Redistricting map approved, referendum idea looms

Students crammed in to the Berkeley City Council chambers Tuesday night for a vote on new district lines in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Students crammed in to the Berkeley City Council chambers Tuesday night for a vote on new district lines in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council approved a new redistricting map to redraw council boundaries to reflect the city’s population changes over the past decade and increase the number of student-aged voters in District 7.

Proponents of the new map say District 7 will become the first student district in the country. Cal students have helped spearhead the campaign to build support for the map, which they said has broad support on campus and in the neighborhoods nearby.

But detractors of the new map say it is a watered down district that will dilute progressive student power, and pushed for a different proposal. The vote split the council, with council members Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguín voting against it, and Councilman Max Anderson abstaining.

The council voted in July to select a preferred redistricting map, the Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) map, which creates a “campus district” made up largely of student-aged residents who live near UC Berkeley but is otherwise not a radical departure from many of the city’s existing council districts.

But, shortly before that vote, Worthington’s office created an alternate version of that document, the United Student District Amendment (USDA) map, which included 11 co-ops, three dorms and International House, which were not included in the BSDC map. (Update, 3:55 p.m.: Stefan Elgstrand, an intern in Worthington’s office, spearheaded the creation of the USDA map. He said Wednesday afternoon via email that, “While I am an intern for him, the map was a student movement in which we used his office as a means to present it to Council.”)

The USDA map would have boosted the population of student-aged residents from 86% (BSDC) to 90%. (Currently District 7 has about 70% student-aged residents.)

Currently, this Berkeley Student District Campaign map, authored by Eric Panzer, is the council's choice going forward.

This Berkeley Student District Campaign map was approved by the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night. Image: City of Berkeley

Tuesday night, Worthington criticized the BSDC map as “biased” and “one-sided” because it failed to keep together all the residents of the Berkeley Student Cooperative — which are currently in his district — and encouraged residents to launch a referendum campaign to force the City Council to reconsider its vote or bring the decision to a public vote. Under the BSDC map, 25% of the co-op houses would be in District 7, effectively splitting the population of what Worthington and others said should be held together as a community of interest.

Worthington described the BSDC map as a “controversial gerrymander” similar to Republican efforts around the country to dilute Democratic power by redrawing district lines.

“This is a partisan political gerrymander befitting of what the Republicans have done to distort our Congress, and this is so unfair to the students who are going to be kept out of participating, but it’s also unfair to the entire city of Berkeley,” he said.

Council members Kriss Worthington (right) and Max Anderson. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Council members Kriss Worthington (right) and Max Anderson. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Worthington said that students who live in the co-ops represent some of the most progressive and engaged voices in the city and that, by “kicking them out” of the district, the city is weakening the progressive movement in Berkeley as a whole.

Worthington also said it is inaccurate to call the new District 7 the first student district in the country, because District 7 already has a “supermajority” of student-aged voters under current district boundaries.

Councilman Max Anderson called the BSDC map “another political hack job” that would divide student voices rather than amplify them, and said it reminded him of historical efforts to exclude minority voices, such as students in North Carolina or elderly African American voters from elections around the country.

“Why are people afraid of your vote, your voice, your participation,” he said, “in a city that, up until recent years, has been the paragon of inclusion and welcoming and acceptance?”

He also noted that two active neighborhood associations, Halcyon and LeConte, will be divided by the BSDC map, when they have expressed interest in remaining unified. He chose to abstain from the vote.

Cal alum Joey Freeman, who worked on the BSDC map as a member of the ASUC, the legislative body that represents Cal students, said, from his perspective, the BSDC map actually unites student-aged populations that were split up in 1986 among several council districts.

“We have worked hard to build a coalition not just of students but of neighborhoods and elected officials,” he told the council. He said the map had been vetted in 17 public meetings over three years. “We had to fight every step of the way to prove students are ready to have a seat at the table.”

Councilman Kriss Worthington’s office created an alternate vision of a student district that adds Foothill, Bowles, Stern, I-House and 11 co-ops.

An intern in Councilman Kriss Worthington’s office came up with an alternate vision of a student district that includes Foothill, Bowles, Stern, I-House and 11 co-ops.

Many students came out Tuesday night, with roughly seven speaking in support of the BSDC map, and another 17 speaking in support of the USDA map. Many of the speakers for the USDA map were co-op members who said they hadn’t been adequately included in the process, and did not want their voice divided.

Councilwoman Linda Maio said she was troubled that a process meant to unify students had instead created what appeared Tuesday night to be a deep fracture. She said she hoped the students would be able to come together under the new boundaries to “have a thoughtful student district that represents you.”

She bristled at Worthington’s earlier comments about gerrymandering.

“I don’t appreciate being called undemocratic and regressive,” said Maio. “I’m rather trembling right now from that attack.”

Councilman Laurie Capitelli also said he was “deeply offended” by the comments made by Worthington, who he called “the alleged progressive on the council.” Capitelli said he viewed the Southside neighborhoods — which grow under the BSDC map — as more central to a “campus district” than those on the north side of campus due to their similar economic challenges and struggles with public safety issues.

Mayor Tom Bates said, ultimately, he believed the BSDC map would be a win for student-aged voters.

“I’ve never been interested in a student district, but I’ve been interested in someone being elected who can support young people,” he said.

Tuesday night was the first reading of the redistricting ordinance, which is set for its final reading at the Dec. 17 council meeting. Those interested in collecting signatures for a referendum opposing that map would be allowed to begin petitioning efforts after that vote.

Worthington said Tuesday night that referendum efforts would not come from inside his office, but that there’s a “high likelihood” of the creation of that campaign. He noted that it might be a challenge during the holiday season to collect the requisite number of signatures — about 5,300, or 10% of the turnout from the last mayoral election — but said he believes success is possible.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” he said.

Berkeley council may consider 2 campus district maps (09.12.13)
Redistricting meeting sheds light on past process (08.09.13)
Berkeley Council denies last-minute redistricting proposal (07.08.13)
Berkeley council to consider two city 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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  • bgal4

    why blame gerrymandering on the dreaded ones, they did it for Maudelle Shirek, the “conscious of Berkeley”.

  • District 4 Resident

    I was referring to student. But your tone of voice online, and that of your boss, is certainly not befitting of your office, Mr. Sanchez. It saddens me to see you speak down to students who you claim to be a champion of. It saddens me to see you use a mocking and condescending tone when talking with the best and the brightest students who are simply trying to engage in local politics. I hope you eventually live up to your own claims that you, your boss and Mr. Worthington are ‘champions’ of students.

  • student

    Respond to my point Anthony. How are coops being under represented when in fact they are over represented? Please use facts instead of rhetoric.

  • cal_student

    The USDA people are being absolutely used to advance Kriss Worthington’s political motives. In the first round of redistricting, Kriss supported MAPMINDS which not only did not contain a student district, but in fact EXCLUDED THE COOPS. He himself was cutting the coops out of his own district. Once he saw BSDC and felt scared that it might threaten his seat, he did a 180 and suddenly cared once again about keeping the coops in his district. How can the USDA people be so blind? He was willing to cut them out of his district when it benefited him, and now he only claims to care about them once it became clear that he needed them to protect his seat.

  • Hildah

    Why are you so disrespectful to Councilmembers?

  • Southside Prop Mgr

    My apt building near Haste/Fulton falls under the City’s “Southside Plan” which promotes high-density, student-oriented housing in it’s guidelines. 99% of tenants are students while the last 1% are alums – the whole city block has the same demographic. Why would the City zone so many blocks for student-dense/oriented housing and leave them out of the council district?

  • Truth


  • Julieguest

    Anthony, almost all the people who post here are trolls, OR the conservative element of Berkley. I applaud your effort to set things straight, all though very few people will listen to what you have to say. It IS important to post here, ( I suppose) although many progressives have given up because the comments are often untrue and downright mean. Posters are still trying to say that Kriss doesn’t live in Berkeley, when we all know that he does. They have been doing this for years. People who post here who are mean/ sometimes racist, and have little compassion, I have a bit more respect for. If I read the Daily Planet ( a real newspaper) and see an article I really disagree with, at least that person has the courage to sign their name to what they wrote.

    At any rate, hope you make that quick buck from the troll.

  • guest

    Unfortunately he’s disrespectful to everyone. Him and Jesse have lost my vote and as Anthony keeps displaying his true character around Berkeley, I’m sure he’ll lose countless more votes for his boss.

  • Open your eyes.

    You applaud his effort to “set things straight” how, exactly? By taking a page from Karl Rove’s playbook and making wild accusations and insinuations with absolutely zero truth?

    Making vague, baseless accusations with no proof the way he’s been doing here is the trashiest kind of politics.

  • guest

    This talk of members of the Council being “conservative” in an insult to the moderate Republicans who were the Council majority until ousted by so called progressives. For all their faults the conservatives gave us an underground BART.
    The progressives gave, and continue to give us People’s Park.

  • AnthonySanchez

    Agree -I support term limits.

  • Guest

    “If I read the Daily Planet ( a real newspaper) and see an article I really disagree with, at least that person has the courage to sign their name to what they wrote.”

    Is “Julieguest” your real name?

  • Shannon A.

    The problem is that he’s a purist: if it’s not perfect, he doesn’t support it. This results in stances that might be philosophically progressive, but which are pragmatically conservative. The purism is clearly evident in the districting debate.

  • guest

    It’s he and Jesse, subject case.

  • student-age

    Because, student, in attempting to generate figures, you are confusing student population with resident student population, UC Berkeley student population, and “student-age” population, all which are different things. In other words, you are confused
    Also, student, Frats are tiny, miniscule proportion of the total student-age body, but are disproportionately included. Please respond to Anthony’s point, student.

  • Hmmm…

    If Tony is so concerned with the overrepresentation of frats, why didn’t he submit his own map slicing up their group of interest?

    Apparently the overrepresentation of frats doesn’t bother Kriss, though, since he included them in his map too.

  • emraguso