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New All-Valley District Backed

City Hall: Council President Alex Padilla says population growth in the area's eastern half may warrant another seat in redistricting.

July 19, 2001|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Citing major population growth in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles City Council President Alex Padilla said Wednesday he supports the creation of a fifth council district completely in the Valley in the upcoming redistricting.

Padilla, a Pacoima resident who was elected council president last month, said the East Valley, which new census data show had the greatest population growth citywide in the last decade, may be the right area for a newly drawn district.

"The argument is making itself," Padilla said. "The census figures show the population growth in the city was driven by the population growth in the Valley. So, when we level off the numbers of how many people we each represent, it's going to call for additional districts, additional Valley representation."

As Padilla prepares to make his appointments to a city redistricting commission, his comments add momentum to the proposal for a new all-Valley district.

Mayor James K. Hahn and Councilman Jack Weiss of West Los Angeles also supported an additional all-Valley district during their recent campaigns. Hahn said he would also favor a sixth district with at least half of its population in the Valley, spokeswoman Julie Wong said Wednesday.

The positions of Hahn and Padilla are important because the mayor can appoint three people to the redistricting commission and Padilla, as council president, can appoint two. All other elected city officials can appoint one each.

Currently, four of the 15 council districts are completely within the Valley; three others extend from the Valley into areas of metropolitan Los Angeles south of Mulholland Drive.

Those split districts, which have long been represented by council members who live south of Mulholland Drive, dilute the Valley's clout, some of the region's civic leaders say.

"The way it is now, it cuts the Valley's influence," said Richard Leyner, board chairman of the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley. "We have 35% of the population, so we should have 35% of the council seats."

Leyner praised Padilla's support for a fifth all-Valley seat, but said the city should also create a sixth.

Any proposal to redraw districts to increase Valley representation will have to pass muster with interests in the rest of the city.

Councilwoman Jan Perry of central Los Angeles said through a spokeswoman that she is open to considering a fifth Valley seat as long as it does not come at the expense of other areas.

The idea might also get support from Alan Clayton, research director for the California Latino Redistricting Coalition, who said he would have to research the numbers before taking a formal position.

He said significant growth in the Latino population in the East Valley could allow five all-Valley districts without diluting minority voting strength. In fact, Clayton said, demographic shifts could allow creation of two more all-Valley districts where Latinos would have a good chance of electing a candidate.

"On a preliminary basis, there may be an opportunity to do that," he said.

Padilla cited a new Planning Department report on the latest census showing that population in the East Valley's 2nd Council District--represented by Joel Wachs--grew 14.2% from 1990 to 2000, the highest rate of increase in the city. That district's population was 269,546, according to the 2000 census.

In Padilla's adjacent 7th District, the population grew 13.9%, the second-highest rate.

The West Valley's 3rd District--represented by Dennis Zine--had the third-highest growth rate in the city at 11.4%.

In comparison, the population in Ed Reyes' 1st Council District on the Eastside declined by nearly 4% to 222,165.

In all, the four council districts completely in the Valley grew by 111,800 residents in the last decade.

Another goal for the upcoming redistricting is to end the practice of dividing communities among several districts, Padilla said. Currently, Van Nuys is splintered among five council districts, and Padilla shares North Hollywood with the 2nd and 4th districts.

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