of the redistricting committee appointed to pick new boundaries for the 15-member body.

Between now and July 2012, the date by which the new districts are required to be approved, a wide range of interests will push alterations that can range from wholesale moves to block-by-block change.

So what should Downtown be fighting for? That's not an easy question to answer.

Downtown's interests are currently split in three: Councilwoman Jan Perry's 9th district, Councilman Jose Huizar's 14th district and Councilman Ed Reyes' 1st district.

Perry has the bulk of the Central City. Huizar's territory includes the eastern edge of Downtown and the Broadway corridor, while Reyes has City West and Chinatown.

So should Downtown push for consolidation? Should Downtown be given to just one member, casting its lot perhaps with Perry in the 9th?

Probably not.

While the current configuration may not always make for the easiest setup when it comes to practical issues such as coordinating strategy or splitting up district-specific funds, the setup does give Downtown interests a strong starting point in any council vote. Get the Downtown councilmembers on-board with an issue and you are already nearly 40 percent of the way toward a majority vote.

While Downtown has certainly transformed since redistricting was last done in 2000, the area's population is still far too small to make the central city the majority of any one district. Working off the city's official population number of 3,792,621, each of the 15 council districts must represent approximately 252,841 people. Downtown's population varies depending on where you choose to draw its boundaries, but is somewhere around 51,000.

In a district that included all of Downtown, the central city's population would still only represent approximately 20 percent of the councilmember's total population. It represents even less than that in the current district splits, but undoubtably gets a higher percentage of the councilmembers' time and attention.

There is still much that could be done to simplify Downtown's representation. Why, for instance, should Spring Street's residents be split between two Council districts depending on which side of the street they happen to live?

But consolidation into a single district? It is hard to see how that would make Downtown's voice stronger.

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