The public outcry surrounding the possibility of losing a large portion of Westchester has been steady and boisterous since the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission released a draft map for the 11th Council District in January.
But lost in the cacophony of voices is the potential loss of an industrial area of Del Rey and the planned community of Playa Vista, and that worries some residents in both communities.
Steve Donell, a Playa Vista homeowner, says the topic has been raised among some of his friends and neighbors.
“None of us want any portion of Playa Vista to be removed from the 11th District,” said Donell, a former member of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa. “Playa Vista is very much connected to Westchester, Loyola Marymount University, Playa del Rey, Mar Vista and the Ballona Wetlands.”
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Westchester, Playa Vista and Del Rey, hosted a town hall on the redistricting plan Feb. 2 in Westchester. The proposed maps exclude Westchester, Playa Vista and portions of Del Rey, but all of the attention was largely focused on losing Westchester.
Little mention was made of removing Playa Vista and no one raised the possibility of losing the Del Rey area known as the Mesmer Triangle, an area of small businesses between Teale and Major streets near Mesmer Avenue that includes a canine day care center, a classic car shop and sculpting studio.
The draft redistricting boundary plan would move all of Westchester east of Lincoln Boulevard to Council District Eight, as well as Playa Vista and the triangle of businesses.
Playa del Rey, LMU and Los Angeles International Airport will remain in Council District 11.
Del Rey Neighborhood Council President Eric DeSobe said he backs Rosendahl in his endeavor to keep Westchester in the 11th District.
“I also feel Councilman Rosendahl’s frustrations with the redistricting maps. I support his efforts to revise them,” he said.
At the Feb. 9 Del Rey council meeting, Rosendahl deputy Cecilia Castillo mentioned the redistricting controversy, but no members of the local board addressed it.
Mark Redick, who preceded DeSobe as the Del Rey council president, said he is of two minds on the lack of attention in Del Rey over the redistricting plan.
“I’m surprised and I’m not surprised,” he said. “The surprise is that no one seems to be aware of it and I’m not surprised because land use has not been a big concern of the current Del Rey council.”
Redick said there could be serious ramifications if the businesses in the light industrial area of Del Rey are lost. “Number one, if the area is taken away from Council District 11, there will be no incentive for a council member in Council District Eight to respond to Del Rey’s concerns about development,” he said.
The city charter mandates that council district boundary lines be reviewed and redrawn every decade if there are population changes, and the City Council is required to appoint a charter redistricting commission to advise the council.
Donell said he isn’t sure if the public – as well as Playa Vista residents – know that under the draft map, Rosendahl would no longer represent them.
“It does not appear to make sense to divide up the community in this way at all,” he said. “I am not sure how many folks realize that Playa Vista was on the radar to be moved to a new district, but I signed Rosendahl’s petition and know that the local neighborhood council is very committed to this issue, including all areas in the neighborhood council district, which of course includes Playa Vista.”
Donell was referring to an online petition that the councilman’s office began for residents to voice their opinions about the redistricting proposal.
The Playa Vista Farmers Market would also go to Council District Eight.
Redick, who owns property in Del Rey, also worries that the Mesmer Triangle could be the target of businesses that many in Del Rey feel are not conducive to the neighborhood. Several years ago, a strip club called the Silhouette sought to set up shop in the light industrial triangle while Redick was on the Del Rey council.
“We were able to defeat that with the assistance of Councilman Rosendahl,” he recalled.
Last summer, an after-hours night club called Area 33 that would be open after midnight until the early morning hours opened illegally on two occasions and had to be shut down by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Pacific division.
“They were operating without the proper permits and were cited for after-hours alcohol consumption with a liquor license. We worked hard and they got the message and withdrew their application (for land use variance and a certificate of operation),” Redick said.
“That entire area is ripe for future development. If it doesn’t remain in Council District 11, I’m afraid that Del Rey’s voice will be lost,” he added.
Area 33 decided to relocate to another part of the city after residents mounted a fierce protest against the club.
Rosendahl said recently that he feels Playa Vista should also remain in his district. “As I see it, it’s one community,” he said. “We’re already connected in some shape or form.”
Redick said that there are also residents who live near Jefferson Boulevard who would be concerned about what might be proposed for development in the Mesmer Triangle if the district changes representation.
“A new council member who is unfamiliar with the area will see a triangle on a map that has industrial uses,” he said. “His or her level of concern may not be as great as it is with a community of residents sitting square in the middle of their future district.”
Playa Vista spokesman Steven Sugerman did not return calls for comment on the redistricting.
A bright spot for Westchester residents is that after a large public outcry to keep Westchester in Rosendahl’s district, the commission appears to be in favor of considering that request.
In the commission’s proposed list of adjustments for the new redistricting maps obtained by The Argonaut, there are at least three references to returning Westchester to the 11th District.
Playa Vista and the Mesmer Triangle are not mentioned.
Rosendahl said Playa Vista shares common interests of Westchester and Playa del Rey.
“I consider Playa Vista to be part of Westchester,” he said.
Redick mentioned the adage of not realizing what one has until it is lost and feels that unless Del Rey residents voice the same level of opposition that their Westchester neighbors have, a segment of the community could disappear into another district.
“I don’t want to see that happen to Del Rey. Where we saw the strong, strong outrage expressed in the Westchester -Playa community, I’m hoping with the revelation that the Mesmer Triangle may be taken away, that the people of Del Rey will stand up and say ‘Hell no,’” he asserted.
“The same outrage that was displayed about the Silhouette and Area 33 needs to be displayed prominently and promptly regarding the Mesmer Triangle.”
The commissioners met Feb. 15 to vote on the adjustments to the draft map proposal and provide direction to the technical director, who is charged with drawing the maps, for the final map recommendations, commission spokeswoman Danielle Masterson told The Argonaut.
The newly adjusted map is slated to be released on Saturday, Feb. 18.