“Keep communities together” was repeatedly expressed by residents during the last two public hearings hosted by the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission.
The testimony from citizens will be used to assist the 21-member commission in establishing the boundaries of L.A.’s 15 council districts (CD). The city charter requires that borders be redrawn following each census to make each district approximately equal in population size.
For the past three months, public hearings have been held in every district with the last two, on September 8 and 11, focused on CD 8 and citywide perspectives, respectively. The meetings allow commissioners to hear directly from residents about the characteristics that define their community such as prominent landmarks, historical roots, distinctive cultures or significant institutions.
“We want to know what makes your community unique, what you and your neighbors share in common and what are the special needs of your community. This is vital in redistricting and recreation of new boundaries and maps,” said Commissioner Valerie Shaw in her welcoming remarks at the CD 8 hearing. “People who have common interest, needs, often benefit being grouped together in a single district.”
Explaining that the commission adopted several core values to guide the group in redrawing and recommending new CD boundaries, she cited those values as “equity, integrity, transparency, respect, compassion, dignity, data driven, solution oriented and inter dependence.” The former public works commissioner and current California Community College governor added, “The vision is to strengthen the governance of Los Angeles by empowering its communities to have their diverse needs served through fair and inclusive representation.”
Shaw, who was appointed by Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, is one of three African Americans on the commission. The other Black commissioners are Charisse Bremond-Weaver, president of the Brotherhood Crusade and selected by Mayor Eric Garcetti, and the Rev. Edward Anderson, pastor of McCarty Memorial Christian Church and chosen by Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas.
The three commissioners joined other members of the panel in listening to comments from people living throughout Los Angeles, who outlined the elements that comprise their district. But, one of the top concerns of CD 8 residents was the fear of losing valuable resources.
Under the 2010 redistricting process, USC and Leimert Park were removed from CD 8 along with half of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Mall. Several speakers were adamant that the commission either restore those assets or avoid replicating similar actions in the current procedure.
“More than ever, we need to protect South Central L.A., especially during a time of race and gentrification. We cannot afford to lose anymore land. Ten years ago, we lost sections,” implored Carlos Leon, who said he was raised in South L.A. “Our communities [are] asking [you] to strengthen our boundaries, to continue investing in our Black and Brown communities so we can rise after this pandemic stronger.”
John Gonzalez, land use chair for the Baldwin Hills Homeowners Association, shared a similar viewpoint. “Economically, the last redistricting…left our district without key socioeconomic assets. We also feel that removing the plaza, splitting a single property which is the heart of commerce into two districts, was a mistake and disservice.”
That outlook continued to be expressed at the citywide meeting where several Park Mesa Heights residents voiced disappointment with the previous redistricting results. Robbie Davis insisted, “We want Leimert Park and USC returned to CD 8!” Trey Rogers, who said he was newly elected to the board of the Empowerment Congress Central Area Neighborhood Development Council, noted, “I would appreciate [CD 8] not getting broken.”
Offering an alternate solution, Chandra Mosley suggested another move for the commission to consider. “I really feel that we need a new council district so we can provide those core values mentioned earlier in your introduction. Those core values mean a lot to me as a retired city employee,” said the View Heights resident. “So, I’m just asking that we consider creating a new council district so we can provide those services and that we will not be lacking as we are now.”
However, regardless of where the individual resided, the most recurring phrase heard was some form of “don’t change my council district boundaries.” As Dolores Spears of Jefferson Park related, “Our neighbors and residents are very active…we’re in support of keeping CD10 intact.”
Anita, who described herself as Asian American, spoke on behalf of “keeping historic Filipino whole and intact in Council District 13.” Greg Meredith, president of the Eagle Rock Association, was equally passionate stating, “We ask to remain a single council district in CD 14.”
Many people who live in Koreatown conveyed their desire for the neighborhood to be contained in one council district, instead of divided into four CDs as the area is currently assigned. Conrad Star, president of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, said, “We support a single council district for Koreatown.”
During the two public hearings, scores of people testified before the redistricting commission over two four-hour sessions. Robert Battles, commission associate director of community outreach and engagement, also reminded citizens that written comments can be submitted via email at [email protected] or by completing the online Community of Interest (COI) form at laccrc2021.org. In addition, the website features the Districter software, which allows the public to draw and submit maps of one or more CDs.
Fred Ali, commission chair, announced that the upcoming schedule includes special Zoom meetings on September 20 and 21, at 5 p.m., to review maps submitted by the public and begin creating draft maps. On September 29, at 6 p.m., the focus will be on adopting a draft map.
Visit laccrc2021.org to learn more, watch videos of past meetings or review the redistricting timeline.