Not so very long ago, Berkeley proclaimed itself to be a “City of Neighborhoods.” Not so much now. Under the quiet and persistent guidance of the present Mayor and Council, policy and practice emphasis has steadily shifted away from neighborhoods — their well-being and preservation — to developing density and allowing increased project size and bulk.
This point was driven home on May 7, 2013 when the Council approved a motion by Council Member Gordon Wozniak (seconded by Darryl Moore) to eliminate from Council consideration the map submitted by the Berkeley Neighborhood Council (BNC). This was done even though there was no question that the BNC map was the only redistricting map submitted which was based on the dual principles of creating a majority student district and keeping neighborhood groups together under one Council representative. It was clear that keeping neighborhoods together strengthens neighborhood input; splitting neighborhoods between representatives results in no one on the Council being accountable.
The Wozniak/Moore motion focused Council consideration of redistricting on just two maps. The Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) creates a student supermajority in one Council District (7), a student majority in another District (4) and a near student majority in a third District (8). The other accepted map, Edge Simplicity, was submitted by Eric Panzer and selected because Council Members liked its “clean” lines even though its author stated it was just an exercise and he favored the BSDC map. Since the BSDC map was clearly the one most favored by the Council, this statement will focus on the strengths of the BNC map compared to the BSDC map.
Here are three facts about the BNC and the BSDC maps that everyone needs to know:
1. Is the BNC student district only “gratuitous” as claimed by the proponents of the BSDC map? · NO. The BNC map creates a supermajority student district (District 7)
that has more students, by at least 640 people, than does the proposed BSDC student district! Where are the differences? While the BNC map does not include the Greeks (sororities and fraternities), the BSDC map does not include the Student Co-Ops north of the campus and two huge student dorms.
Are some students more “student” than others – i.e., more likely to vote as has been stated by the BSDC authors? The hard fact is that the BNC map strengthens the creation of a true student district. It should not be about politics. It is about fair and just representation.
2. Should maps considered by the Council recognize Communities of Interest? YES. State law requires consideration of Communities of Interest and defines them as 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. By any one’s definition a student district is a Community of Interest and a neighborhood is equally a Community of Interest.
The BSDC map makes up the difference in its main student district population by including a significant number of blocks from the residential LeConte and Willard neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are continually plagued by Southside Plan student-oriented development encroachment. Should these neighborhood groups be divided in such a manner without consideration of the State requirement to consider keeping Communities of Interest intact? The BNC map says both students AND neighborhoods are Communities of Interest and must be recognized as such.
The BSDC map negatively impacts the State’s direction regarding Communities of Interest by dividing the Dwight-Hillside neighborhood and continues the weakening of a voice for neighborhoods in community affairs, by dividing the Live Oak/Codornices Creek (LOCCNA), Spruce Street, Halcyon, and Milvia Alliance neighborhoods. Additionally, the BSDC maps rejects the opportunity to right a long-standing injustice by not recognizing the hundreds of residents of West Berkeley who have been struggling to gain recognition as a neighborhood and gain Council representation for over 50 years.
3. Is the claim that it would be “too big” a valid reason for rejecting the formation of a West Berkeley Council District? NO. A comparison of perimeter miles around Districts 1 and 2 (the Council Districts most affected by the creation of a West Berkeley Council District) shows that the West Berkeley District created by the BNC map (District 1) has a perimeter that is 2.84 miles larger than the BSDC map. However, District 2 in the BSDC map has a perimeter of 3.04 miles larger than that of the BNC map. A comparison of perimeter miles around other districts show minor variations. The “too big” argument is a classic “red herring”. It should be pointed out that, practically speaking, the BNC proposed West Berkeley District is probably the easiest area for Council candidates to walk, while districts in the hills are very difficult to walk because of the topography.
Only the Berkeley Neighborhood Council (BNC) map addresses both objectives of creating a Student District and recognizing that a fair and just city is indeed a City of Neighborhoods. The City Council should ensure there is minimal impact to neighborhood groups and consider them as strong a Community of Interest as that of the students. Neighborhood populations are not transient and are more permanent in nature and decisions made by the Council have long term impact on their residents’ livelihoods and quality of life.
Neighborhoods throughout the City need to unite to ensure there is a place for you at the table of civic affairs. The time has come for everyone concerned about the principles of fair council representation to acknowledge that neighborhoods are truly Communities of Interest.
Join us by signing on to this statement. Tell the council to: Reverse the Wozniak/Moore motion by adding to their redistricting consideration the Berkeley Neighborhoods Council map.
All it takes is for you to e-mail BNC at firstname.lastname@example.org to indicate your willingness to sign on to this statement. Thank you for your consideration.
Berkeley Council to consider two redistricting maps (05.08.13)
Redistricting plans focus on student-majority district [04.26.13]
Berkeley could face most dramatic redistricting in 27 years [01.11.13]
City defers redistricting, plans charter amendment [01.18.12]
Cal students file redistricting proposal with the city [09.30.11]
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