Zev Yaroslavsky, a longtime Westside councilman, will find himself representing part of the San Fernando Valley--and a spiffy part at that--under a redistricting plan tentatively approved Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council.
Under the plan, Councilman Joel Wachs would lose a large part of affluent Sherman Oaks, a base of his support, to Yaroslavsky. In turn, Wachs' 2nd District, which extends from Studio City around Griffith Park to include Atwater and Mt. Washington, would gain a low-income area on the edge of downtown Los Angeles.
Wachs, who voted for the plan, said Tuesday he would "live with" the change if the plan is given final approval next week. But he was plainly unhappy about it.
"It's an area I've always represented and done very well in," Wachs said of Sherman Oaks. But, he added, "I had no other choice. This wasn't a big deal with the rest of the council."
Wachs accused Councilman Richard Alatorre, architect of the plan, of trying to punish him for withdrawing his support for an earlier redistricting plan drafted by Alatorre. That plan was vetoed by Mayor Tom Bradley, and Alatorre said he did not have the 10 votes for an override.
The plan given tentative approval Wednesday will come up for a final vote next week. Bradley must approve the plan before it can be implemented.
Wachs accused Yaroslavsky, who has long wanted to be mayor of Los Angeles, of engineering the change that may cost Wachs an area where he has enjoyed strong voter support.
'Big Plus' for Yaroslavsky
"Zev wanted it," Wachs said. "He wanted it for his own ambitions."
Although Wachs did not explain how it would help Yaroslavsky's aspirations, Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., said the move would be a "big plus" for the Westside councilman.
"It will be easier for him to organize support in the Valley for his run for mayor," Close said.
Yaroslavsky said he did not ask "for any new areas."
"I think Joel made a deal to try to get that area and then reneged. That's between him and Mr. Alatorre," Yaroslavsky said. "It's not my problem."
Sources close to Alatorre said the councilman found the votes for his earlier plan by making adjustments in council boundaries based on special desires. For example, Alatorre was said to have assured Wachs that his district would continue to take in Sherman Oaks--if he supported the plan. Wachs voted for the plan when it was tentatively approved last week, but changed his mind on the final vote Tuesday for reasons Wachs has declined to explain.
Alatorre insisted that the new plan's shift to give Yaroslavsky part of Sherman Oaks was the result of moving around other council-district lines to come up with a plan that would satisfy the plaintiffs--the U.S. Justice Department and several minority groups--in a federal lawsuit against the city. The suit contends that existing council district lines splinter Latino voting strength in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.
The plan approved Wednesday on a 13-2 vote puts councilmen John Ferraro and Mike Woo in a new Hollywood-Wilshire district while creating a predominantly Latino district northeast of downtown Los Angeles. Ferraro and Woo, therefore, would have to fight it out in the next election to see who is to represent the district.
Council members Joan Milke Flores and Ernani Bernardi opposed the plan.
Under the plan, Yaroslavsky's 5th District would extend beyond its existing northern boundary at Mulholland Drive to take in Sherman Oaks south of Valley Vista Boulevard between Fulton Avenue and the San Diego Freeway.
Close said he did not think it would matter if Yaroslavsky is the area's councilman since he, like Wachs, has sided with homeowners on many issues.
"We've always had a good relationship with Zev," Close said. "I welcome him to Sherman Oaks."
He added: "One of the problems in the City Council is most communities have only one councilman and they have to get eight votes to get anything done. We start with three responsible councilmen, and hopefully three votes, on matters of importance."
Wachs will continue to represent part of Sherman Oaks, as will Councilman Marvin Braude.
Another Valley Change
The only other change in the Valley would remove most of Mission Hills from Councilman Howard Finn's 1st District in the northeast Valley and move it into Bernardi's 7th District in the central Valley. In exchange, Finn, who already represents Sun Valley, would get the rest of that community along with more of North Hollywood from Bernardi.
The proposed change drew no complaints from either councilmen since it does not appear it would affect their political fortunes. The East Valley changes were in response to a specific complaint made in the Justice Department lawsuit citing the splitting of heavily Latino neighborhoods in North Hollywood and Sun Valley between the 1st and 7th districts.