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Latinos May Gain Majority in Another District

Redistricting: A panel redrawing the city's representation map also would give the Valley additional seat of its own at City Hall.


The commission redrawing Los Angeles' 15 City Council districts on Saturday moved toward increasing from four to five the number of districts in which Latinos have sufficient voter strength to elect a candidate.

The Los Angeles Redistricting Commission also endorsed an increase of the number of districts wholly in the San Fernando Valley from four to five, and agreed to maintain three districts where African American voters can determine the winner.

"We adopted some broad principles that will allow us to maintain and/or increase representation throughout the city," said John Emerson, chairman of the panel.

The commission staff now will create a draft map of new council boundaries for the commission to consider next week before beginning another round of public hearings.

The commission must make a final recommendation to the City Council by March 1. The council, which has final say, should act by July 1.

Commissioners signaled that they want to "preserve existing representational patterns" and demographic clusters that have allowed Latinos to be elected to four council districts: the 1st, 13th, 14th and the Valley's 7th. But panel members also see room for creation of a fifth Latino district in the east San Fernando Valley.

Although race cannot be a predominant factor in drawing districts, Latino civil rights groups have warned the panel that they will challenge any plan that dilutes Latino voter strength in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

The panel noted that much of the growth in the city's Latino population has occurred in the northeast Valley.

Commissioners indicated that a new Latino district probably would be established in the east Valley by adopting a principle that "staff must ensure that demographic, socioeconomic and cultural patterns and communities of interest be carefully decided when forming the boundaries for these five [Valley] districts."

Alan Clayton of the California Latino Redistricting Coalition testified that the growth in the Latino population in the northeast Valley justifies two Valley seats where Latino voters could predominate.

With the Valley threatening secession, there are political implications to the commission's endorsement Saturday of a fifth district there.

"The commission recognizes the tremendous increase in population in the San Fernando Valley over the past decade," said Commissioner Dan Garcia, who wrote the principles.

The panel also voted to make "its best efforts to reduce and eliminate splits of identified communities of interest." One panelist noted that Van Nuys is divided among five council districts.

But political fights are brewing.

The map drafted by Latino groups would move the 6th Council District represented by Councilwoman Ruth Galanter of Venice to the east Valley and give much of the coastal area to the 11th District represented by Cindy Miscikowski.

"If you are going to have five Valley seats, somebody is going to have to move," Clayton said.

Galanter has said it is unfair to move her from a district she was elected to represent. She countered by proposing that her 6th District become a new coastal district combined with part of Miscikowski's district and that the 11th District be moved to the Valley, said Mike Bonin, an aide to Galanter.

The new districts will take effect around Aug. 1.

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