It seems like no matter where you live in Los Angeles County, redistricting has a question complex enough to boggle your mind — and spark a strong opinion.
Should Long Beach be split among two county supervisorial districts?
Should the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys stay relatively whole or get sliced up?
Should communities around the East L.A. area stay together in a newly formed Latino majority district?
Should a county supervisor be effectively bounced from the district she currently represents under a new map?
And what the heck does Torrance have in common with Pomona, anyway?
Activists and community members gathered at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles for a youth led rally to speak out against the recent hate crimes against Asian Americans, on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The event, “Youth Against Hate,” urged attendees, especially students, to support different groups of people experiencing various forms of hate and discrimination. (Photo by Trevor Stamp, Contributing Photographer)
These were among the kinds of questions a commission is digging down on as it tries to refine a set of maps that will determine county-level political governance for the next decade.
The 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission is nearing a Dec. 15 deadline for a final map. But the group is still mulling over the daunting challenge of ensuring that one group’s benefits don’t come at the expense of others — whether it is Latinos in the San Gabriel Valley, Black residents in the heart of L.A., Armenians in the tri-city areas or Asian-American people in the San Gabriel Valley and L.A.
Related: L.A. County’s redistricting site
What was clear this week was that the process — the first time in the county’s history that the redrawing is out of the hands of the Board of Supervisors — is heading into the nitty gritty.
A cyclist pedals toward the Iron Horse Trailhead in Santa Clarita, CA (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
“Any map that we select is going to be a compromise,” Commissioner Mark Mendoza said Wednesday night during a four-hour-plus meeting. “We’re not going to be able to satisfy everybody.”
On Wednesday night, three proposed maps began to emerge as main contenders, amid heavy public comment supporting one, in particular, that keeps some eastern L.A. “communities of interest” — including Lincoln Heights and Boyle Heights — together in one district, along with key Asian-American hubs closer to the downtown core.
The stakes are quite high for many interest groups in the county’s population, who see their communities as historically bonded — or alike in some way that justifies being kept together under any redrawn map. They’re also high for elected and potentially elected leaders, whose vote and base of support depends on how a map is redrawn. In the past, they had full control of that.
On Wednesday night, several public commenters supported a proposed map called A-1, because it keeps key communities whole in the heavily Latino East L.A. area — in the proposed new District 1 that would have a 54.52% Latino voting majority for the next 10 years. Supporters also pointed to the area’s strides in healthcare and social services and the map’s grouping of AAPI communities together.
There was also a public push to keep traditionally southeast L.A. County communities such as Huntington Park, Maywood, Vernon and Downey — known as SELA — united. Under option A-1 touted on Wednesday, communities in that part of the county would go into a redrawn District 4. Given the area’s strong Latino voting population, it would make District 4 a second majority Latino district along with District 1.
Draft Map A1
Related: See Draft Map A1 in detail
Staying together on the eastside is important, advocates say, not only to maintain historical and cultural bonds and priorities among communities but to continue as one bloc under one supervisor in the battle for resources and services. Advocates point to the fact that several of those East L.A. Communities are themselves not incorporated– making it essential to huddle together for the sake of resources and representation.
“We need the Eastside communities together,” said Steven Ortega community organizer with InnerCity Struggle, one of dozens of speakers who testified to the commission on keeping those communities in District 1 under that proposed map. InnerCity Struggles is among a coalition of local groups joining The People’s Bloc that came together to propose Map A-1.
Supporters also noted that the Map A-1 proposal keeps AAPI and Black communities together in districts where their vote would continue to have sway on who is elected to represent those areas on the county level.
Isaias Hernandez, executive director at Eastmont Community Center, noted that other map options split Northeast L.A. from South LA., continuing to place historically marginalized communities at a “disadvantage.”
“As a nonprofit we don’t have the luxury of spending time to develop relationships with new district supervisors,” Hernandez said.
Legally, any final map must meet Voting Rights Act requirements. But a map that bolsters the voice of one historically underserved community prompts trade-offs in other areas of the county. By law, each district must have around 2 million people in them, and must reflect population shifts found in the 2020 Census.
Draft Map B
Related: See Draft Map B in detail
Under the Map A-1 alternative, the city of Long Beach is split between District 4, currently Supervisor Janice Hahn’s district, and District 2, Holly Mitchell’s district — a prospect concerning to Long Beach city officials, who voted unanimously earlier to push map decisionmakers to keep the city whole.
“This is really a critical priority for the city, and helps to make sure our community’s diverse needs and priorities are met at the county level,” said Tyler Bonanno-Curley, manager of government affairs for the city of Long Beach.
There was also concern about the fate of Pomona and Torrance under the proposed map. Under the proposed Map A-1, Pomona is taken out of District 1 — currently represented by Hilda Solis — and put into District 4, which effectively “connects” Torrance with Pomona in a new District 4.
“I really just don’t like that at all,” said Henry Fung, a public commenter and a mapmaker, whose option, Map F, was up for approval and incorporates his concerns. In effect, the proposed Map A takes Pomona away from Eastside L.A. interests, which it has more in common with.
Draft Map C
Related: See Draft Map C in detail
“Pomona is an integral part of the eastside but seems to have been removed just to make SD 4 have a higher Latino population. “Pomona has never had a connection to communities in the Gateway cities and certainly not the ports.
Under the redrawn proposal, Torrance — what one speaker called the “hub of the South Bay” — gets moved away from surrounding communities that rely on the city for services, said Constance Sullivan, a longtime resident of the South Bay.
The overwhelming majority of speakers supported a map that also splits the San Fernando Valley, but a minority on Wednesday lamented the fact that the same map lumped South Bay cities into a district with areas in the San Fernando Valley, where residents have been clamoring for a region which has its own supervisor to represent its interests on the board.
Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA), was a supporter of such representation for the Valley. But that interest has dimmed under the latest map proposals.
“The Valley makes up 20% of the county of Los Angeles. We should have one out of five supervisors, and for the commission you sit on we should have two or three commissioners under that same logic, but we don’t,” Waldman said.
He pleaded with the commission to set a baseline that at least gives the Valley a large chunk of a redrawn district.
“We asked that while we couldn’t get a full district, we ask that you make baseline in which you don’t arm us more than we are harmed right now,” he added.
It was Heal the Bay’s Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday September 18, 2021. An international day of action to protect our oceans, watersheds, and wildlife from trash and debris. This year, there were more than 30+ cleanup sites to choose from throughout L.A. County. Torrance Beach, one of the largest stretches of coastline in the South Bay has lots of people cleaning up the sand. (Photo by Chuck Bennett, Contributing Photographer)
Indeed. While The People’s Bloc proposal clearly is among the outwardly popular, it was not a slam-dunk among all commissioners.
“Our task is to represent all of the communities of interest as best we can. What I like about Map A-1 is that it has this endorsement from all of the groups that support the People’s Bloc. But what I don’t like about it is that it seems to ignore and fix things by tweaking things on the west side of town in whatever way you’ve to get the numbers to stack up.”
The ramifications of the maps also mean a lot for the supervisors’ political prospects.
Under one proposed map, District 4 would add a chunk of heavily Latino and working class areas such as Huntington Park, South Gate, Vernon and Maywood.
That addition would make it a majority Latino district. But that also means the prospects could brighten for a Latino contender to challenge Janice Hahn for the seat.
A woman browses the books at the grand reopening of the Maywood Cesar Chavez Library after pandemic closures and extensive renovations in Maywood on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. The 100-year-old library now has fresh paint, a new floor plan, 4 adult computers, 2 homework center computers, and 2 early learning computers, as well as a laptop vending machine with 12 laptops for in-library public use. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)
On the the other hand, another map alternative would stretch the Third District from from Rancho Palos Verdes up the coast, split the San Fernando Valley and continue east all the way to Sierra Madre.
In that map, Hermosa Beach would be in the same supervisorial district as Sherman Oaks and Altadena. And it would put the northeastern end of the San Fernando Valley into what is now the Fifth District represented by Kathryn Barger.
Based on the growing force of Latino voters in a newly formed Fifth District (because of the heavily Latino northeast San Fernando Valley), that would make a Latino candidate more of contender, noted Alan Clayton, a mapmaker and redistricting expert.
Draft Map D
Related: See Draft Map D in detail
Commissioners appeared to be learning toward refinements of the maps that fuse together the concerns over Torrance and Pomona, minimizing splits in the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys and keeping Southeast and Northeast L.A. communities whole, along with areas in the tri-city areas of Glendale, Pasadena and Burbank.
On Monday, they will continue reviewing public comment on the maps, with an eye toward narrowing the options. The virtual special meeting is at 7 p.m.
Pomona resident Lucas Chavez, 15, shares a basket of cheese-covered potato chips with his mother Rine, on opening day of the Bite-Sized Fair at the Fairplex in Pomona on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
The commission represents a significant change in the process of redrawing maps. Every 10 years before this year, it was the supervisors who drew the lines between their districts, a process which for decades was characterized by political deal-making and self-preservation.
But in 2016, the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 958, which aimed to bring the county’s redistricting procedures in line with the statewide system established by voters in 2008 through Proposition 11. The statewide commission is also in the process of drawing maps for California’s state and congressional legislative seats. The idea was to encourage effective government reform and take election rule-setting from the hands of self-interested elected officials.
Draft Map E
Related: See Draft Map E in detail
As the deadline for the final maps move closer, commissioners were already sensing the challenge of the task: Agreeing on a final map that embraces community concerns, but not just for one part of the county.
Other maps try to incorporate changes to the People’s Bloc proposal in an effort to deal with some of the concerns raised. But the commission tabled more consideration until next week. What was clear, though, was that the commission is going into next week thinking about the broader picture.
“I think our challenge is somewhat different than their challenge,” Stecher said, referring to the overwhelming majority of people who spoke in favor of keeping Southeast L.A. communities of interest united. He wanted to approve a map that better “shares the pain.”
Draft map F
Related: See Draft Map F in detail
Ultimately, the commission is on the clock, still talking about new maps to evaluate even with a deadline looming in mid December to approve a final map.
It’s complex. And all those questions to answer, all those lines to draw.
Tick. Tick. Tick.