Supervisor Gloria Molina, the only Latino to serve on the board in modern… (Los Angeles Times )
A push to increase Latino representation on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors changed course sharply Tuesday with the release of a new redistricting proposal drafted by board member Gloria Molina.
Under a revised plan to create a second Latino-majority district, Molina, the only Latino to serve on the board in modern history, is suggesting that Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's current Westside and San Fernando Valley district be radically reconfigured.
Yaroslavsky, a white Democrat, will be termed out of office in 2014 but might run for mayor in two years. Under Molina's proposal, his home in L.A.'s Fairfax neighborhood would be in a new, heavily Latino district, stretching from the eastern San Fernando Valley through downtown to East L.A. Because he is in his final four-year term, he would not have to seek reelection in the new district.
The proposal could have some appeal to other board members. Molina's plan would give Supervisor Don Knabe, a white Republican from Cerritos, a fighting chance to be reelected for a final term in 2012. Knabe would retain his strongholds of Long Beach, the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the South Bay. Under a previous plan backed by Molina and Latino activists, Knabe's district would have moved east and become predominantly Latino.
Under the revised plan, Knabe would cede Latino neighborhoods in southeast and eastern L.A. County to Molina, who would represent a new San Gabriel Valley-centered district. Knabe would gain the northern coastal area of the county from Yaroslavsky.
In Knabe's new district, 63% of eligible voters would be white. Currently, his district is 42% white.
"Nobody wants any discomfort in change when you're running for reelection," Molina said in an interview. She noted that her new plan keeps Long Beach and the South Bay — communities whose officials voiced strong support for the status quo at last week's board meeting — in Knabe's district.
"It's probably going to be a tough sell. But ideally, it would be all five of us" agreeing on a redistricting map, Molina said, though the approval of only four of the five supervisors is needed.
The board will consider Molina's map with two others. Knabe backed a proposal that largely keeps the current boundaries. Mark Ridley-Thomas, a black supervisor from Leimert Park, has endorsed the redrawn boundaries previously backed by Molina and black and Latino activists that would put Knabe in a Latino-majority district.
Both minority supervisors said supervisorial districts should be drawn to comply with federal laws protecting minority rights and should reflect a new demographic reality: that the county is nearly 50% Latino. "It's important we fulfill the letter and the spirit of the Voting Rights Act," Ridley-Thomas said.
Yaroslavsky and Knabe declined to comment on Molina's map after it was released late Tuesday. The supervisors will discuss the three maps at a public hearing Sept. 6.