L.A. should increase the number of City Council districts, citizens panel says
The citizen commission charged with redrawing political boundaries in Los Angeles called on city leaders Thursday to expand the number of council districts, saying such a move would “meet the needs of a complex and changing” city.
In a report that will be submitted to the council, the 21-member Redistricting Commission said L.A. has gone nearly a century with the same number of council districts — and lags behind other major cities on the ratio of council members to constituents. The commission’s proposed map, approved last week, allocates roughly 260,000 residents to each of the 15 districts.
“Expanding the number of council districts is necessary to better create council district boundaries that reflect the city’s 99 neighborhood councils and 114 neighborhoods,” the commission said in its report, which was approved on a 14-6 vote.
The recommendation was one of several contained in the commission’s final report, which concludes a yearlong decision-making process by roughly two dozen volunteers — some longtime political professionals, others newbies to the bare-knuckle world of politics.
The panel submitted a map that, if approved by the council, would bring significant changes to three council districts in the San Fernando Valley. And it recommended that the next map-drawing process, scheduled for 2031, be taken entirely out of the hands of the council and assigned to a truly independent body.
A declining Black population doesn’t necessarily mean halving the community’s representation.
California Common Cause, a watchdog group over government issues, took a similar stance this week, issuing a letter arguing that the commission’s work has been “controlled by politicians behind the scenes” — and is “fundamentally flawed.”
“Despite our repeated calls for greater independence and transparency, the City Council has willfully ignored those calls to ensure that they and their staff can continue to manipulate the process to their advantage,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, the group’s executive director.
The council is scheduled to take up the commission’s proposal Tuesday. Proposals to change the map must be submitted on that day, according to a memo from the council’s chief legislative analyst.
Under the commission’s proposed map, either Councilman Paul Krekorian or Councilwoman Nithya Raman would wind up in a West Valley district that is entirely new to them — an idea opposed by their supporters and an assortment of neighborhood councils. Raman was elected to her first term last year, while Krekorian was elected to his third.
Raman and Krekorian have sharply criticized the map, saying it disenfranchises voters and needs to be reworked.
Council President Nury Martinez has already proposed that an ad hoc committee of the council start reworking the commission’s proposal, saying it “raises concerns” for “many marginalized communities.”
President Nury Martinez’s statement dramatically increases the likelihood that council members will seek major changes to the redistricting plan.
“If we’re looking to build a stronger, more equitable Los Angeles, we need a map that reflects that,” she said in a statement.
Fred Ali, an appointee of Martinez and the commission’s chairman, disputed the council president’s assertions in recent days. On Thursday, he said the map was not perfect but reflected extensive public comment over the last year.
“On balance, I’m very proud of this map,” he said. “I’m very proud of the report that we present today for your approval.”
In its report, the commission did not say how much larger the council should be. Instead, the panel recommended that city leaders create a task force to look at developing a strategy for achieving that goal.
Any expansion of the City Council would require a change in the City Charter, which in turn needs voter approval. The idea of expanding the number of council districts has been an issue in multiple city campaigns.
Raman ran for office last year on the idea of increasing the size of the council. City Atty. Mike Feuer, who’s now running for mayor, announced last month that he would ask voters to double the number of council districts in 2024 — after winning his race for mayor.
Under his proposal, the salaries of each council member would be cut in half.
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