A commission tasked with redrawing Los Angeles County’s vast and diverse political boundaries moved still closer, Monday, Nov. 29, to the final map that will define political representation at the county government level for a decade.
But it was clear, whatever the commission decides, it’s not going to make everyone happy. What works best for Redondo Beach and the San Fernando Valley may not work for South L.A.
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And while commissioners have heard much from Eastside and Southeast L.A. communities on how the maps would affect them, they’ve heard very little from the region’s vast network of neighborhood councils in the city of L.A. and not much from the group one map might impact the most: African-Americans in the heart of L.A.
The 14-member commission — tasked with drawing a new supervisorial district map by Dec. 15 — approved three draft maps for public review, one of which would join Southeast L.A. communities with South L.A., another that would join Rancho Palos Verdes with Panorama City and another that would stretch a historically Black district to the coast.
Such grouping is significant because, if ultimately approved, the maps define how much voting force particular populations have, and with whom they share it. Communities tend to want to stand politically with communities that have common cultural, socioeconomic, historical and cultural and geographic bonds.
The maps will be up for review in a public hearing set for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
It was the first, a proposed map dubbed map 64 (or B-2), that sparked pushback, namely from South and East L.A. communities and from cities in the San Gabriel Valley, members of which have shown up in recent weeks to advocate for keeping their communities together. And yet it was elements of the same map that got support from other communities in the county — in the San Fernando Valley and the South Bay.
Critics are concerned because the proposal groups Southeast LA communities — such as Huntington Park, Downey, South Gate and Lynwood — into District 2, a historically Black community, where voters have elected African American leaders for years. Some fear both groups’ voting power will be diluted when it comes to voting for supervisors. That prospect concerns Southeast L.A. residents and advocacy groups who have built up networks of services under one supervisor for years, only to see that change if they are shifted to another district.
>See the maps in detail
For nearly three hours, it was clear commissioners were grappling with a key concern: How to settle on county political boundaries that don’t “pack” Black and Latino voters into a long-established African-American voting power stronghold while preserving the voting force of the region’s growing Latino community.
There was much focus on District 2 — currently Supervisor Holly Mitchell’s district. Historically a power base for Black leadership in the area, it includes Inglewood and South L.A.
“That’s not equity,” Derek Steele, of the Social Justice Learning Institute in Inglewood, told the commission on Monday night.
Others echoed Steele, relaying concern about the need to maintain voting power and for historically disenfranchised communities to be able to elect candidates of their choice.
The commission is walking a fine line. For decades, the Board of Supervisors redrew the county boundaries every 10 years in a process which for decades was characterized by political deal-making and self-preservation.h2 data-curated-ids="" data-relation-type="automatic-primary-tag"">
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Under a citizens commission, the process still has winners and losers, but the commission is trying to minimize the loser and touts its independence from the Board.
Still, the committee must carve up the boundaries to maintain an equal population of 2 million in each of the five supervisorial districts while accounting for shifts in the population that is now 48% Latino — the largest Latino population of any county in the United States.
Based on those shifts, the county is in line for two districts with a Latino voting majority in each. But the question for the commission has been how to create districts that account for the population shifts while not splitting historical “communities of interests” and unincorporated areas, which often share voting and lobbying force with similar areas nearby — such as Southeast L.A. neighborhoods. Many, too, have developed relationships with local supervisors and don’t want to be split from those bonds.
Commissioners appeared mindful of the concerns, with several appearing to prefer another option, called 66 (or Map G), which would extend District 2 to coastal communities.
That map would move the Southeast L.A. communities to District 4 — currently Janice Hahn’s District — and stretch District 2 (Mitchell’s district) from just north of the 10 Freeway south to Rancho Palos Verdes — encompassing several beach communities along the way — from El Segundo to Redondo Beach.
The voting power criteria for such movement is measured by what percentage of an ethnic demographic group gets how much of the vote. Under G, proponents note that District 2’s Black voter population would stay about as strong as it is now, though critics say the proportion of the White vote would increase.
“By putting all of the wealthy coastal cities stretching from Rancho Palos Verdes up to close to Vernon, you’ve enabled a White candidate to potentially have an opportunity to be elected in District 2,” map expert Alan Clayton said after the meeting.
Commissioners have been trying to tweak the map, mindful of a history of red-lining and racially restrictive covenants in this county that kept people of color from establishing voting force in coastal communities. It was that same lack of voting force that enabled Manhattan Beach leadership in the 1920s to condemn the land of Willa and Charles Bruce, who bought two parcels of oceanfront land in Manhattan Beach in 1912, and where they operated a flourishing seaside resort for African Americans there at a time when Black people had limited access to the ocean.
Such tweaks have also opened up a conversation among the commissioners about ensuring that significant economic hubs are situated in each district. Commissioners appeared to be leaning toward maps that ensured some equity among economic “assets” in each district — LAX in District 2, UCLA in District 3, JPL farther north, and so on. It’s not just that they are economic drivers — commissioners want to ensure to empower communities historically shut out of having a say on the impact of those assets, said Commissioner Saira Soto.
“LAX is an economic engine, but it has impacts that go beyond the economy,” she said, noting that the maps should be guided by an understanding that communities of interest might be right under the flight-path, so they are affected by noise and pollution. She contended that these communities shouldn’t be split from a district in which their vote would have force in decisions that, say, impact the airport.
“It goes beyond assets to who’s represented when decisions about these assets are being made,” Soto said.
Commissioner Brian Stecher said he liked the 66 option, but he noted that if commissioners were going to draw maps that “on some level” re-write wrongs endured by communities of color, they needs to be consistent across the county.
“There are other parts of the county where there was a denial of access,” he said. “I think if we’re having that conversation, I think we should talk consistently about other parts of the county and not just the Westside. I don’t think we’re doing a fair job by just looking in one place.”
Crafting the maps
The latest three options came out of a weeklong series of meetings over the holidays during which commissioners broke into ad hoc committees to make changes based on public comment.
Complicating matters is the nature of redrawing maps. One person’s bad map can be another one’s good map.
In general, the Map 66 option appeared to be getting robust support after the commission posted their suggested tweaks last week.
In the San Gabriel Valley, advocates voiced support for 66. Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval supported the commission’s re-insertion of his city back into District 1, where it joined other like-minded cities along the 10 Freeway, who vie for similar resources and have “a lot at stake in redistricting.”
But Map 64, which spurred much concern about the fate of Black voting power in District 2, was hailed as the one Valley and South Bay advocates “like the most.”
Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry Commerce Association, said 64 was best because it best empowers local voters to elect a supervisor that would best represent the Valley’s interests.
That map extends from just east of Agoura Hills on the west to Vineland Avenue, while encompassing northeast Valley neighborhoods such as Pacoima and Sylmar and stretching south over the Santa Mountains to Pacific Palisades, Beverly Hills and Hollywood.
Granada Hills and Sylmar, however, would break off into District 5, currently represented by Kathryn Barger. Nonetheless, Waldman said 66 “is a good compromise.”
But not all appeared so willing to settle on Map 66.
Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand supported Map 64, noting that “we’re trying to keep changes to a minimum,” and that he sees “a lot of redrawing here.”
In Map 64, Redondo Beach would move from District 4 to District 3, clustered with Torrance, Rancho Palos Verdes and Long Beach. But under 66, it would be grouped with Inglewood. Under Map 65, it would hug the coast with Santa Monica and Rancho Palos Verdes, but would be in District 3, which would stretch all the way into the San Fernadno Valley. In other words, a supervisor — it’s currently Shield Kuehl’s district — would represent an area from Panorama City to Palos Verdes.
That looked weird to many critics, including Brand.
“Your purpose is to prevent gerrymandering,” Brand reminded commissioners during a public comment period.
The commissioners are scheduled to meet next for a public hearing at 6: 30 p.m. Wednesday, where the three maps, 64, 65 and 66 — also known as B-2, F-1 and G — will be up for public review and comment. From there, the commissioners will continue refining, with a goal of narrowing it down, with a final vote coming on a map by Dec. 15.
Some commissioners appeared to lament the imbalance of public participation in a process that will defined political power dynamics at the county level for years.
For weeks, dozens of Southeast L.A. and East L.A. advocates have shown up at the commission’s Zoom meetings to register their map preferences — to keep communities of interest united under a new map. Waldman, from the San Fernando Valley, has been at every meeting — and among the first to speak.
But commissioners have not seen that level of interest among other county interests who would be impacted by a redrawn map. For instance, neighborhood councils in the city of L.A. have not been vocal — at least during the commission’s public meetings. And one commissioner lamented the lack of participation in an area that is at the center of the discussion.
“I’m sorry to say, from the African-American community I’ve been disappointed in the lack of participation and public comments either written or verbally,” said Commissioner Jean Franklin.
Source : https://www.presstelegram.com/2021/11/30/redistricting-panel-pushes-la-county-boundaries-closer-to-final-map-some-bemoan-missing-voices/3535