At the first public hearing over the redrawing of Los Angeles City Council district lines, San Fernando Valley Latino leaders testified Friday that they favor creating a district to unite heavily populated Latino communities in the Northeast and Mid-Valley areas.
Those who testified generally wanted to see the communities of Pacoima, Sun Valley and North Hollywood brought under one district and would like additional council districts created in the Valley.
The hearings, headed by Councilman Richard Alatorre, are the beginning of a redistricting process that the council agreed to undertake last month in a move to head off a federal trial over district boundaries. The U.S Justice Department filed suit against the city last November, alleging that Los Angeles’ 1982 council reapportionment plan discriminated against Latinos.
Others speaking at the meeting lashed out at the council committee conducting the hearing, saying the 3:30 p.m. starting time prevented many working people from attending and demanded that another hearing be held at night or on a Saturday.
“Ours is a working community and can’t leave as easily as others,” said Richard Alarcon, president of the Valley chapter of the Mexican-American Political Alliance. “We asked for another opportunity . . .to hear from our members.”
About a dozen Latinos picketed and chanted loudly outside the Fernangeles Recreation Center in Sun Valley, calling the hearings a “sham” because of the inconvenient time, “which says to us they really don’t care what we say,” said Ruben Rodriguez, a member of Concilio for Chicano Affairs, a Valley voter registration group.
The Justice Department said that the strength of Latino voters was diluted by dividing a downtown core of Latinos into seven of the 15 City Council districts. In the San Fernando Valley, the lawsuit noted that the political effect of a large Latino population in the Pacoima area was blunted by excluding some heavily Latino voting tracts adjacent to Sun Valley and creating a councilmanic district that is largely Anglo.
About 45 people, mainly Latinos, gathered in the recreation center set up with folding chairs to accommodate about 250. About 15 people from several Valley Latino political groups, representatives from the United Auto Workers Union, Local 645, and a representative from the NAACP spoke.
Alatorre said he was not disappointed in the turnout. He said he is “open” to having another meeting in the Valley, but did not commit himself to a time or place. Those people interested in redistricting and representatives from concerned Latino organizations were able to make it, he said.
Several people, including Edward Kussman, a longtime Pacoima community activist and representative of the Valley NAACP chapter, told the council committee that his organization favors eliminating Sunland and Tujunga, rural hillside communities, from Councilman Howard Finn’s first district.
Talks of Compatibility
“Pacoima should be with more compatible people,” Kussman said. He said Pacoima should be included in a district with Arleta, Sepulveda, Panorama City and Granada Hills.
Alarcon said his group supports parts of a redistricting map drawn by the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund that removed Sunland and Tujunga from the first district by creating a sweeping hillside district from Tujunga to Chatsworth.
“The interests of Pacoima, Sun Valley and North Hollywood are obviously different” from those in Sun Valley and Tujunga, Alarcon said. “We are concerned with unemployment, housing, immigration. We don’t believe one representative should preside over such a wide set of concerns.”