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L.B. Council Members Draw Line at Plans to Carve Up Districts

April 16, 1987|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — The redrawing of City Council district boundaries was delayed Tuesday as tensions mounted and some council members moved to protect their flanks.

Redistricting, which prompted harsh debate in 1982, was pulled from the council agenda after last-minute changes in one of four different plans that will now be considered in May.

But before an early morning Legislative Committee meeting on reapportionment, Councilman Wallace Edgerton notified chairman Evan Anderson Braude that a compromise proposal Braude had drafted was not satisfactory.

"That's a rip-off. I don't call that a compromise," Edgerton said of a plan that would have answered some concerns of Councilman Thomas Clark, an Edgerton rival.

During the committee meeting, Edgerton warned against repeating the bitterness of 1982 and said he is willing to compromise. But as the meeting ended he said in an aside, "I think I'll be wanting to move . . . along the water into Evan Braude's district."

It is all part of the difficult process--now nine months old--of giving up constituents and getting new ones to answer legal requirements that districts have about equal numbers of residents.

'Reapportionment Fever'

"I think it's standard reapportionment fever, which is, 'I don't want to give anything up,' " Councilwoman Jan Hall said.

The City Charter requires that council districts be redrawn every five years if the Planning Commission finds, as it did last summer, that the nine district populations are not "approximately equal."

City planners found that the populations vary by as much as 8,154 residents, with Braude's downtown 1st District having the most constituents, 47,029, and Mayor Ernie Kell's East Side 5th District the least, 38,875. Each council district should have about 43,000 people, they said.

Planners in September recommended changes that would shift part of the growing Latino and Asian populations of the downtown, central city and West Side areas into adjacent council districts, which in turn would lose population to suburban East Side and North Long Beach districts.

So far, it's all been pretty tame.

The main dispute has been what to do with Clark's Los Altos-area 4th District, which everyone agrees will be most altered by the process. Regardless of the new boundaries, Clark will lose about 4,200 constituents to Kell on the north because Kell's population-deficient northeastern district borders only the 4th.

Will Have to Gain 7,000

Clark will then have to gain about 7,000 new constituents, either from Hall's 3rd District on the south or from Edgerton's 2nd District on the west, or from both.

City planners recommended extension of Clark's predominantly middle-class, suburban district westerly between Anaheim Street and Pacific Coast Highway for seven blocks to Gaviota Avenue. Edgerton, who would lose some of his poorest constituents to Clark, likes that plan. But Clark does not.

Clark wants to shift his 4th District boundaries south to include neighborhoods north of Recreation Park and east of the university, which are now in Hall's 3rd District.

"By moving south it would be a much more compact, cohesive and homogenous district," Clark said. "This is an unfair extension. I think the Planning Department made a serious mistake when they laid out their choice. . . . We'll be getting more rental properties of a different nature vs. single-family dwellings."

A district of neighborhoods with common concerns is easier to represent, he said. "And politically it makes it much easier if you hold onto districts you've been in for 21 years" or if you represent immediately adjacent neighborhoods, said Clark, who narrowly won reelection in 1980 and 1984.

Prefers to Lose on East

Edgerton said he prefers that his district lose constituents to Hall on the east and expand to the west, instead of being maintained north of Anaheim Street in the area Clark would inherit.

"I understand where Tom is coming from. He's being asked to deal with minorities and rentals and densities, and he's never had to deal with those before," Edgerton said. "All of a sudden you have to start balancing demands. And that's tough for all of us, from the 2nd (district) right on up to the 9th."

Hall, whose cooperation has been sought by both Clark and Edgerton, said she wants to work with both. But generally she said she agrees with Clark that a district's "character should be retained as much as possible."

"There's a compromise out there," she said, "but all three of us have to come to an agreement."

Both Edgerton and Clark say they are willing to discuss the matter with the other. But that meeting has not yet happened.

If a compromise cannot be reached and the issue is resolved by council vote, Edgerton seems in the stronger position. An ally of Kell's, Edgerton has often lined up with the council majority while Clark has often been on the losing end.

But the council's three newest members--Braude, Ray Grabinski and Clarence Smith--have not lined up consistently with either the Kell-Edgerton bloc or with Clark. Kell and Clark are likely opponents in the first race for the citywide mayor's position next year.

EQUALIZING POPULATIONS Percentages of change necessary to equalize the population in Long Beach City Council districts.

Council Population District Existing % Off 1 47,029 +9.2 2 45,646 +6.0 3 41,518 -3.6 4 40,434 -6.1 5 38,875 -9.7 6 46,069 +7.0 7 44,362 +3.0 8 42,496 -1.3 9 41,067 -4.6 Avg. pop. 43,055

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