L.A. City Districts Poised to Change, but Not Without Some Drama

At a Los Angeles reditricting public hearing. | Photo: Cindy Marie Jenkins/Flickr/Creative Commons License

This week the Los Angeles City Council preliminarily approved new lines for city council districts. So we're almost done drawing new districts, right? Not so fast.

What is redistricting? Every ten years we count how many people live in the country, the states, and local jurisdictions. Then we draw new district lines for each of those areas. However, who the "we" is matters greatly. If the "we" is sitting legislators drawing their own district lines, then those boundaries may likely look quite different than if the "we" is an independent commission. Legislators will quite rationally draw lines that consolidate their power bases and help their changes at re-election. Independent commission members will -- hopefully -- draw lines that, among other things, best represent communities of interest.

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In Los Angeles a redistricting commission draws the boundary lines. However, the commission is not exactly independent. Council members appoint those commission members.

There are 15 city council districts in the city of Los Angeles. The council voted 12-2 to approve the new districts. Jan Perry and Bernard Parks, neither of whom benefit from the new lines, opposed the new map. Put another way, Perry and Parks' districts were all-but-gutted.

There will be another vote next week. Then the plan will need Mayor Villaraigosa's approval. Assuming the lines are eventually approved the next stop on the redistricting train will likely be lawsuit center. In addition to Perry and Parks, who are unhappy with the district lines, Koreatown community activists have threatened to sue over the new maps.

The city council has already -- and smartly at that -- obtained a law firm. The cost of defending a lawsuit will fall to the city, which, of course, means it will fall to the taxpayers.

To see how the district lines changed, you can click on a map on the Los Angeles Times website here.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government in Los Angeles every week. She is a Visiting Professor at Loyola Law School. Read more of her posts here.

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