Pomona breathed a sigh of relief – the San Fernando Valley not so much – as the great Los Angeles County’s redistribution debate advanced just days after the definitive map that will determine voting power and political influence for the next decade was defined.
After months of public contributions, the first of its kind, 14-member District Citizens Relocation Commission this week raised a trio of proposed supervisory district maps that have been redrawn to reflect the changes in population reflected in the 2020 census.
In this hugely diverse county, where the number of Latinos has increased while the number of African Americans has decreased, the process of choosing a final card has been intense. The commission only has until December 15, so given the mammoth details the commission has to put in writing to legally justify why it selected the card under federal law, a sense of urgency has built up.
Meanwhile, elected leaders, residents, community organizers and advocacy groups and nonprofits have been building calls for a map they believe will work best in their part of the vast county.
“Time is ticking fast,” Commission C-Chair Carolyn Williams said during a commission meeting on Sunday afternoon when three proposals were made.
There are now cards on the table with the names B-3, F-2 and G-1. The commission appeared to be moving away from a map that proponents say gave the San Fernando Valley a great chance to elect its own overseer at the expense of Pomona, which would have been relocated from District 1 in the San Gabriel Valley .
- Related: To view the latest version of the proposed LA County Redistribution Maps, go here.
At first glance, the three raised cards may not seem too different – and in fact the Commission seems to be trying to bring together what it thinks is the best of the three. But the devil is in the details. Significant sticking points remain, some of which go to the core of the county’s racial past, ethnic and socio-economic identities, long-standing resentment over lack of representation and local control, and collective struggle for resources in often marginalized areas.
For example, District 1, a Latino-majority district now represented by Hilda Solis, appears relatively similar on all three maps. But the commissioners need to find out:
– District 5: Whether the district of Kathryn Barger should occupy the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley;
– District 3: If the district of Sheila Kuehl – should include both coastal and San Fernando Valley communities, and whether it should include Burbank and Glendale; and
– District 2: Whether and to what extent the Holly Mitchell district should extend to the coast; and whether District 4 – Janice Hahns – should include parishes in southeast LA.
Opinions differed among commissioners who, after a public hearing on the trio of options on Tuesday evening, will choose a final card by Sunday.
Some seemed to be learning to amalgamate the B and G cards and excluded the F card because it connects coastal communities with communities well into the San Fernando Valley. Others, however, are concerned that B and G are both working against colored communities in areas like East LA that have campaigned for years to provide services to poorer communities and that are linked by common ethnic, cultural and geographic identities.
Carlos Leon of the Community Coalition pleaded with the commission on Sunday to “do the right thing” and move away from the G proposal – which, in his opinion, would be a severe blow to the representation of blacks at the county level.
G has created a major sticking point because many fear its redesign – which will extend the district to the Pacific Ocean where it would include Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Torrance, and LAX – harm the black electorate in District 2. This area, which has grown together for years through the black leadership on the supervisory board. Critics fear the confluence of coastal communities with historical interest groups in places like Inglewood and Compton could end this run.
“We know that any card that makes one significant change affects the other, but it’s very important for the African American community to have one voice at the table,” said Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, a district advocate 2.
On the other hand, the commissioners seem interested in overcoming boundaries traditionally drawn by the board of directors itself – not by an independent citizens’ commission.
In recent years, there have been major population shifts as black residents moved away from District 2. Forces like gentrification are transforming parts of the area, which coincides with the rise of the Latino and Asian communities across the county.
Commissioners seem receptive to historically holding African American communities together. But population shifts enforce tough decisions as the districts in each must have the same population – 2 million.
“Even if we strive to hold together historically African American communities in the south and in central Los Angeles … it would still lead to a huge drop in black votes in that district,” said commission co-chair Daniel Mayeda. “Well, it is inevitable that it will fall. The question is, what are we doing with this district? Where are we going? We should think about that. “
Still, Commissioner Saira G. Soto – who has not yet landed on her preferred map – has reminded her commissioners of the “evictions” that have taken place in District 2 and in historically marginalized areas across the county.
“I think it’s important to remember and consider that there has been a lot of impact on the churches there over the past decade and beyond … and a lot of organized work has been done by the churches to stay strong and to keep their power. ”worked so hard to get them to where they are now that they have some representation. I think it’s really important to think about where we end up drawing those lines, ”said Soto.
Under the Redistribution Act, race cannot be the only factor nor the driving factor behind the realignment of borders, officials said. Interest groups are also taken into account, along with a few other factors.
But interest groups – a neighborhood, a community, or a group of people who share common political concerns – exist across the county, creating a tug-of-war for the Commission’s mindset.
Where residents closer to the center of the county have fought hard against the B chart series, others say the latest iterations in other parts are ideal.
Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand liked B because his town is united with Rancho Palos Verdes, Torrance, and other coastal communities. The F-Series would group them with parishes in the San Fernando Valley.
In the San Fernando Valley, residents and leaders complained that an 11-hour card seemed to go nowhere – at least not yet.
The map, named 78, showed promise because it elaborated a map that made most of the San Fernando Valley “whole.” This would give the region the best chance to date of electing a supervisor who fully represents the interests of the region on the supervisory board.
“We liked 78,” said an incredulous Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA). “It takes care of the valley. We’re far from done here. We hope you see 78 … and take care of the San Fernando Valley. “
Inspector Brian Stecher said the card looked good. But there was one problem: Pomona. When creating maps, trying to help one community could harm another.
Under the proposal, Pomona would have been relocated from Regulatory District 1 in the San Gabriel Valley – a prospect that had led residents and officials to public comment times for weeks pushing against such a move.
“Ultimately, we felt it was an even worse problem to separate Pomona from the rest of the San Gabriel Valley and create this loop that connected Asian communities that are miles apart,” said Stecher, who was on a committee that made up the community Looked at the map. “We really thought it was more important that Pomona be connected to the San Gabriel Valley.”
A derivation of 78 did not give up all hope – and some commissioners still felt it was an option worth exploring.
The commission will meet again on Tuesday evening at 6.30 p.m., where the latest versions of F, G and B will be subject to a public hearing. Further information can be found at https://redistricting.lacounty.gov/virtual-meetings/.
From there, there isn’t much time left to approve a final card – just three more meetings.