Gerrymandering in the City of Angels

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS - Gerrymandering is the process of dividing a political constituency into districts in an unnatural and unfair way.

Texas has been famous for decades for its wildly contorted political divisions but it appears that our (un)fair city is not far behind. 

Following months of input and supposedly deep cogitation by a “citizen committee” advisory group appointed by our illustrious and respected representatives at City Hall, the Redistricting Commission voted 15-6 to advance the perplexing “K2.5 Final” as the Council District map of the coming decade based on last year’s somewhat questionable US Census results.

A lot of digital ink has been expended on the vagaries of their choice, especially in regard to the fascinating 4+2 and 2+4 districts that have much of the Valley not to mention the Councilmembers affected up in digital arms. Not to mention the President of the City Council herself. 

Score one victory for the reunification of most of Koreatown but there are other head-scratching decisions here that demand explanation. 

Maybe I can only speak for Council Districts 1 and 14 since I’ve spent the past 30 years on the border of both. But I have a lot to say. 

They, along with CD 13, form squiggly worms on the east side of Los Angeles. 

This is more that sour grapes by a few outliers; there a gaping systemic problems when two districts run all the way from Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) to the city core when it would be demonstrably more equitable to split them north-south. 

NELA is a hugely diverse community and I love it here, it has the largest number of immigrants in all of the United States, I am from Canada but my neighbors come from many other countries – Central America and China, the Philippines, Mexico, Vietnam, Egypt – and bring different sets of experiences to our neighborhood. 

We live in Highland Park and Eagle Rock, Cypress Park and Boyle Heights, Hermon and El Sereno, Glassell Park and Arroyo Seco. 

I like to think of us as a salad of different ingredients not a melting pot; we include artists and activists, homemakers and workers, children and retirees.  We are a center for Chicano history and a historical center for local indigenous peoples. 

Arroyo Seco aka Hahamongna, "Flowing Waters, Fruitful Valley" in the native Tongva language, on the NELA-Pasadena border is one of the most endangered environmental areas in Southern California.

I cannot begin to speak for everyone but I do speak for many, those of us who are not being listened to on the encroachment of developers who are pushing people out of working-class neighborhoods, who are destroying historical areas and habitats.  The people in NELA face similar issues, but we are split between two separate Council Districts which halves our power to have our voices heard. 

The homelessness issues in NELA were not necessarily being addressed while our Councilmembers publicized addressing issues around City Hall.  The priorities of white-collar workers in converted lofts downtown are very different from immigrant families facing displacement from gentrification in NELA. 

Businesses on York Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard and Figueroa are different from those in Little Tokyo or the Fashion District.  

We were hoping the Commission would grant NELA the opportunity to be united under one Councilmember who lives in and works for us and celebrates our diversity and different needs.  And that the central city of Los Angeles would gain their own Councilmember dedicated to their specific needs. 

Many of us called on the commission to let the northeast speak with one voice. 

But clearly have been ignored. 

Many people from the downtown core asked that they live in one district. 

But this ask was also ignored. 

Today, October 28th, the commission meets one last time to approve a report to accompany the K2.5 Final map as it is submitted to the City Council for consideration and approval.  

My STRONG recommendation is for enough members of the City Council to grow some huevos and kick this obscenity over to a more rational group for a do-over. 

They don’t need to hold all those hearings all over again – that information is available – but the addition of some common sense would be much appreciated. But they have to move quickly because of immovable deadlines in the City Code. 

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, City Council President Nury Martinez said Los Angeles “cannot reasonably move forward” with K2.5 Final. 

She introduced a motion to create an Ad Hoc Redistricting Committee to address the issue of “a map that raises concerns for so many marginalized communities when this will be so influential in the lives of all Angelenos for the next decade. If we’re looking to build a stronger, more equitable Los Angeles, we need a map that reflects that.” 

The challenge will be in deconstructing the decades-old gerrymandering that such a new map does ensure that all voices are heard, not just the loudest or the most politically correct or the most politically connected. 


(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)