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L.A. redistricting panel approves draft map but avoids decision on Raman and Krekorian

Los Angeles City Council members Paul Krekorian and Nithya Raman
A citizens commission charged with redrawing L.A.'s City Council district boundaries has voted for a draft map that would dramatically redesign districts represented by L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian, left, and Councilwoman Nithya Raman.
(Los Angeles Times)

The citizens commission charged with redrawing the Los Angeles City Council’s district boundaries signed off on a draft map late Thursday while also declining to specify exactly which parts of the city two councilmembers — Paul Krekorian and Nithya Raman — should represent.

The Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission moved a single draft map of the 15 districts forward for public hearings over the objections of commissioners who wanted the public to receive multiple options.

The commission’s draft map would dramatically redesign districts represented by Krekorian, who is based in the San Fernando Valley, and Raman, a newcomer to City Hall who represents much of the Hollywood Hills. Raman and Krekorian have argued that the commission’s proposal would disenfranchise the voters who elected them last year by moving their districts into different neighborhoods with different constituents.

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“What should have been an opportunity for public engagement has instead become a sad exercise in backroom deal-making,” Krekorian said in a statement. “I’m confident that the council will reject this absurd set of proposed maps and ensure that all of the people of Los Angeles have a fair opportunity to elect council members of their own choosing.”

The draft map establishes a Hollywood Hills district that stretches from the city’s border with Beverly Hills north to the horse country of Shadow Hills, located in the San Fernando Valley. The map also would establish a new West Valley district that includes Winnetka, Canoga Park and Lake Balboa.

Under the commission’s proposal, either Raman or Krekorian would be placed in a district that is 100% new to them.

Commission Chair Fred Ali told The Times on Wednesday that the Winnetka district would be designated as Krekorian’s 2nd District and the Hollywood Hills district would be labeled as Raman’s 4th District. But a day later, he changed course, advising the commission to leave such an “inherently” political decision to the City Council, which has final approval over the new district boundaries.

The commissioners numbered 13 of the council’s 15 districts on their draft map. But they labeled the Winnetka district “4-or-2" and the Hollywood Hills district “2-or-4.”

Redistricting map
(Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission)

Stella Stahl, a spokeswoman for Raman, criticized the commission’s decision, saying: “The lack of clarity is leaving hundreds of thousands of voters in the dark.

“If this map holds, it will wipe out the results of an election 10 months ago,” she added.

The City Council changes its district boundary lines every 10 years, following the release of U.S. Census data that show which parts of the city grew in population and which, if any, shrank. This year, the commission has been working to keep a number of neighborhoods, or neighborhood councils, from being split across multiple districts.

Richard Katz, a redistricting commissioner who represents the West Valley, said Raman’s election victory should not be a factor in the city’s mapmaking process. Redistricting, he said, is about adjusting for shifts in population and ensuring the rights of “communities of interest,” neighborhood councils and protected classes of voters, such as Black and Latino residents.

“It’s not about protecting incumbents. It’s not about the previous election results,” he said.

The commission plans to complete a final report for the council on Oct. 28. Under this year’s redistricting process, each district must have about 260,000 residents.

The map is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1.

Backers of the commission’s draft map say it would achieve a number of the panel’s goals, such as placing Koreatown into one district and consolidating some of the city’s most heavily Jewish neighborhoods in another. The map achieved another major objective of the panel: ensuring that the city has five entirely Valley-based districts and that a sixth has more than two-thirds of its population within the Valley.

Two L.A. City Council members — Nithya Raman and Paul Krekorian — say a draft redistricting plan would disenfranchise voters in their districts.

Thursday’s decision sets the stage for four public hearings in which residents will weigh in on the commission’s draft map. The hearings will be held next week, on Wednesday and Saturday, and again on Oct. 13 and 16.

During the meeting, two of the commission’s members — one an appointee of Raman, the other an appointee of Krekorian — tried without success to persuade the commission to circulate a second, alternative draft map that would keep Krekorian’s district in the East Valley and put all of Koreatown in Raman’s district.

The alternative map drew support from Asian American civic leaders in Little Tokyo, Thai Town, Koreatown and elsewhere, as well as key Raman supporters. But it was criticized by several commissioners who represent South Los Angeles, the Valley and the Westside, who argued it would divide certain communities into multiple districts.

Commissioner Wendy Mitchell opposed the idea of an alternate map, saying it would be difficult for the public to respond to different redistricting proposals.

“I just think it’s going to be utterly confusing,” she said.

The push to have an alternate map was defeated on a 14-6 vote.


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