‘WE HAVEN’T BEEN HEARD’ – Robert Dalton feels that the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission listened to most of the community but not to residents of east Westchester. (Argonaut photo by T.W Brown)

Despite requests that they be moved back into Council District 11, Westchester residents who live east of the 405 freeway are still outside the council district’s boundaries in an adjusted redistricting map released March 1.

The Los Angeles Redistricting Commission used the freeway as a boundary line when it drew the newly proposed map, a move that shifts the Westchester area called “the triangle” into the Eighth Council District.

The neighborhood residents will now turn to the City Council for assistance, but there are no guarantees that the 15-member body will move them back into the largely coastal district represented by Councilman Bill Rosendahl.

The Committee to Save Westchester/Playa, a group that was organized to lobby the commission to keep Westchester in Council District 11, contends that the 405 freeway is not a natural boundary and the commission report and maps “violate the Los Angeles City Charter’s four criteria for the commission to follow when drawing district boundaries: conformance with requirements of state and federal law, keep neighborhoods and communities intact, utilize natural boundaries or street lines, and be geographically compact.”

“The draft maps are an insult to our communities which were divided without regard to areas of common interests. We are angry voters, and if it’s not fixed, those politicians who are supporting this will pay with their political careers,” asserted Denny Schneider, a spokesman for the committee.

Commission chair Arturo Vargas said the commission viewed the freeway as a dividing line because it is a structure that in effect can function as a separation between neighborhoods.

In addition, the commissioners were required to adjust council districts where there were population shifts, and Rosendahl’s district was one of the few areas in the city that saw an increase in population since 2000.

“We were also dealing with (the community of) Palms and we had to decide what to do with them, because they have historically been represented by three councilmen,” Vargas, who was appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, explained.

Robert Dalton, who has lived on Glasgow Avenue since 1992, said he now feels disconnected to his community. “We’ve always been in District 11,” Dalton noted.

Michelle Levin, who also lives east of the freeway, says Westchester residents who have been returned to Council District 11 have been helpful in pushing to have her and all of east Westchester back in the district.

“The redistricting process has been quite frustrating for many city residents, but I must say that Westchester really shows good faith in all of this with our community,” she said.

A draft map in January moved Westchester east of Lincoln Boulevard, Playa Vista and a portion of Del Rey to Council District Eight with Councilman Bernard Parks.

After an onslaught of requests from Rosendahl’s constituents, the commission made the freeway the district boundary and returned the aforementioned neighborhoods to District 11.

“I feel like we have not been heard,” Dalton lamented. “(Most) of Westchester was heard, but not us.”

The triangle residents faced a similar situation in 2000 but were eventually returned to Westchester. This time, there have been rumors that backroom politics have been at play, which has not been lost on residents like Dalton.

“(Moving Westchester to the Eighth District) seems to be more of a political move,” he said.

City Council President Herb Wesson has been accused by supporters of Parks and Councilwoman Jan Perry, who have lost choice neighborhoods in their respective districts, of political payback. Both have clashed with Wesson in the past and Perry has said that she believes losing a large part of her downtown district is political retribution.

Former commission vice chair Rob Kadota voted for the final map, but with some reservations.

“While I personally had significant concerns about the overall redistricting map for the city, the map gave Council District 11 95 percent of what (Rosendahl) wanted, kept or made most of our neighborhood councils whole with the notable exception of Westchester/Playa. The Palms Neighborhood Council, which had been divided across three council district lines was made whole and placed into one council district,” Kadota told The Argonaut.

“If I had my druthers, I would have made Westchester whole and divided the Mar Vista Community Council at the 405,” Kadota, a former chair of the Mar Vista council, added.

Vargas said the commission had to adhere to strict guidelines, including taking into account population increases as well as the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act.

“I think that there were some members of the public that did not understand about the criteria that we had to follow,” he said.

Levin said she has been disheartened by the way the redrawing of the council boundaries has played out in public. She cited other communities throughout the city where other residents have complained about losing historic or valued touchstones from certain neighborhoods and suggested that despite its public proclamations, pleas from residents in Westchester and elsewhere were not heeded by the commission.

“The redistricting people said that they encouraged public participation, but Westchester, Baldwin Hills, Leimert Park, Koreatown all understand what that really means,” she lamented.

An online petition to bring the eastern portion of Westchester back into Rosendahl’s district, which was initiated by the councilman last month, is on his website.

The council’s rules and elections committee and intergovernmental relations committee had its final look at the submitted map March 7.

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