For the second time in six months, Westchester residents are facing the prospect of being pushed out of a legislative district that thousands of residents have called home for decades.
The Jan. 25 release of a draft redistricting map by the Los Angeles Redistricting Committee comes with a recommendation to shift a large part of Westchester from the 11th Council District to the Eighth District in a redrawing of the City Council boundaries.
The possible loss of Westchester has drawn the ire of Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the community.
“Fully 80 percent of Westchester would no longer be in my district, and that is a gross insult to that community,” Rosendahl said. “I am shocked and outraged by this blatant attempt at gerrymandering.”
The area east of Lincoln Boulevard would be moved into the council district of Bernard Parks, who Rosendahl backed in his bid for a seat on the county Board of Supervisors in 2009.
Rosendahl will be holding a community forum on the redistricting proposal at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 at the Westchester Recreation Center, 7000 W. Manchester Ave., designed to give his constituents an opportunity to learn more about the commission’s proposed map and the reasons why a large swath of their community could soon be pushed to a new district.
The city charter mandates that council district boundary lines be reviewed every decade, and the City Council is required to appoint a charter redistricting commission to advise the council.
Each member of the City Council appoints one commissioner.
According to the charter, “All districts shall be drawn in conformance with requirements of state and federal law and, to the extent feasible, shall keep neighborhoods and communities intact, utilize natural boundaries or street lines, and be geographically compact.”
Many Westchester residents are sensitive to any plan that would remove them from the 11th District. They were moved out of the county’s Fourth District Sept. 27 to the Second District when Los Angeles County redrew its boundaries.
In that case, Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe said he would have preferred to keep Westchester in his district, but because a county redistricting commission added approximately the same number of residents as the southern end of his district, Westchester had to be moved to another district.
“I am concerned that not only will we be moved into a new district, I’m concerned that we will be separated and divided,” said Denny Schneider, who has lived in Westchester for more than 40 years.
Schneider and others are arguing many of the same claims that they stated during the county redistricting process: the importance of keeping “communities with common interests” intact as well as having a representative on the council who is familiar with their unique neighborhood concerns.
He also suggested that political forces are behind the proposed alteration of the council boundaries.
“Major changes to council district boundaries are like amputating limbs to treat a paper cut,” said Schneider, a member of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa. “Special interests are again pushing to subvert and control by dividing Westchester.”
Mar Vista resident Rob Kadota, Rosendahl’s appointee to the committee, voted against the draft map.
“The current Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission draft map is very much a draft,” cautioned Kadota, the commission’s vice chair. “My priorities of keeping CD 11’s natural boundaries of the ocean to the west, mountains to the north, 405 to the east and LAX/Westchester to the south have been unwavering and largely supported and understood by the commissioners I’ve worked with during the draft mapping process.”
Kadota said there was a combination of factors that resulted in the proposed move of most of Westchester into Parks’ district.
“The inclusion of Palms and the section of Mar Vista east of the 405 and the loss of Westchester to Council District Eight was largely the result of the reconciliation process the commission established and bad timing,” he explained. “The commission decided that to allow frank and honest discussions, it was important that work groups be able to draw initial maps in private.
“To comply with Brown Act considerations, three ad hoc groups were developed to draw regional maps of the city and then if there were unclaimed or overlapping areas, ad hoc reconciliation groups would be convened to resolve areas of conflict.”
Rosendahl said he has heard from dozens of angry constituents who are worried that they may soon have another council representative with whom most have little or no familiarity.
“This is an insult to Westchester as a community,” he asserted. “In my opinion,” (relocating a large portion of Westchester) is not even a discussion point.”
Schneider said he understands that population changes can play an important factor in redistricting, as it did when the county redrew its boundaries. But he finds losing a large portion of the community where he has lived for decades untenable.
“Populations do change, and sometimes there has to be some sort of alteration,” he conceded. “But if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
Kadota said Parks has not asked that Westchester be included in any of the draft maps nor has he requested that Los Angeles International Airport become a part of his district.
“Council District Eight does not have any expressed interest in Westchester or LAX and in fact, they have publicly stated they do not want LAX or Westchester to be a part of their district,” he said of Parks’ office. “Critical to the issue of Westchester and LAX is what council district should the part of Mar Vista that is east of the 405 and Palms Neighborhood Council be placed in – that will likely have a direct impact on whether or not we’re able to redraw Westchester fully back into Council District 11.”
Council approval is required for the maps to become final.
Rosendahl calls the draft map of his district “gerrymandering at its worst” and said it will destroy the integrity of the district.
The councilman’s office has created an online petition for those who wish to add their views on losing Westchester to another district. Rosendahl noted that so far, the petition has received more than 1,300 signatures.
The petition can be found at www.change.org/petitions/los-angeles-city-redistricting-commission-don’t-divide-the-11th-council-district.
One petition signer, Nancy Jabbra of Westchester, wrote, “We are a community of interest with the rest of District 11. One of our big issues concerns LAX.
“Councilman Rosendahl has served us well over the years.”
Schneider, who has been involved in working with a citizens group on matters related to LAX encroachment for several years, echoed Jabbra. “Bill Rosendahl has been one of our most ardent supporters on our issues, especially on the airport,” he said.
Rosendahl did not mince words regarding how he and his constituents would react if they lose the majority of Westchester to another council district.
“If they don’t bring (Westchester) back to me, the revolt will be something that Sacramento has never seen,” he vowed.