District: Santa Monica is part of the newly redrawn third district. The original map (center) has been replaced with new map (left) by a committee of volunteers. SMDP Image

State Senator Henry Stern announced his candidacy for Kuehl’s seat following the redistricting map’s finalization

As happens every decade following the U.S. Census count, Santa Monicans can expect to see their local, state and national voting districts redrawn according to population and demographic swings–often to mixed reviews.

On Wednesday evening, Dec. 15, the Los Angeles County Redistricting Commission approved a final version of the map laying out supervisorial districts for the next 10 years, raising the ire of current Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

LA County’s Third District–considered a progressive bastion among the county’s five–has been redrawn to remain largely the same, containing Santa Monica and neighboring areas like West LA, the lower San Fernando Valley, Malibu and West Hollywood. The new district will lose certain areas like Los Feliz and parts of Hollywood. It will now also contain some of the area’s more conservative neighborhoods in the north San Fernando Valley like Chatsworth, Porter Ranch and Granada Hills, much to Kuehl’s chagrin. The supervisor lashed out in a Thursday morning email, calling the map an “abrupt abandonment of rational process.”

In California, unlike in many other states, redistricting is determined by an independent commission, not current politicians. The 14 commission members were selected in a random drawing from a list of 55 vetted candidates (out of nearly 750 applicants). The method is designed to avoid political squabbling; however, Kuehl alleged the finalized map was a political tool meant to create two center-of-the-road districts, rather than one to the left and another to the right.

“Politics is just what is in play here,” Kuehl wrote.

Many residents who spoke at the Wednesday redistricting meeting praised the commission and map, but some also expressed dissatisfaction with the final version.

One third district resident from Atwater Village said she was “very disappointed in this remapping,” adding, “Our village has historically been represented by district three with a little bit of one. We have a working relationship with Kuehl’s office and have little relationship with one and then with five … the new boundaries are not representative of our community.”

The new district will not be governed by Kuehl, who announced months ago that she would not seek a third term in office.

In her Thursday morning email, Kuehl went on to predict a “man who’s been salivating to run for the office but found himself in need of an electorate more closely tailored to his politics” would soon throw his hat in the ring.

Though Kuehl did not specify to which man she was referring, her communications office confirmed the comments were not an attack on California State Senator Henry Stern (D-27) — a Calabasas resident who formally announced his candidacy 90 minutes after the email was sent.

Stern follows others who have announced their intent to run for the powerful seat, including former Santa Monica mayor and current assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-50), West Hollywood mayor Lindsey Horvath and LA County controller Ron Galperin.

Bloom and Stern share overlapping districts, each representing Malibu, Agoura Hills and Topanga.

Stern, a Malibu native, graduated from Harvard University before earning a law degree from UC Berkeley. He was elected to fill a vacancy in California’s 27th Senatorial District, which includes western LA and southern Ventura counties, in 2016, following the retirement of previous senator Fran Pavley, who was termed out of office. Stern, 39, is “the first Millennial elected to the California State Senate,” according to his Wikipedia page.

Stern’s senate seat is not up until 2024.

On Thursday afternoon, Stern made his announcement during a live Zoom call/Facebook stream from the sidewalk along Ventura Boulevard, standing, he said, “in the heart of the San Fernando Valley.” Stern stationed himself in front of a street sign that read “Stern Av.” Loud, persistent street noise and poor sound and video quality punctuated the 20-minute announcement, during which he touched on the issues of homelessness, COVID-19, climate change and a recent spate of smash-and-grab robberies.

Though he did not lay out specific policy proposals, Stern said he and Kuehl had a “difference of opinion” on how to handle the issue of homelessness.

“But it’s not about legislation right now,” Stern said, before the video became inaudible.

“We can’t afford to go back to the ways of the past and abandon our social justice agenda,” Stern was saying as the stream cut back in. “It’s a false choice to say you have to sacrifice a restorative justice system in exchange for more social workers on the street or more field psychiatrists. We don’t need to cut public safety services at the expense of that social–”Stern added, before the video cut out again.

Stern also addressed the redistricting, saying the more conservative areas of the district would not hold back progress.

“I know there’s discontent. The current supervisor doesn’t think it’s fair that some communities are out, others are in, like more conservative parts of the north valley, or east valley are represented here,” Stern said. “We don’t need to suffer from that. We don’t need to sacrifice our social justice agenda or our pragmatic kind of progressivism.”

Supervisors for the first and third districts of LA County will be selected in the Nov. 8, 2022, general election. Hilda Solis, first district supervisor, will be running to retain her seat for a third and final term.