Back to drawing board

Staff Reports
Created: 08/20/2011 08:28:05 PM PDT

Los Angeles County supervisors are confronted with numerous options for redrawing district boundaries, but they are increasingly unlikely to have the final say on the fate of the lines.

A plan recently introduced by the Board of Supervisors’ Boundary Review Committee would change little from the current arrangements, perpetuating the three-district split of the Inland Valley’s five cities in Los Angeles County, with Diamond Bar in Supervisor Don Knabe’s Fourth District, Pomona in Gloria Molina’s First District and Claremont, La Verne and San Dimas in Michael Antonovich’s Fifth District.

Molina has argued the inappropriateness of the proposed new districts drawn by the committee because it packs the largest concentration of Latinos into a single district and then divides the rest of them among the other four districts.

Unlike the recently completed state and federal redistricting efforts by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, county lines must be decided by the Board of Supervisors.

Four members must pass any plan, but that may not be a possibility after comments made by Third District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky on his website on Friday.

Yaroslavsky condemned proposals to create a second Latino district for the five-member Board of Supervisors, making it extremely unlikely such a plan could pass and raising the possibility the politicians will fail to adopt new districts.

A second Latino district would be “a bald-faced gerrymander that is completely unnecessary … The scope of the fallout would be vast and swift, potentially undermining the ability of communities to speak with one voice as advocates for their common interests,” said Yaroslavsky, who represents the Third Supervisorial District, which includes most of the western San Fernando Valley and portions Los Angeles. Historic move in offing

Without four members supporting a plan, the lines would then be drawn by the county’s district attorney, assessor and sheriff.

“This has never happened before in the history of this process,” said Lori Glasgow, Antonovich’s assistant chief deputy.

The board would have to adopt a redistricting plan with a four-fifths vote by Oct. 31.

Redistricting committee Chairman Curt Pedersen acknowledged the committee strove for as little change as possible.

He added that the committee received legal advice that the Voting Rights Act does not mandate the creation of two Latino majority districts.

“It wasn’t so much that we were against two Hispanic districts. It was that we did not feel it was mandated, and it was just too disruptive to reassign 3.5 million people to other districts,” Pederson said.

Varying proposals

Antonovich said he prefers keeping much of the San Gabriel Valley and far eastern Los Angeles County in his Fifth District as part of the redistricting process currently under way.

The current splitting up of the eastern portion of the county into three districts is not to his liking and it would be more appropriate to have a single district for the area, he said. That’s one of the alternative proposals offered during the process that would more appropriately increase Latino strength on the board, according to its backers.

Antonovich’s Fifth District is over by about 150,000 people, while Molina’s First District is under by about 75,000.

The other districts will require minimal adjusting, Glasgow said. But most of the changes will likely be in Antonovich’s and Molina’s districts.

Molina and Second District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas both proposed creating two districts where the majority of the voting-age population is Latino.

In Molina’s case, those districts would be the First and Third, currently headed by two Democratic supervisors about to be termed out – herself and Yaroslavsky. Her plan is called the “Voting Rights Compliance Map.”

Under Molina’s proposal, the First District would contain the 605 corridor portion of the San Gabriel Valley, while the Third District would stretch from the San Fernando Valley just west of the 405 through Eagle Rock and downtown L.A., as far south as Lynwood, and include communities to the west of the 710 Freeway.

Ridley-Thomas agreed the redistricting proposal submitted by the redistricting committee is flawed and said an alternative proposal should be considered.

Ridley-Thomas’ plan, dubbed the “Community Empowerment Plan,” would affect the First and Fourth districts, the latter of which is headed by Knabe, a Republican up for re-election next year who represents Long Beach.

Ridley-Thomas’ proposal, on the other hand, would move the eastern San Fernando Valley into the First District, connecting it with downtown L.A. and unincorporated East L.A., and designates the 605 Freeway corridor portion of the San Gabriel Valley as the Fourth District.

The plans vary significantly from the one recommended by the Boundary Review Committee, which makes only minor changes to the status quo.

Plans by Molina and Ridley-Thomas would reassign 3.5 million people to different districts. The plan recommended by the committee, with minor amendments by Knabe, would affect only 150,000 people.

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