City could face most dramatic redistricting in 27 years

Caption goes here

A reference map of existing boundaries forms part of the redistricting packet

Berkeley is seeking redistricting plans for the city’s eight council districts. Since 1986, Berkeley redistricting has been constrained to boundaries resembling the 1986 lines. After the passage of Measure R in November, those geographic constraints have been removed.

Redistricting plans must be submitted by March 15. A community meeting and two public hearings will be held in the spring and summer of this year, leading to the City Council considering a redistricting ordinance at its September 10th meeting. If the announced redistricting process calendar is adhered to, the redistricting ordinance will become effective on October 20, 2013, and the new districts will be used in the 2014 election, when seats for districts 1, 4, 7 and 8 will be up for election. 

In the 2010 census, Berkeley’s population increased by nearly 10,000 to 112,580. Redistricting requires that council districts be equal in population, which would mean 14,073 in each district. The current districts range from D5 (Laurie Capitelli’s district) with only 12,709 inhabitants, to D7 (Kriss Worthington’s district) with 16,623 inhabitants.

The other main requirement for redistricting is that no councilmember’s residence can be “drawn out” of his or her district. In the map above, the residence of each councilmember is indicated by a dark dot. Beyond those two criteria (equal population and no redistricting out a sitting member), the language is broad:

Districts must take into consideration topography, geography, cohesiveness,contiguity, integrity and compactness of territory of the districts, as well as existing communities of interest as defined in California Constitution Article XXI, section 2(d)(4), and shall utilize easily understood district boundaries such as major traffic arteries and geographic boundaries to the extent they are consistent with communities of interest.

Much of the debate in the last two years over redistricting focused on the potential for a student-majority district. The 1986 requirements made that a near-impossibility. Areas with high concentrations of students are currently split largely between districts 7 (Worthington) and 4 (Jesse Arreguín). The new requirements, which don’t demand an adherence to the old boundaries, makes a student-majority district more likely.

“I believe we can use the existing district boundaries as a real guideline,” said Councilmember Arreguín. “Communities of interest don’t only include age groups, but could include neighborhoods.”

Arreguín pointed out that many residents have lived in the same district for over 20 years. His district, with a population of 15,605 on the current boundaries, will lose around 1,500 people however the new district is drawn.

“I think it’s great that we’re inviting the public to participate in the process,” Arreguín said. “It’s very important that citizens have a role in this process.”

Redistricting packets are available from the city clerk’s office, either in person or online. The packet includes the necessary data, the requirements, maps and the necessary forms for submission. A community meeting will be held at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street, at 6 p.m. on January 24 to explain the process, timeline and requirements for submissions.

City defers redistricting, plans charter amendment [01.18.12]
Cal students file redistricting proposal with the city [09.30.11]

Would you like a digest of the day’s Berkeley news in your inbox at the end of your day? Click here to subscribe to Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing.

Print Friendly
Tagged , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • Tizzielish

    If affirmative action in public universities is unconstitutional, I am unable to see how affirmative districting to give preference to a certain class of citizen, i.e. ‘students’ is fair or constitutional. What kind of an uproar might we hear if someone proposed redrawing districts to ‘give’ a certain racial or ethnic minority a guaranteed district? I just don’t understand why students, or anyone, thinks university students should be given preferential treatment in redrawing districts. I am open to reading analyses that give legally cogent reasons to justify a distinction between one kind of affirmative action based on race (in public university admissions) over another kind of affirmative action (giving students a priority in drawing new district lines). Talk amongst yourselves?

  • Does it seem strange to anyone else that most of the council members live at the very edge of their districts?

  • anon

    Given that no one can be drawn out of their district, it looks like changes won’t be that dramatic. For instance there is no member within 6 blocks of campus to anchor a hypothetical student district.

  • Guest

    Many students don’t care about the City of Berkeley. The heaps of garbage and discarded furniture at the end of each semester are indicative of this fact. Many are from out of state and are here to get an education and leave upon graduation. Cal undergrads have little or no vested interest in Berkeley. Giving students special treatment is ludicrous. Worthington and Arreguin might as well hand the keys to the city over to Cal Administrators.

  • Tom Miller

    Perhaps not accurate to say students don’t care about Berkeley. I sometimes get the impression that much of the population is made up of students who cared, and stayed.

  • The Sharkey

    Wow. Bold comment! I like it!

  • EBGuy

    Think big. How aboutt two student majority districts. And things could get interesting if a student with political aspirations (and the backing of neighborhood groups) runs on a clean up Telegraph platform against Worthington. Well, that’s my delusional fantasy anyway. I didn’t vote for Measure R and am dismayed that it included the Get Out of Jail Free card for existing council members. So much for a clean slate.

  • Non-property owners should only represent 3/5 of a citizen. And the landlords get the extra 2/5 per tenant. That should take care of that pesky student vote.

  • A better way to handle the “edge of district” problem would have been to allow incumbents to choose to represent their old district or their new one.

  • Rob Wrenn

    Berkeley’s population did not increase by almost 10,000 between 2000 and 2010 as Lance Knobel asserts. It’s well established and documented in City staff reports that the Census failed to count around 4200 to 4500 students in 2000. Apparently they missed entire high rise dorms. This year they did a better job and apparently sent Census forms to all the dorms. That’s why Kriss Worthington’s district, District 7 has so many more residents that Laurie Capitelli’s District as of now. While there has been some infill UC housing development that added dorm beds to the high rise units, most of the increase in District 7 results from actually counting all the students this year, when they were missed in 2000.

    I should note that there is already a majority student Council District, namely District 7. Some students don’t register to vote in Berkeley, but register in their home towns. Others don’t register at all. Of those who do register, many don’t vote. Turnout in student areas was way down this year compared to 2008. And of those who vote, many don’t the whole ballot, failing to vote for anyone for local office. Students could be a big factor in local elections, but in practice they have only a modest impact.

  • Tizzielish

    Property ownership is not a prerequisite to the right to a ‘full’ vote. Gosh, before you know it, we’ll have rich property owners buying elected officials, funneling money through secretive nonprofits that do not disclose their donors and using the money to pummel communities with advertising to manipulate elections. Oh, wait a minute, CitizensUnited gives he who holds the gold more rights than citizens who cannot buy elections with secretive campaign donations.

    I don’t think the student vote is pesky. I sincerely wish every person eligible to vote, here and everywhere, would vote and that includes students. I am uncomfortable with the idea that students have some kind of right to a district that might sorta guarantee that a student will be on the city council. I just don’t understand how anyone familiar with all the law suits limiting affirmative action in some arenas in life can justify affirmative action in drawing voting districts. I think it is flat-out wrong and immoral. But I do not consider student votes pesky. I hope any student that chooses to declare Berkeley as their legal residence exercises their right to vote.

    And I very much hope that this city does not deliberately draw new voting districts with the specific goal of creating student-dominated voting blocks. Imagine a movement to guarantee a senior citizen gets elected, and a district guaranteeing a white person gets elected, and a district guaranteeing that a black person get elected, and an Asian and, well, gee, I guess maybe we should consider a district for people who meditate in an Eastern tradition, a Muslim district, a Christian one.

    what’s so special about students? They can register to vote and vote, like everyone else in this democracy.

  • Tizzielish

    The Sharkey, I am moved to read your positive response to my comment. Thanks. I am easily intimidated by your often strongly-stated opinions, and I am aware of the irony in what I just wrote for I often strongly state mine.

    I am surprised that you characterized my commment as ‘bold’. I am an attorney, altho not licensed in CA (I am still licensed in one Midwestern state — by only because they unilaterally put me on retired but licensed status when I stopped paying my dues!). I don’t think my opinion is at all bold if we, as a society, wish to have some coherence in our public policy and in how we interpret the constitution. Of course, the sad truth is that there is little coherence in U.S.Supreme Court opinions in constitutional law.

    But given the decades of aggressive litigation and appeals on the issue of affirmative action being unconstitutional, I think the analogy I made, comparing the unconstitutional use of affirmative action in public university admissions to affirmative action in drawing legislative districts is not at all bold. It is common sense and sane.

    The same argument could be applied to the way state legislatures gerrymander congressional districts to favor the party controlling the state legislature when they gerrymander. How is gerrymandering any different from affirmative action? I venture to guess many of the conservative politicians that gerrymander Republican congressional districts to assure continued Republican dominance of the House of Representatives (the lunatic Michelle Bachman would not keep her seat in Congress but for gerrymandering, I guarantee you — many Republicans would have lost their congressional seats if not for absurdly gerrymandered districts).

    I am surprised some smart, active lawyer activist working for a liberal think tank has not filed law suits using my theory. Fight fire with fire. Take the same arguments the repugnuts used to roll back affirmative action in university admissions and use those same arguments to put an end to affirmative action gerrymandering. Anyone may feel free to use my idea: I do not patent or copyright this one.

    One of my professional mentors, in my second career as an organization development consultant, who is credited with being one of the few leaders who created the field of OD — she was world renown and is long gone but I won’t say her name just in case someone might want to argue that her contributions were not seminal — they were — she and I taught some graduate classes in OD over the years and she always told our students “if you like one of my ideas, use it and use it with pride, ideas should be stolen.”

    If you know the works of Thomas Jefferson, he initially and strongly objected to the idea of copyright and patents. He wrote that ideas were meant to spread naturally, like the seeds of wildflowers spread naturally. He wrote a beautiful line about how ideas are part of nature and were surely meant to spread as naturally as the flame from a tapered candle can be spread from one taper to the next.

    I got tired of always being in a fight. My experience as a lawyer was that, paint it as pretty as you might try to paint it, clients hired me to conduct their fights, not to facilitate peace. So I won’t be going to the public meetings about redistricting Berkeley. I so totally do not want to argue with bright, passionate young people demanding a student-guaranteed distrct. I am repelled by the discrimination. Spin it as affirmative action and it is still discrimination. It is unfair and, imho, wrong, to deliberately draw district lines to favor students.

    I sincerely hope every student that cares about voting and is eiligible to vote in berkeley registers and votes — that is all the equality they are entitled to, imho.

    When I was in college, I kept my home state as my legal address because my dad was a precinct captain for the Chicago political machine. He had to deliver votes and he would have killed me if I did not vote Democratic. And his political cronies would have known. Political machines become political machines and retain their power by keeping track of things like votes, eh?

    If students want to designate berkeley as their legal address and vote here, I am all for it. I am repelled at the idea of positively discriminating, to affirmative favor students, in drawing new district lines. and I will forever hold this position. But I aint gonna get involved in the storm of redistricting.

  • Tizzielish

    It sounds to me that you would favor using a discriminatory approach to redistricting if that discrimination favored getting rid of a politician you don’t like. Such an attitude is not exactly democratic in spirit.

    When did the citizenry of this city and this whole country seem to forget that manipulating and strategizing with back door deals was acceptable in a democracy?

    I am relieved that Measure R, which I opposed because I oppose affirmative discrimination to create a student district, failed but I am glad it will not oust existing council members who were, let’s remember, voted into office by citizens with actual voting rights. To ferrymander Worthington out of office through redistricting is the same thing as gerreymandering congressional districts to keep them in Republican party hands.

  • Tizzielish

    With all the tech experts in this town, including software writers, I think voting districts should be established through algorhthyms (sp?). Convene pubic councils or ask our city council do do this work — this is the kind of work I think city council reps should be doing — and establish objective criteria. What might that criteria be? I am guessing voting districts should be approximately equal in terms of numbers of residents, and have some kind of geographical logic so neighbors/communities with shared interests like zoning changes, how cell phone towers affect neighboords, what kind of buildings we should allow to be built — being living in proximity have some shared intersets that justify being their own voter district.

    so set up some objective criteria like how many residents should be in each district, then ask a computer to generate the districts.

    If using a computer program to draw districts offends, then use citizen panels.

    But don’t let city councils who has inherent confliclt of interests, or noisy, energetic citizen groups pushing an agenda (like students are having fun getting a taste of politics by pushing for a student district), or any partisan entity draw district lines seems wrong. Voting districts should be set as impartially as possible. Easier said than done. As soon as someone would be appointed to a citizen panel to set district boundaries or define criteria for district boundaries, folks would start lobbying them.

    It aint easy being green and it aint easy being transparent, nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory. Humans get involved and objectivity flies out the window.

    so maybe let computers reshape our new voting districts?

  • guest

    I think we should make them move to the exact center of their district. Let’s fix this problem!

  • Biker 94703

    Ah the new circus come to town! Anything to stop thinking about that boring old problem of why we’re paying our ex-city manager $300k a year to live in Piedmont!

  • CarolynS

    If a lot of students, perhaps particularly undergrads, don’t actually vote because they have little interest in local issues, that would mean that a student-majority district might in a strange way end up providing overrepresentation to a handful of local residents who live in that district and do have interest. Another different scenario I could see is that a candidate could mount a platform that would tend to appeal to student “tastes” but that had little to do with actual local governance issues. In any case, it does seem odd to me that students really need their own district. (I myself am a Berkeley native and also a former Cal student.)

  • EBGuy

    Sigh, there goes TL, trying to subvert the state constitution. See California Constitution Article XXI, section 2(d)(4)
    A community of interest is a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be
    included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.

  • The Sharkey

    Does that mean we can create a special district for moderate liberals in Berkeley who are sick of the far-left obstructionist nonsense?

  • EBGuy

    How do we screen for that? I’m thinking that you could set a high and low threshold on the Prop 13 tax basis of a property. Too low of a basis means you are part of the ‘preserved in amber’ cadre… and too high a basis means you live in the hills. I think this could pass the community of interest designation in the state constitution. Note: this post is not for the humor impaired.

  • The Sharkey

    Are you sure about that?

    According to UCB their total enrollment in 2000 was 31,277 and had climbed to climbed to 35,838 by Fall 2012.
    We’ve had a lot of new housing developments go up in the last decade, so I don’t think it’s unbelievable that the city might have added an additional 5,000 non-student residents in that time. Perhaps the real number is closer to 7,000 than 10,000, but it’s still a lot of people either way.

    Students have a modest impact in almost every UC town, because students are usually too busy studying and partying to register to vote and care about things like local zoning and school board elections.

  • The Sharkey


  • Rob Wrenn

    Yes, I am sure about that or I wouldn’t have posted it. You just have to look at the 2000 Census date for how many people were living in the dorms (“group living quarters”) and compare it to 1990 . According to the Census, there was a drastic drop between 1990 and 2000 from 11,019 to 5,822, which can be easily verified by looking on line.

    A letter from City Manager Phil Kamlarz in June 2003 pointed this out. Of course, in fact, there was no significant drop and UC dorms weren’t sitting half empty; the Census just failed to do a proper count. Specifically, it appears that they failed to count the residents of the Unit 1, Unit 2 and Foothill dorms, and missed most if not all the residents of the Clark Kerr Campus and Stern and Bowles dorms. A July 2002 staff report to the Planning Commission estimated that the 2000 population was actually 108,000.

    There has been a steady rise in population since 1990, perhaps accelerating a bit between 2000 and 2010. Increased enrollment at UC doesn’t translate necessarily into greater population in Berkeley, since significant numbers of students live outside Berkeley, though a large part of the actual population increase between 2000 and 2010 has probably been due to students. Anecdotal evidence suggests that students are occupying many of the new units downtown, except for the below market, affordable ones. When the Census releases all the data for 2010 by Census tract, it should be possible to see how much of the increase in population is made up of students.