COUNTYWIDE — Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina has proposed a redistricting plan to create a second Latino seat on the board, which would significantly change Zev Yaroslavksy’s Westside district and lump Santa Monica and Malibu together with beach cities to the south.
Under Molina’s plan, which was proposed Aug. 17, Santa Monica would no longer be located within the Third District, but instead an expanded Fourth District, home to Supervisor Don Knabe, a Republican.
Those opposed to the plan, including Knabe and Yaroslavsky, say it is too dramatic a change and would destroy the connections and relationships built over decades. Opponents said the plan, and one proposed by an African-American coalition and backed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, is drawn to serve a political agenda and is not in line with the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.
Supporters said Molina’s plan reflects the most recent U.S. Census figures which show that the Latino population in Los Angeles County grew by nearly half a million residents, while the non-Latino population lost nearly 150,000. They say the plan would will ensure that no minority group’s voting power is unfairly enhanced or diluted at the expense of another.
Latinos now make up 48 percent of the county population, up from 45 percent in 2000, census data show. And Latinos constitute a third of the county’s potential voters, up from a little more than one in four a decade ago.
“Our new maps simply follow the numbers,” said Molina, the county’s first non-white and first Latino to be elected to the board in more than a century. “By doing so, our new maps honor both the letter and spirit of the Voting Rights Act — which outlaws voting discrimination based on race and serves as the legal foundation of our modern civil rights movement.”
Under Molina’s proposal, Yaroslavsky’s home in L.A.’s Fairfax neighborhood would be in a new, heavily Latino district, stretching from the eastern San Fernando Valley through downtown Los Angeles to East L.A. Because Yaroslavsky, a white Democrat, will be termed out of office in 2014, he would not run in the new district.
But that hasn’t stopped him from speaking out against plans proposed by Molina and Ridley-Thomas.
“Both plans move over 35 percent of people in the county from one district to another,” Yaroslavsky told the Daily Press. “It’s extremely disruptive. People will find themselves one day in a district they’ve known to a district represented by someone for whom they did not vote for.”
Yaroslavsky said the plans, backed by minority groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), would separate communities that share common government services, transportation and environmental interests.
Santa Monica city officials have worked closely with Yaroslavsky’s office to find solutions to homelessness. If City Hall finds itself in a new district with an unfamiliar supervisor, there’s no telling how those efforts could be affected.
Santa Monica’s influence could also be diluted.
“Molina’s plan is a terrible one for the Westside,” Yaroslavsky said.
Like the state and federal governments, counties must redraw their district boundaries every 10 years to conform to the results of the U.S. Census. But unlike the recently completed state and federal efforts, which were performed by citizens’ panels, the county’s redistricting must be decided by the Board of Supervisors.
If the board cannot agree (it takes four votes to approve new electoral districts), then a panel of three, comprised of the sheriff, district attorney and county assessor, make the call.
This isn’t the first time that redistricting has created controversy in the county. Roughly 20 years ago, the Board of Supervisors lost a Voting Rights Act lawsuit that proved elected officials had intentionally sought to prevent the creation of a Latino district to protect white incumbents. That action led to the creation of the current supervisorial districts and helped Molina get elected.
MALDEF representatives said if a “status quo” plan is adopted, the county could open itself up to another lawsuit because the voting power of Latinos would be reduced since they would be packed into a single district — Molina’s.
The test will be whether or not a compromise can be reached that will withstand a legal challenge.
A public hearing on redistricting is scheduled for Sept. 6 at 1 p.m. in Room 381 of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple St. in downtown Los Angeles. To weigh in, people can e-mail their comments to the redistricting committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see proposed maps go to http://redistricting.lacounty.gov/
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Yaroslavsky had endorsed a redistricting plan. The supervisor has not yet backed a plan.