Concerns raised over proposed Assembly district

A proposal by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission to include La Cañada Flintridge and neighboring Foothills communities in a new state Assembly District that would stretch all the way to San Bernardino County has sparked concerns that the city could lose some of its pull in Sacramento.

Currently, La Cañada is part of the 44th Assembly District, which also includes Pasadena, South Pasadena, Altadena, Arcadia and Temple City.

The proposed future San Gabriel Mountain Foothills District, which includes much of the Angeles National Forest, stretches much further east. In that district, La Cañada and La Crescenta would share representation with communities that include Altadena, Sierra Madre, Duarte, Azusa, Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne and two San Bernardino County cities — Upland and Rancho Cucamonga, some 40 miles away.

The idea that communities of the 818, 626 and 909 telephone area codes would share the same voice in the state Assembly is a bit of a geographic stretch, La Cañada City Councilwoman Laura Olhasso said during a recent meeting of the council.

“When I saw this, it certainly didn’t look to be in keeping together communities of interest,” said Olhasso. “I really am concerned about having an Assembly district that extends from La Crescenta to Rancho Cucamonga. If it does, I think this is a throwaway Assembly district.”

Olhasso pitched the idea that council members should petition commission members to reconsider Assembly district boundaries, but couldn’t find consensus on an alternative to recommend.

Councilman Donald Voss suggested they consider advocating for La Cañada to become part of a proposed Pasadena/Glendale district, which would preserve unity in local matters and keep to calls for communities that share an Assembly district also share a state senator.

Under that scenario, however, Olhasso and Councilman Steve Del Guercio worried that La Cañada’s political influence would be overshadowed by that of the two larger communities.

“If we got lumped into Glendale, we might not have the same kind of voice,” Del Guercio said. “My main focus is how we will be most effective. That in mind, I’m still troubled by a district that goes all the way to Rancho Cucamonga, but I don’t think the solution is dropping us into Pasadena and Glendale. Then our voice is really lost.”

With only Olhasso, Voss and Del Guercio present for the June 15 meeting, the council could not reach a consensus about which changes the city should advocate. Instead, all five council members are expected to take up the matter again after the California Citizens Redistricting Commission releases second-draft maps on July 7.

“I don’t know what to say, though, except don’t stretch it out so much,” Del Guercio said.

Current state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D- La Cañada Flintridge), who is planning to run for Congress in a new San Gabriel Valley congressional district, is also holding back from sounding any alarms about proposed boundaries at such an early stage in the process, which continues into autumn.

“The reality of it is I believe the lines are going to change significantly from the draft. I want to wait and see what the final lines are,” Portantino said. “La Cañada could go in a number of different directions, and it’s too early to know for sure.”

Congressman Adam Schiff (D- Burbank) is so far expected to run for reelection in a congressional district that includes Glendale, Burbank, La Cañada and Pasadena, while Portantino would square off with Congressman David Dreier (R- San Dimas) in a district that includes much of the San Gabriel Valley.

Altadena residents have meanwhile also expressed concern about the proposed San Gabriel Mountain Foothills Assembly district boundaries in that they would be separated from Pasadena — breaking longstanding political ties and dividing the area’s African-American population in half, said area Democratic political consultant Jon Furman.

“I think we were an afterthought. I think [boundaries] were driven primarily by ethnic considerations, trying to draw an Asian district and Hispanic districts [in L.A. County] — and they used us as filler and shoved us to wherever was convenient,” said Fuhrman. “We have nothing in common with Rancho Cucamonga. San Bernardino [County] could just as well be another country. It’s an indefensible idea.”

Copyright © 2019, La Cañada Valley Sun
EDITION: California | U.S. & World