The decision as to who serves as Northeast Los Angeles’ City Councilmember or Councilmembers may hinge on how The Battle of Downtown plays out.
Speaking before a heavily Northeast crowd at a Monday hearing on the redrawing of City Council district lines at Occidental College, local Councilmember José Huizar said that he supports the idea of keeping neighborhoods united within single council districts. (Some Northeast communities, such as Highland Park, Glassell Park, Mount Washington and Atwater Village are currently divided among two or three districts.)
Tonight, speaking a hearing held Downtown at City Hall, Huizar was more specific.
The Councilmember reiterated his support for single districts, saying, “One of my main goals is to keep communities whole.”
Then Huizar went on to say that he supports the draft map as drawn by the City’s Redistricting Commission. That map would leave Huizar with Eagle Rock, Garvanza and Hermon plus a bit of Mount Washington and Glassell Park.
Contrary to the wishes of a number of speakers at Monday’s hearing, the draft map would move most of Highland Park into Councilmember Ed Reyes’ district. (See our previous article “Community Talks Redistricting” for a recap of the Monday hearing and reasons Northeast residents gave for wanting their preferred mapping.)
Downtown Los Angeles, meanwhile, is probably the City’s most changed community of the past decade. Its population has increased from 10,000 ten years ago to 50,000 now, as it has gradually morphed into a residential neighborhood.. Huizar currently represents about 40% of Downtown, and Councilmember Jan Perry represents the rest. Large numbers of Downtown residents have spoken at hearings to say that they want to be grouped together in one district.
“Downtown has become a ‘community of interest’,” said Huizar.
Huizar would like to be the one councilmember for that community of interest. Perry (who is completing her term of office) would like to see it kept with communities to the south, as 60% of it is now.
The draft mapping gives everything above Olympic to Huizar.
Huizar’s office is currently deeply involved in an initiative to revitalize Broadway and an effort to bring back a streetcar line. He has recently announced plans for several new stores and a hotel.
As for Northeast Los Angeles, Huizar points out that, because of a population decrease over the past decade, the three Northeast districts—1 (Reyes), 13 (Eric Garcetti) and 14 (Huizar)—will need to expand by 66,000 residents collectively to achieve parity with other districts.
Huizar says that 1 and 13, in their need for expansion, are pushing on 14 and that 14 is pushed up against city borders with Glendale, Pasadena and South Pasadena and can can’t go any further.
Therefore, according to Huizar’s rationale, he should take Downtown, where Council District 9 (Perry) needs to contract geographically. Further, Huizar cites historic ties between Downtown and Boyle Heights (which is where the Councilmember lives).
Downtown plus Boyle Heights plus a curve around the edge of Northeast Los Angeles up to Eagle Rock does not leave room population-wise for more of the Northeast.
Attendees at tonight’s Redistricting Commission hearing filled the City Hall Council Chamber. The overflow then filled the Board of Public Works room down the hall, and people were left standing in the hallway unable to get in. 172 people had turned in requests to speak by the start of the meeting (compared to 42 at the Northeast L.A. hearing Monday). There were people in attendance from all over the City, but a great many were there to advocate for a united Downtown.
It remains to be seen how the 21-member Redistricting Commission will respond to Huizar’s support of the draft map vis-à-vis Northeast residents’ widespread dislike of the map. The commission’s final map and report are due by March 1. It is the City Council, however, that will have the final say, and the Council’s decision must be made by July. The new district lines will be used in 2013 elections in Council Districts 1, 13 and 9.