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CRENSHAW : Holden Vows to Sue Over Redistricting


Almost 24 hours had passed since he was bushwhacked by colleagues and, if anything, Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden was angrier than ever that they tampered with his district and its boundaries.

It wasn't, Holden insisted, that he had some obsession with keeping part of the 23-acre Santa Barbara Plaza in his district. "It didn't mean one iota to me personally whether I had Santa Barbara Plaza or not," Holden said Thursday.

What really rankled the 10th District councilman, he said, was that the council agreed to revise his district's lines--after they seemed to be set--so the aging shopping center in Crenshaw would fall entirely in the 8th District of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

"It's shameful what they did," Holden said, accusing the council of betraying the public and the reapportionment process. "My intention is to file a lawsuit . . . because what you do to the citizens of this community by ramming them from one district to another is just not right."

Holden's ire was sparked by a nasty turf battle that led the council, by a 12 to 1 vote Wednesday, to place Santa Barbara Plaza entirely in Ridley-Thomas' district. The action came despite Holden's protests that taking the center from his district was unfair and a "slap in the face."

The shopping center is the largest concentration of black-owned businesses in the city. Though run-down, it is considered a plum because of pending proposals for redevelopment that could make it a showcase of post-riot economic revival. As the councilman whose district contains the shopping center, Ridley-Thomas would have strong influence in deciding how millions of dollars in redevelopment money is spent.

The larger Crenshaw District, one of the wealthiest black enclaves in the nation, is also viewed as a desirable political base. The redistricting plan places the bulk of Crenshaw in Ridley-Thomas' district, though Holden retains a portion.

Wednesday's council discussion had been expected to be a mere formality, reconfirming a May vote that redrew council boundaries citywide to conform with the 1990 census.

That earlier vote took the entire Crenshaw area out of Councilwoman Ruth Galanter's 6th District, dividing it between Ridley-Thomas' 8th District and Holden's 10th District. The addition of the predominantly African-American area to those districts was designed to strengthen the voting power of blacks in both, as required by the federal Voting Rights Act.

But Ridley-Thomas at the time overlooked--and in fact voted for--a last-second proposal by Holden to put Santa Barbara Plaza and half of the adjacent $120-million Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall in the 10th District.

Just how the lines got scrambled last spring remained murky after 45 minutes of debate Wednesday. But Ridley-Thomas said dividing the area in the first place had been "nonsensical."

"It's a deliberate attempt (by Holden) to take a prime piece of land that has tremendous possibilities and deny an effort to make it part of a coherent redevelopment plan," Ridley-Thomas said, arguing for shifting the plaza into his domain.

Holden said Thursday that he intends to file a lawsuit to reverse the decision and to resolve the larger issue of how council district boundaries are drawn. "It's not a lawsuit because I want (the plaza) in my district. I'm not talking about that," Holden said. "But here is an indicator that eight (council) people can move lines any time they want to. And that's not right."

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