Residents balk at L.A. Council District 4’s proposed new shape
Stacy Matulis doesn’t see how one politician could represent everyone in the newly proposed 4th Los Angeles City Council District that stretches from the trendy neighborhoods northeast of downtown to the heart of the San Fernando Valley.
She would know.
The 33-year-old greets many of the baristas in her Silver Lake neighborhood by name, but she’s also lived among the rows of strip malls in the Valley and teaches yoga to millionaires in their sprawling mansions in the Hollywood Hills.
“With so many types of concerns going to one person, it would divide focus,” she said last week betweens sips of a cappuccino. “I don’t know how the same person could represent all three interests well.”
The map also puzzles other would-be constituents of District 4, which Councilman Tom LaBonge represents.
Los Angeles’ City Council Redistricting Commission released its proposed boundary changes for council districts last week, sparking harsh criticism from politicians, community advocates and neighborhood leaders who contend the maps do not reflect the comments and desires expressed during weeks of public hearings.
The redistricting panel is convened by city officials every 10 years to adjust council district boundaries to reflect changes in population levels and ethnic makeup. It is tasked to ensure that Latinos, African Americans and members of other groups denied representation in the past have an adequate opportunity to win office, as required under the federal Voting Rights Act.
New census data shows Los Angeles is 48.5% Latino, 28.6% white, 11.3% Asian and 9.2% black. Redistricting officials are attempting to ensure that five of the 15 council districts are heavily Latino and that three have sizable concentrations of African Americans.
The drafts will be further discussed during seven upcoming hearings before being voted on by the council.
The new District 4 would start at the southeastern tip of Silver Lake and reach north through Los Feliz and Griffith Park and across the 101 Freeway. It would continue west through parts of the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Crest, extending across the mansion-dotted hillsides and into Sherman Oaks. It would again overlap the 101 Freeway and head north through the Valley into the Lake Balboa area, a stone’s throw from Northridge and Reseda.
The suggested new boundaries address some prominent business leaders’ desire for a sixth district either entirely or largely in the San Fernando Valley.
The redistricting panel worked to avoid creating more than one district partly but not wholly in the Valley, which helped cause the unusual configuration of the proposed District 4, said David Roberti, a commission member and former state Senate president.
One of the goals of redistricting is to create communities of interest, said Roberti, who voted against the proposed maps.
“You don’t do that if you put Silver Lake in the same district as Lake Balboa and the same district with Beverly Crest,” he said.
The proposed District 4 includes a variety of residents with vastly different lifestyles and concerns.
Florist Carmen Gabriel operates her Lake Balboa shop in a graffiti-riddled, mostly vacant strip mall. It’s typical to hear about a shooting every now and then, she said. People mostly stick to themselves in the area.
To Gabriel, there is little in Lake Balboa that resembles the glitz and glamour found in the Hollywood Hills.
“The movie stars with their little poodles sashaying down the street,” she said with a smirk. “They have nothing in common with people here.”
Nickie Miner, who has lived in Benedict Canyon for the last 40 years, says the problems residents face there are too specific to be bunched in with such different neighborhoods. Her home now sits in District 5, represented by Councilman Paul Koretz. The proposed new district boundaries would split her neighborhood from other hillside communities such as Bel-Air and Beverly Glen.
“It’s insane. Might as well put Chicago in our district,” she said. “We have nothing to do with the flats in the Valley.”
In Silver Lake, Quincy Schwartz, 43, dropped off her daughter at Ivanhoe Elementary School early Friday and was taking her new puppy, Wanda, for a walk.
“Ugh, the Valley,” she said, tongue in cheek, when asked about the proposed district boundaries. Silver Lake differs greatly from both the Westside and the Valley, and attempting to combine their economic and social lifestyles doesn’t make any sense, she said.
Not to mention the different vibes of the neighborhoods.
“It’s crazy different,” she said. “Silver Lake feels more hippie, down to earth.”
And LaBonge, who would represent the proposed district, does not see the commonality among the neighborhoods in the proposed District 4 that he sees among those in the current district. He would keep Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Griffith Park but lose neighborhoods along Wilshire Boulevard such as Miracle Mile.
“The only common thread here is the Canadian geese that migrate from the Encino Reservoir to the Silver Lake Reservoir,” he said.
LaBonge said he intends to voice his displeasure through the remainder of the process, in hopes that the concerns of residents in his district are heard.
“If this was changed as it’s proposed, it’s not just me that’s affected, but it’s a dedicated [council office] staff that knows the neighborhood, know the constituents,” he said. “There would be a break in that relationship.”
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