The vast majority of Westchester residents are rejoicing after a newly redrawn redistricting map has brought the majority of their community back into Council District 11.
But for homeowners who live east of the 405 freeway, the fight to return to the coastal district continues.
The Los Angeles Redistricting Commission released another map Feb. 18 with a series of adjustments to the initial plan that moved Westchester out of the 11th Council District. The new map moves Westchester back to its coastal district but uses everything west of the 405 freeway as the boundary line for Council District 11, represented by Councilman Bill Rosendahl, with the residences east of the freeway moving into Council District Eight.
The area, known to many of the residents as “the Triangle,” is comprised largely of apartments and condominiums, while the neighbors to the west live in largely single-family homes. But it is Westchester nonetheless, said William Roberts, a spokesman with the Committee to Save Westchester.
“I’m very happy to have Westchester back into Council District 11,” Roberts said. “But it’s not all back yet.”
Mark Redick, a board member of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa, advocated along with hundreds of others at a Feb. 2 meeting for the commission to keep Westchester within the boundaries of Council District 11.
“Commissioners, tonight you are not merely witnessing a great community turnout, you’re witnessing a great community outrage,” he began.
“Westchester-Playa are communities that should be respected, not neglected. These are communities with specific areas of interest, and dividing the network of neighborhoods that comprise this community would tear at the fabric of civic pride and equity that has developed over the years.”
Michelle Levin, who has lived on Glasgow Court in east Westchester for 16 years, said moving her neighborhood into a new district goes against the principles of redistricting.
“Removing our triangle from Council District 11 is classic gerrymandering and will disenfranchise the more than 5,000 of us who live here,” Levin told The Argonaut.
Per the city charter, the council is required to review and redraw council district boundary lines after every census where there are changes in population.
Levin said residents of east Westchester were almost moved out of the coastal district during the last redistricting period.
“Ten years ago, the triangle was left out of Westchester for redistricting and it wasn’t until the final meeting where residents came and spoke and pointed out how this small socio-economically and racially mixed neighborhood was being overlooked,” she recalled. “If you look at the adjusted redistricting map, the triangle is virtually left as an island.
“Even (Eighth District) Councilman (Bernard) Parks said that the triangle should stay in Westchester.”
Denny Schneider, who has been at the forefront of drawing attention to the city’s redistricting plan, lives just west of the freeway but is intent on seeing Levin and her neighbors back in Council District 11.
“The map that (the commission) has drawn is segregation at its best and gerrymandering at its worst,” Schneider asserted. “It’s like cutting off someone’s arm and then telling them that they should be thrilled that they’re not bleeding to death.”
With the exception of Schneider, who has sought to work with residents in Leimert Park on obtaining a light rail train stop there as well as in his community, Westchester residents have largely heretofore generally shown little interest in their neighbors to the east.
But with the possibility of being rerouted into another district, triangle residents have forged an alliance with Parks, who has also lost prime areas of his district, including the historic community of Leimert Park as well as Baldwin Vista and Baldwin Hills, where Parks resides.
Councilwoman Jan Perry, who attended the Westchester meeting earlier this month, has also lost a large part of her downtown business district in the new map. She has alluded that the changes in hers and Parks’ districts are political payback by council president Herb Wesson, who has been at odds with his two council colleagues. Parks and Perry, two longtime allies, were not present when Wesson was sworn in as council president late last year.
Wesson, who would have Leimert Park, Baldwin Vista and Baldwin Hills in his district, denies that the districts are being drawn as part of any political scheme.
But Redick does see political payback in the newly redrawn council districts.
“I find the actions of Herb Wesson to be reprehensible and unconscionable,” he said. “This is not an example of good leadership on the City Council.”
At a joint press conference with Rosendahl in Westchester, Parks told Westchester residents that he supported their efforts to have the council map redrawn to put them back into the coastal district because Council District 11’s communities share a great deal of commonalities
Roberts said his committee backs Parks in his bid to keep his district intact as well.
“We’re very much aligned with Councilwoman Perry and Councilman Parks that some of the areas (that they lost) should go back into their districts,” he said.
Levin said she has written the commission and Rosendahl to express her thoughts on redistricting.
She has also created fliers and is emailing residents, in an effort to get as many people as possible to ask the commission to return the triangle to Council District 11.
“My neighbors and family are concerned that we will fall through the cracks, especially with only about 5,000 people in our section,” Levin lamented. “We are concerned that we will have zero representation for our community issues, most of which are greater Westchester issues.
“The adjusted map looks like a picture definition for gerrymandering.”
Roberts said he hoped the commission would return the triangle to Council District 11, but because of population requirements, there is the possibility that his eastern neighbors might be moved.
“We may have to lose (part of Westchester) but we’re not happy about it,” he acknowledged. “(The area east of the 405 freeway) is part and parcel of Westchester.”
In the newly released maps, Playa Vista and a light industrial area of Del Rey known as the Mesmer Triangle are also back in Rosendahl’s district.
Redick said he is “cautiously optimistic” about Del Rey not losing the Mesmer Triangle in the newly adjusted map.
The commission met Feb. 22 to discuss possible approval on actions related to the final map, which will be voted on at its Feb. 29 meeting.
The City Council must receive the final map by March 1. The council has the final approval of the new boundary lines.