Los Angeles City Council Approves Redistricting Maps

New boundaries are approved by the Los Angeles City Council for the 15 council districts.

After four hours of contentious testimony and debate, the Los Angeles City Council on Friday approved a map with new boundaries for the 15 council districts.

The 13-2 vote gives the city attorney authority to draft an ordinance that would legally establish the new districts until after the next census in 2020.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said on his Twitter account that the new maps keep all of Westchester in his 11th District.

Hundreds of people packed City Hall to give input on the new districts. The vast majority were opponents of changes to two South Los Angeles council districts, 8 and 9, represented by Bernard Parks and Jan Perry.

Pat Sanders, a resident of Parks' district, told the council the boundaries will "negatively impact the African-American community, socially, economically and politically."

She said the maps also directly disrespected the two black council members.

"It really amounts to slapping them upside the head and taking everything from them," Sanders said.

The approved map removes the lion's share of downtown from Perry's district and takes USC out of Parks' district.

Opponents argued the new boundaries would further impoverish two of the poorest districts in the city, leaving the districts without economic engines.

"Now I have a district where the average income is $16,000 to $24,000 a year, because now there is no middle class connected to the 9th District," Perry said after the vote.

State Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, who represents much of South Los Angeles, was one of the few who gave public testimony in favor of the boundaries.

"These adjustments maintain the letter and spirit of the Voting Rights Act of 1965," he told the council. "These lines will work well for South Los Angeles in that we retain the opportunity to maximize our voice electorally and in the L.A. city government."

Other supporters of the plan were happy the map would move all of downtown into one council district.

During a rare personal exchange between council members on the floor of the council chamber, Perry publicly apologized to Council President Herb Wesson, saying she wished she could take back "blunt" statements she made to him during a discussion last year about his election to the council presidency.

"If I had known then what I know now, I would have kept my mouth shut so that my district would not have been sacrificed," Perry said. "I feel your wrath. I feel your power. I'm the only woman on the City Council now. I'm one woman out of 14 men. This is a lesson in the wise use of power.

"And I want to tell you publicly, Mr. President, I regret not voting for you, and I am sorry. And I think as a woman, I'm completely comfortable saying that, because I'm fighting for something bigger than the both of us," Perry went on.

Perry and Parks missed a council meeting last fall when Wesson was elected to be the body's president.

After the vote today, Wesson denied that he orchestrated the redistricting process or that it was punishment for not supporting his presidency.

"To suggest that one person, me, could influence a 21-member commission and a 15-member council, in my view is kind of insulting to these ... independent thinkers," Wesson said.

The council voted down a motion by Parks and Perry to delay a final vote on the map.

Perry said she plans to file a lawsuit to block the new map from taking effect.

A coalition of Korean American groups -- the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council, the Korean American Bar Association and the Korean American Democratic Coalition -- were also unhappy with the maps and  vowed to sue.

The groups wanted Koreatown to be moved into a district with Thai Town and Historic Filipinotown. Instead, Wesson took the area for his district.

Attorney Helen Kim, who was a member of the Redistricting Commission and a Korean American, said the commission's process violated the Voting Rights Act by using race as a primary factor for moving some thriving black neighborhoods from Parks' district north into Wesson's district.

"There was a lot of race-based line drawing going on, on an official level," Kim said.

She said the commission also violated a state open-meeting law during "hours and hours and hours" of secret, closed-door meetings to draw district boundaries.

"All the line drawing should have been done in public, that was the intent, and yet the commission did not do so," Kim said.

Deputy City Attorney Havit Trevedi, however, told the council the commission's map and process were legally defensible.

"The Supreme Court has held that race can be a factor, just not the sole or predominant factor (in redistricting)," Trevedi said.

-City News Service


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