To understand which LA neighborhoods have the most ‘power’, you need to understand redistricting. Here is a Primer

Think of Los Angeles as a birthday cake.

When cutting a cake, try to cut the pieces straight up. Now imagine that the cake is covered with sprinkles. And the sprinkles are unevenly distributed, a bit like people in a city. But you want each piece of cake to have about the same number of sprinkles, just like a municipal district.

Cutting the cake is like redistribution.

Once every decade, we redraw the boundaries of Los Angeles’ districts … apparently to keep about the same number of people in each district. About 260,000.

In many ways, redistribution is about power – who has it and who does not. Anne Freiermuth, an activist with Ground Game LA, follows the redistribution this year for the first time, saying the process is not what she expected.

“It was like layer after layer of naivety and generosity where I was like this city – we are so progressive. And just to find out how completely unprogressive we are, ”Freiermuth said.

The process is presumed to be apolitical. But often it is not.

“It’s power sharing in its most crude political form,” said Rob Quan, an activist who lives in Highland Park and runs Unrig LA, a town hall watch group.

He said it is far more complicated than dividing the districts and deciding which councilor gets which area. There is a lot to consider. “You can build power for people who do not have representation right now, or you can undermine all that,” Quan said.

“We have very different populations that are eligible to vote in districts – richer, whiter districts … compared to other districts made up of larger immigrant communities.”

Redistribution “can unite communities,” he said.

Here’s how redistribution actually works. The first cards are drawn by a commission of 21 members appointed by city council members and other municipal officials. The Commissioners must act independently of the politicians who have appointed them. Over several months, commissioners will hold meetings where the public can comment on the draft map. Finally, a card is sent to the city council for final approval.

In early October, the Commission issued a map – card K2.5. It proposed massive changes to two districts – Council District (CD) 4 and CD 2 – and potentially relocated them to almost entirely new constituencies. Paul Krekorian from CD 2 called the card “outrageous.” (Here is current city council card from LA for comparison.)

redirection card
Proposed redistribution of ‘Map K2.5’ in relation to the current 2012 map.

Councilwoman Nithya Raman, representing CD 4, tweeted one picture of map K2.5, where she drew a red circle around the newly proposed districts and wrote “What ?! Commissioner Sonja Diaz of CD 14 said in an interview with LA TACO that the proposed changes to CD 4 were justified.

“Look at the 2011 map. It’s gerrymandered,” he said Diaz. “Look at City Council District Four, look at the lack of political voice and opportunities for Asian Americans and Latinos for the fastest growing populations.”

Diaz said the goal of map K2.5 was to keep communities together. “So I do not think anyone lost in this process.”

The existing boundaries of CD 4 extend across Griffith Park and the San Fernando Valley and down into Hollywood and Koreatown. On map K2.5, a proposed district marked “CD 4-or-2” is one concentrated area in the southern part of the San Fernando Valley.

In an interview with LA TACO after the release of map K2.5, Raman said she knew that CD 4 had a “strange shape” that might need to be changed. “But the scale of the proposed changes is what strikes me as very unexpected,” she said.

Raman, who is the newest member of the city council and also known for being the most progressive, would have to put his case to an almost entirely new constituency.

Raman pointed out that if she were assigned a new area to govern, she would suddenly represent a new constituency with different needs and values.

It can also make it difficult for her to be re-elected. Raman, who is the newest member of the city council and also known for being the most progressive, would have to put his case to an almost entirely new constituency. And most of the people who voted for her platform, which is in favor of more affordable housing and living wages, would be awarded a various representative.

Map K2.5 had some fans – like homeowners in the San Fernando Valley. In a letter, the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association welcomes how the map consolidated the voting power in the valley, which on average is more conservative than the rest of the city. “The map gives the valley the fair share of districts it has so long deserved,” the association wrote.

But Raman argued that the process itself is skewed. “People who have more resources to participate are empowered to participate,” she said.

Since the new district boundaries are meant to be drawn in relation to what is discussed at the public meetings, anyone who has the time and resources to contribute can have an overall impact on the end result.

Not to mention that you need to have time to understand the notoriously opaque and confusing process of redistribution. If you’ve got another job, or are struggling to make ends meet, you may not have the hours to get started with redistribution.

“It requires a lot from residents who are still shaking from the pandemic,” Raman said.

After the tumult about short K2.5, the commission presented it along with their last long report to the city council. In it, they proposed that the city add more city council districts, create more positions in the city council and create a broader distribution of power among its representatives. The Commission also requested that the redistribution process be overseen by a body that was completely independent of the City Council.

In response to the report, city council members submitted dozens of proposals to change the map, then formed an ad hoc redistribution committee to propose their own district lines.
This seven-member committee was appointed by City Council President Nury Martinez and included her, Kevin De León, Nithya Raman and Mitch O’Farrell. They published their own Map in the first week of November, voted through by all except Raman, the only dissenter. That card is a hybrid of K2.5 and another card from a Latin labor organization.

The committee’s hybrid map features Raman, representing a vast area but only 40 percent of her existing district. She would occupy parts of Studio City and Sherman Oaks and lose the Miracle Mile and the Hollywood apartments.

After the hybrid card was released, Raman said in a statement that she was “overjoyed to meet my new voters,” but also expressed dissatisfaction with the redistribution process, saying it “unnecessarily left so many Angelenos in the dark.”

“This result was not inevitable, and it is only because of the advocacy of our constituents that we were able to preserve so much of [the district] as we did, ”she wrote.

You may be wondering why both cards – K2.5 and the hybrid – involve such drastic changes to CD 4. So are many people.

Activists and political watchdogs have suggested the changes are a reaction to Raman’s progressive platform. Quan said it could be the commission’s way of slowing her momentum.

“They’re looking at a colored young woman steaming through and displacing a seated official, along with a progressive message to challenge and elevate the establishment,” Quan said.

“So I think this is just a way to sandbag her to some extent.”

When we asked Raman why she thought such drastic changes had been proposed in map K2.5, she did not answer immediately. “That’s a good question,” she said. “Can I get back to you about it?”

We sent an email to Raman’s staff to follow up, and they redirected us to the Commissioner appointed by CD 4, Jackie Goldberg.

At the last redistribution, in 2012, was Map was redrawn to move the center to CD 14, then the district of former councilor Jose Huizar. He was later indicted for allegedly requesting bribes from luxury developers wanting to build in downtown LA. Almost all of the crimes Huizar is accused of committing would have been impossible if the center had not been redrawn to CD 14.

Goldberg said she experienced throughout the redistribution process that some of her colleagues were working with a clear focus on redrawing two districts: CD 3, in the western San Fernando Valley, and CD 5, which borders CD 3 in the valley and extends into West LA Goldberg said she had never seen anything like it.

“Their goal, it seemed to me – no one said what their goal was, I’m just telling you my impression – that there were only two city council districts they cared about, [CD] 5 and [CD] 3, “said Goldberg.

The commissioner said she could not be sure if CD 4 was just a security breach or if there was a targeted campaign against Raman.

“Could they have said, ‘The best thing for us to do is go after Nithya, she’s new, she’s in pain, we’re going after her’? Yes. It’s also a possibility that they did not care who that was, they hit when they first took care of their primary goal, ”Goldberg said.

“I do not know, and I really do not care. The effect was the same whether it was conscious or not.”

So it is not clear why the commission and the city council committee proposed such radical changes for CD 4. But this is not the first time that the redistribution has given rise to outrage.

At the last redistribution, in 2012, was Map was redrawn to move the center to CD 14, then the district of former councilor Jose Huizar. He was later indicted for allegedly requesting bribes from luxury developers wanting to build in downtown LA. Almost all of the crimes Huizar is accused of committing would have been impossible if the center had not been redrawn to CD 14.

At the time, two council members were deprived of large parts of their districts: Jan Perry lost downtown LA from CD 9, and Bernard Parks lost much of what was previously CD 8. The CEO of this redistribution commission was a former employee of former city council chairman Herb Wesson. (This time, council members Curren Price played on CD 9 and Marqueece Harris-Dawson from CD 8 political tug-of-war over Exposition Park and USC. The new hybrid map has placed them in Price’s district).

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, published last year, Parks and Perry said, “the way it was done in 2012 was, as this newspaper put it, ‘the result of backroom deals’ that were ‘used to punish enemies and reward friends and followers’ from then on.-Council President Herb Wesson and his allies… Wesson was ultimately able to draw the lines as he wanted them. ”

This year’s redistribution is “very different from last time,” Raman said.

She referred in part to a number of rule changes made since the last redistribution, with the aim of increasing the transparency and independence of the redistribution commission. But despite the changes, this year’s redistribution has often felt unfathomable to watch dogs and residents trying to understand what’s going on.

When we asked Quan what he thought about the committee card and the changes to CD 4, he said “I do not know, I really do not have an opinion on it.”

“In some ways it’s better … In many ways it’s a preservation of the status quo with some adjustments,” he said.

“I mean, there’s only so much you can expect through this bullshit process” without fundamentally changing how the city of Los Angeles redistributes, “Quan said.

The seven-man city council committee’s draft plan holds another public hearing on Nov. 23. The council will then vote on a more final version of the card on 1 December.

This article was published in collaboration with Neon Hum. If you’re interested in seeing how redistribution led to Jose Huizar’s corruption allegations, check out episode 5 of ‘The sale. ‘

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