A long and contentious redistricting process ended Sept. 27 with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voting 4-1 in favor of a plan reconfiguring county boundary lines that will place Westchester in the Second District.
The vote, which came after more than seven hours of public testimony, was the product of a compromise put forth by Fifth District Supervisor Michael Antonovich.
The horse-trading by Antonovich shifted a variety of communities east of the 10 Freeway from one district to another – except the Third District – in an effort to gain consensus on a plan offered by Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe.
The Boundary Review Committee, which was appointed by the supervisors to address redistricting, submitted its final map Aug. 9 that largely kept the current districts intact. That map, called A3, was fused with Knabe’s plan — the only difference being that Westchester was moved to the Second District.
Two competing maps by First District Supervisor Gloria Molina and Second District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas were defeated when they came before the board, as was Knabe’s, before the Antonovich compromise.
A plurality is required for passage of a redistricting plan, and Ridley-Thomas cast the key fourth vote after an impromptu closed session meeting with the other four supervisors.
The board was at standstill, and Ridley-Thomas noted that any further delay would not benefit anyone. “Regrettably, we find ourselves in a circumstance in which a federal court (may have to decide for us),” he said.
In her T1 plan, Molina would have moved a large portion of the Fourth District north to Malibu and to the western portion of the San Fernando Valley, while keeping Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey and Westchester in Knabe’s district. Venice and Santa Monica would have become part of the Fourth.
Yaroslavsky’s district would have been moved toward Hollywood and Griffith Park.
Ridley-Thomas’ map, called S2, shifted the vast majority of the Fourth District east and southeast, added Westchester to the Third District and grouped Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey and the South Bay’s coastal communities into Yaroslavsky’s district. Santa Monica and Venice would have gone to the Fifth District with Antonovich.
County officials anticipated an unusually large crowd and set up a number of overflow rooms at the Hall of Administration where members of the public were able to monitor the meeting. County officials estimated that more than 1,000 residents testified in the three meetings on redistricting that were held.
Westchester was moved into the Second District under Knabe’s plan due to an addition of a community at the southern end of his district, he said.
“We have to stay within certain population numbers, and these additions pushed me over the population limit,” the supervisor explained. “It’s really a balancing act.”
Had the supervisors been unable to reach the four-vote threshold, the county district attorney, the sheriff and the county tax assessor would have decided the new boundaries.
In an interview a week before the vote, Knabe talked about the importance of not having the other three entities decide the final maps. “What it would do is it would take it out of our control,” the supervisor responded when asked about the ramifications of a less than two-thirds vote.
Diane Landis, who lives on the Westchester bluffs, agrees with Knabe as far as keeping neighborhoods with similar populations and concerns, but preferred that Westchester remain in a district with coastal communities.
“I’m in favor of remaining with the beach cities,” Landis said. “I don’t think that we have good representation in the Second District for the Westchester community.”
Another Westchester resident, Denny Schneider, has spoken before the boundary committee and the supervisors regarding the redistricting maps, and he disapproves of those offered by Ridley-Thomas and Molina, despite the fact that they keep Westchester aligned with the coastal neighborhoods.
“Even without (keeping the Fourth District) together, the Knabe plan makes the most sense from a geographical standpoint,” he said.
At a Sept. 16 press conference, Maria Elena Durazo, the secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Department of Labor AFL-CIO, accused Knabe, Antonovich and Yaroslavsky of preferring a map that would favor their particular constituencies.
“Those supervisors are trying to hold onto a power structure that is outdated,” she said. “They probably don’t want competition from a Latino opponent.”
In an interview with The Argonaut the day before the vote, Durazo said the three supervisors had not proposed options that reflected dramatic additions to the Latino population in the county and the board will have to reconcile itself with the jump in numbers among Latinos.
“(Redistricting) should not be about any supervisor’s short-term political gains,” Durazo asserted.
Knabe said he understood the passion among many communities and ethnic groups, but appeared to take umbrage at the suggestion that he would disenfranchise anyone based on their race.
“The suggestion that I would supply representation only to someone who looks like me is insulting,” he asserted.
Yaroslavsky said in a Sept. 18 television interview that he disagreed with both Molina’s and Ridley-Thomas’ plan. “I believe that we need to have communities of interest together and minimize the tumult that these plans will cause,” he said.
Supporters of the three plans passionately made their cases for each map, and some recommended choosing either T1 or S2. Advocates for those two plans and supporters of A3 accused each other’s maps of violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which is one of several state and federal mandates that must be considered in redistricting.
Knabe said the county’s and outside attorneys indicated that his plan met all the legal requirements of the Voting Rights Act as well as other legal statutes.
All redistricting proposals must also be in accordance with the requirements of the Los Angeles County Charter, including Article II, Section 4, which provides that “Los Angeles County shall have a Board of Supervisors consisting of five members, each of whom must be an elector of the district which she/he represents, and must reside therein during their incumbency.”
While the Marina will remain in Knabe’s district, one resident of the coastal enclave would like to see it removed from the supervisor’s area of representation.
“I strongly recommend removing Marina del Rey from the Fourth Supervisorial District of Los Angeles County, in the final outcome of the redistricting process,” Roslyn Walker wrote in a letter to the editor of The Argonaut June 28.
“Marina del Rey area neighborhoods, communities and cities never have and do not belong in the Fourth District boundaries, as they have always and currently are being treated like an orphan area to the supervisor of the Fourth District, as evidenced by the terrible management over the years of Marina del Rey,” she claimed.
Perhaps other than the acrimonious debates on whether to close the King-Drew Hospital in Watts that occurred several years ago, Knabe could not recall a time when more people attended a county board meeting during his three terms in office.
“Other than that, I’ve never seen this chamber filled to capacity on one issue,” he said.
The map is slated to take effect in 30 days.
Knabe was pleased at the turnout of county residents at the meeting, despite its at times contentious tone.
“While this has been a very difficult and complicated process, there has been something special about all of this,” the supervisor told the audience. “This has been democracy in action.”
Despite the passage of the new redistricting map, the possibility of legal action still looms on the horizon. Asked if her organization might consider a lawsuit, Durazo responded, “Absolutely.”