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Los Angeles

L.A. City Council Approves Redrawn Boundaries for 7 School Board Districts

Education: Three of the areas represent Latino majorities, and two are entirely in the Valley. The map changes go into effect July 1.

June 05, 2002|DAVID PIERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After five months of debate, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved new boundaries for the seven seats on the Los Angeles Board of Education, creating three Latino majority districts and two wholly in the San Fernando Valley.

The Valley is currently divided among four school board members, three of whom also represent other parts of the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District. Under the plan approved Tuesday, there will be two new all-Valley seats and one that combines southwest Valley communities, such as Woodland Hills, with the Westside.

The map, approved on a 13-2 vote, was advocated by school board President Caprice Young, whose new District 3 will shift from being centered in East Hollywood to being centered in the West Valley, where she grew up and still has ties. Young was elected in 1999 with strong support from then-Mayor Richard Riordan, whose allies helped her in the recent remapping.

The approved plan defeated one advocated by veteran school Trustee Julie Korenstein, whose San Fernando Valley-based District 6 will shift eastward in the Valley, costing her some of her current voter base and giving her district a Latino majority.

The new boundaries maintain two Latino majority seats in eastern Los Angeles, which are currently represented by board members Jose Huizar in District 2 and David Tokofsky in District 5. Tokofsky was upset with a previous attempt to push his seat out of most of his northeast Los Angeles base, but he will hang on to some of it as his district moves east and south.

Latinos make up 70% of L.A. Unified's 900,000 students.

"It's a good thing for the Latino community," Amadis Velez, of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said of the map, which his organization influenced.

"This is something that will give greater representation and makes our representatives more responsive to the needs of the community," he said.

The lines, which are redrawn every 10 years to reflect demographic shifts, were narrowly recommended in March by a citizen's commission appointed by the mayor, the City Council president and school board members. The group, known as the Los Angeles Redistricting Commission for the Los Angeles Unified School District, was created in accordance with 1999 charter reforms.

The Los Angeles City Council has final say on the boundaries, even though other cities send their youngsters to L.A. Unified schools.

The approved boundaries will be implemented on July, and the first elections based on them will take place next year.

The maps pushed by Young and Korenstein had different takes on a single problem--that the Valley's 1.44 million residents need the equivalent representation of 2.2 board members, meaning some Valley communities would have to share a district with non-Valley areas.

The approved map will combine southwest Valley communities such as Woodland Hills and Encino with West L.A. in District 4. Korenstein, who had the support of the teachers union, had proposed putting North Hollywood and Studio City in the West L.A. district instead. She said the North Hollywood area had better freeway access to West L.A. than Woodland Hills, and thus should be placed in the same district. Korenstein added that she believes the new boundaries will increase a sense of alienation that is fueling the Valley movement to secede from the city of Los Angeles.

Korenstein wanted to get the West Valley, which will be Young's territory starting next month. Both of them are white, as are most of the voters in the West Valley. But both said ethnicity in that area was not a factor in their map proposals.

"I'll be fine," said Korenstein, a 15-year veteran of the board. "I'm looking forward to meeting my new constituents."

Board member Marlene Canter, who represents District 4, applauded the council's decision and said people who live in Woodland Hills are well acquainted with West L.A.

"I'm really pleased the council respected the process," Canter said, referring to the council's approval of the commission's plan. "I don't think my area has a relationship [with the North Hollywood area]."

Councilman Jack Weiss, who headed a City Council school redistricting committee, voted for the Young plan, explaining it was the will of the citizen's commission and of the public.

"Representing 635,000 people as a school board member is difficult regardless of where you are," Weiss said.

The commission drew criticism for not attracting enough public input and for behind-the-scenes political maneuvering. Several people complained that Riordan had too much influence on the decisions.

"What you are seeing is [Riordan's] vision being enforced on the whole city," said teachers union President Day Higuchi.

Riordan, in an interview Tuesday, said parents and students should thank him for pushing for school reform through trustees such as Young.

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