Berkeley redistricting maps to be on November ballot, judge to choose which lines to use

Council approved the "Berkeley Student District Campaign" map in December.

Council approved the “Berkeley Student District Campaign” map in December.

The Berkeley City Council voted 6-3 Tuesday night to let the voters decide which map of council districts will best represent the community’s interests moving forward.

In recent years, the city has struggled to come up with new district lines that would balance the city’s population across its eight existing council districts, which is required by law.

Last year, after a lengthy public process, council voted in December to approve the map it saw as the best option. But some community members — including council members Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguín and Max Anderson — have challenged that decision, which led to a successful referendum effort in January. That process forced the council either to rescind its December vote and adopt a new map, or put the issue to the voters. Tuesday night, they voted to take the latter approach.

Much of the conflict about the new map has revolved around the fate of District 7, which is closest to the Cal campus and represented by Worthington. The adopted map cuts out blocks north of campus that currently are included in the district, and pushes a portion of its population south of campus.

Worthington and others have said that will effectively split off and therefore silence many of the most “progressive” student voices by putting them into non-student-aged majority districts. Proponents of the new map say it makes sense to focus District 7 south of campus, due to the similarities in both interests and challenges of those who live there.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage of redistricting in Berkeley.

Shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday, council members took up the redistricting issue, which they had continued from a session in late February. After a short period of public comment — which included discussion of at least one new redistricting map that was submitted by local community organizer George Beier — officials briefly debated how to proceed. At one point, there were two motions as well as a “friendly amendment” on the table, as the discussion veered among several possible options.

Council ultimately voted to put the redistricting maps before the voters to allow them to decide which lines to use. In the meantime, council plans to hire an outside attorney who would go before a judge to find out which lines will be used in November.

Council members Worthington, Arreguín and Anderson voted against the motion.

There hasn’t been a lot of information available about exactly how that legal action would work, but Mayor Tom Bates said the plan would be to hire “an outside attorney to argue the case we should hold the election in the new lines, not the old lines.”

It wasn’t immediately clear this week exactly which maps a judge might consider, or which maps would ultimately go before the voters. Berkeleyside has requested additional information from the city.

Worthington said he believes a judge is unlikely to approve the new lines because of the successful referendum, and the existence of other possible district maps, which he described as “multiple serious alternatives.”

Arreguín called the move to go before a judge “a real risk… because we don’t know what’s going to happen.” He said a judge could potentially approve any of the maps that have come up, including one put forward by the Berkeley Neighborhood Council that created a West Berkeley district. He also said the legal process would be problematic because it would create “a cloud of uncertainty” into November.

“Putting it on the ballot will further divide the community,” he said.

Separately, Arreguín submitted a proposed city charter amendment earlier this week that would create an independent redistricting commission to take redistricting decisions out of the council’s hands. To make it onto the November ballot, Arreguín would need to gather a sufficient number of signatures from voters in the coming months.

Councilman Laurie Capitelli said, despite all the rhetoric that’s been used related to “gerrymandering” and which student groups will be included or excluded in the new district, he sees the approved council map as a “compromise” that took a wide range of perspectives and interests into consideration. He also said he felt he believed “we shot ourselves in the foot” when council adopted the requirement that proposed districts would be legally required to include sitting council members.

In the end, he said, he thought putting the issue to the voters will provide the clearest direction forward.

“I do believe we should go to the voters and we should say, ‘Here are the proposals, vote ‘em up vote ‘em down,'” Capitelli said.

Council majority pushes redistricting decisions to March (02.26.14)
Berkeley redistricting referendum effort prevails (02.03.14)
Long-time Berkeley progressives back referendum drive (02.03.14)
Redistricting opponents secure signatures to secure vote (01.22.14)
Op-ed: We don’t need a redistricting referendum (01.10.14)
Tight deadline to get redistricting referendum on ballot (01.03.14)
Redistricting map splits council, community (12.18.13)
Redistricting map approved, referendum idea looms (12.04.13)
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)

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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

    Totally, totally shocked that Worthington and his allies don’t want this issue to go before the voters and an impartial judge.

  • Doc

    The harm Berkeley’s Progressives do to the city is hard to estimate. They want power so badly that they force government to placate them. They demand Berkeley achieve the opposite of prosperity, they demand People’s Park and Telegraph remain a slum, they demand the schools primarily serve out-of district low achievement kids, they work against Berkeley and feel proud of it. Hope they let go of their revolution some day.

  • EricPanzer

    Per my understanding, the referendum that qualified for the ballot is simply to overturn the adopted BSDC district boundaries. Without any further Council action or qualifying petitions, there wouldn’t actually be any new redistricting maps up for voter approval—only a question of whether to overturn the ones the Council voted to adopt. If neither the Council nor a fresh signature-gathering campaign manage to place specific boundaries on the ballot, a vote in favor of overturning the adopted boundaries would basically put the City back at square-one in terms of redistricting, and we’d revert to the maps based on the 2000 Census.

    Seeing as how the City is already in violation of its own Charter, it seems perfectly reasonable to defer to a judge. There are significant parallels between the situation here in Berkeley and the situation at the State level in regard to Prop 40 in 2012. It seems to me that the two most likely outcomes of any judicial proceeding are the continued use of the district boundaries that were in place prior to the start of the 2010 redistricting, or the use of the Council-approved BSDC map—this despite it being the subject of a ballot referendum.

  • George Beier

    Last night I presented a map that split the difference between the BSDC map and the USDA map and didn’t make much headway. Neither side wanted to make any concessions. So now having a judge (and then the voters) decide is the only way out. I agree with Eric that deferring to a judge seems reasonable given the Council’s inability to come to a resolution on its own.

    It’s a shame that Measure R has come down to this.

  • Worthington Fan

    THANK YOU, KRISS!!!! With your help we can block a student district and prevent students from being involved in Berkeley politics!

  • guest

    Progressives? More like Faux-gressives.

  • Chris

    I believe the word you are looking for is hypocrisy.

  • Erich

    You are being facetious right?

  • Erich

    I believe there is only one left that is truly gumming up the works on the south-side, the followers like Worthington really have no business being a public servant and are apathetic to the needs of (his district) and it is truly sad that the south-side only becomes more blighted with every passing minute. I like to be compassionate and caring I truly do, it is just that some of the concepts in this city are non starters, no brainers, and decidedly paradoxical to the needs of the city and the hypocritical flag of individualism, progressiveness, ad nauseum.

  • bgal4


  • FiatSlug

    Weep not for Measure R; it is deeply flawed.

    First, it requires that no sitting councilmember’s residence be in the same district as another councilmember’s.

    Second, the requirements for composition of a district are very vague. The most specific requirements are to use “major traffic arteries” and “compactness of territory of districts…”

    A major re-write is needed, and to trust that the best districts are those that are compact and keep communities of interest together. People are people: they all want to be safe, healthy, happy, and a valued member of their neighborhood. Everything else is gravy.

    If Berkeley elects councilmembers that reflect its best citizens, then we should get the best possible City Council. We need a meeting of the minds, not confrontation.

  • AnthonySanchez

    Quite simple really: The goal of the referendum was to put the issue in front of Council so that they can do the right thing and adopt a map in time that can satisfy a larger swath of communities.

    We did make an error, and I will own up to it -I had NO IDEA that Council would be willing to play Russian roulette and put it on the ballot rather than do our jobs, compromise and ensure that a map would be in place in time for the Fall.

    The entire time, Council has said that this was about creating a Student District, but I hope it has become abundantly clear that is not, that they are willing to throw them under the bus and undo everything because they are too overcome with animosity to come to agreement.

    This much is true: Putting it on the ballot means that there will be no new lines in effect, which is a disservice to the BSDC students who have been noticeably silent since the referendum and afraid to speak up (not sure what the Majority is assuring them). The only way a student district can be in place is if a court decides to institute interim lines -but even then, BSDC is no guarantee (in fact, there is a strong presumption against it if there are more qualified alternatives) and the courts can select any map that has been submitted since 2011 and make their selection based on the objective criteria of redistricting.

    So in the most unfortunate scenario, you could have the courts institute a lesser student district and BSDC fails at the ballot (the unfortunate reality is that many residents are not supportive of a student district). Why would the Council risk all that if they truly supported students? That’s because that has never been what this is about and it has been about electioneering -something I would hope we can all agree is inappropriate (to preempt ridiculous counter claims, RESPONDING to STOP electioneering is not the same as electioneering).

    We consistently pushed for a compromise that would have ENSURED redistricting on time AND a student district. Council instead chose to waste money and put it on the ballot and potentially waste even more money to hire outside counsel to sue ourselves -hypocritical if you ask me if you’ve ever heard Council make an excuse to not pass but not also vote against progressive policies.

    We’ve specifically implored Council to not throw students under the bus, but that decision was never ours (reminder, we are not of the 5+ voting bloc). Council chose the most expensive, more complicated, and more uncertain route of rejecting a compromise that George Beier was so close to achieving, despite so may pleas to be adults and come to the table.

  • AnthonySanchez

    You’re incorrect that Judge would only have two choices: old lines or BSDC. The Judge would be able to choose from the old lines (highly unlikely) or any map submitted to Council. Should the Judge select interim lines, she/he would do so based on which map objectively meets all the criteria set forth by relevant federal, state and local (Measure R) requirements. Should there be a map that equals or surpasses the criteria met by BSDC, the judge will likely select that map given the presumption against BSDC (no judge would like to institute a map that should be in effect unless validated by the voters, not when there are other viable options -which were not present in the case you reference).

    Please read Vandermost v Bowen for more instruction on how the judge would approach this case.

  • student

    “If a referendum is filed and passed, the nation’s first-ever student district would be abandoned, and we would go back to using the old City Council map without a student district.

    To reiterate, a successful referendum would kill the student district, and there would be absolutely no guarantee that we would get another.”

    –Safeena Meckali, EAVP

    The BSDC was right all along! While you rightfully admit that you overlooked this possibility, you can’t say that students (read: BSDC) were silent. They accurately predicted, and voiced through an Op-Ed (more than one, actually) that the referendum was a horrible idea that would likely kill the student district. They even used the term Russian Roulette before you did!

    If only the USDA people listened.


  • AnthonySanchez

    I wouldn’t be sure by saying neither side -our side was joined by Linda to see if you can come up with the compromise that you were so close to achieving. We wanted to give you a chance -the majority didn’t.

  • David D.

    Right on time. I appreciate the spin, but we all saw this coming. Worthington got exactly what he wanted out of this process. I look forward to voting in support of the BSDC map in November. Whether a majority agrees with me remains to be seen, but either way, it’s no skin off my back since I will remain in District 1 no matter what. My main beef the whole time has been the Council minority’s complete disregard for the very long, public process that went into creating the BSDC map.

  • Antonio Noguerra

    I’m sure I’ll be needlessly attacked for this, but who’s the “WE” in your overlong post? I thought that you were posting here as a concerned citizen and not as an official extension of Jesse Arreguin? And you’re doing it during business hours when you’re on the taxpayer dime. Can you please explain how this works, slowly?

  • AnthonySanchez

    Also, not sure on what basis you’d be attacked. Your questions are quite valid.

    Re: business hours, I already explained earlier that I have the day off to be with my parents who are visiting.

    Re: “We,” that’s a good question. I suppose I am loosely referring to those intimately involved with the referendum, but more accurately, I am referring to Jesse and myself -that we’ve always wanted to have a student district in place for this Fall and that we’ve always preferred a compromise to provide certainty rather than the gamble inherent in putting a student district up for a vote.

    Your question regarding who am I speaking for truly is a good question since I am not sure how much I can speak for everyone else involved, but those who were supportive of USDA certainly did not want chance everything on the line but rather have a compromise in place.

  • guest

    It wouldn’t be on the ballot in the first place if Worthington and Arreguin weren’t trying to gerrymander a district by combining parts of different communities of interest in a way that (they think) would favor Worthington’s reelection.

  • guest

    >Speaking of spin. What disregard?

    Not voicing their concerns earlier in the process, not submitting maps until after the deadline, submitting maps that were inadmissible to make political points, using the referendum process as a roundabout way of blocking the new maps.

  • George Beier

    In fairness, I do think USDA side was more willing to reach out then the BSDC side. Having said that, there was plenty enough partisanship to go around.

    It’s my understanding that April 1 is the deadline for any new plan — which only leaves one council meeting. So it looks like it’s not going to happen.

    If there we a couple of councilmembers (one from the majority, one from the minority) that we’re willing to come together to work something out, I’d participate in that. I firmly believe that going to the ballot is a huge mistake. There’s plenty of other work to do. Also, I think Berkeley may very well vote down the BSDC plan (or the USDA plan if it gets on to the ballot). Then we’ll have to start all over again for 2016. What a mess.

  • John Freeman

    Not voicing their concerns earlier in the process,

    What planet are you on? General concerns about the majority’s opportunity to manipulate the maps for political gain go way back. The possibility of a referendum to overcome such manipulation was brought up early.

    Meanwhile, BSDC was a submitted late in the process. After BSDC was selected as a finalist (along with Eric Panzer’s joke entry) the northside students quickly pointed out they were blindsided by the BSDC folks — that BSDC’s claims to be great organizers who reached out to affected communities were b.s. The northside interests were initially further snowed by instance there was no way a map could include them.

    And just a few weeks later they came back USDA.

    They didn’t voice more specific concerns about the BSDC map earlier because relevant parts of the public process were hidden from them.

  • guest

    >What planet are you on?

    What planet are YOU on? Worthington was against a student district before he suddenly decided he was oh-so-concerned about the CoOps – which didn’t care enough to be involved in the process at all – after the deadline for maps had already passed.

    >They didn’t voice more specific concerns about the BSDC map earlier
    because relevant parts of the public process were hidden from them.

    Total hogwash. This very public process took course over the span of YEARS and CoOp representatives were absent from all of it. And the CoOps didn’t create the USDA map as you falsely imply, it came out of Worthington’s office as an attempt to split the Southside community of interest and try to gerrymander a district he thinks will be more politically aligned to support his personal interests.

  • student

    Simply put, the moment the faux ‘progressives’ decided to pursue a referendum was the moment the student district was ‘thrown under the bus.’ At that point, a student district had been adopted. It was law. The majority had voted for a student district. Then, Jesse and Kriss, using Stefan as their front-man decided that they wanted to risk it by pursuing a referendum.

    To put it simply:

    Before referendum: student district was LAW.
    After referendum: it was thrown back into contention.

    Simple is that. The record is all there.

  • student

    Relevant parts hidden from them? Was there a reason that the coop president didn’t show up to a single community meeting hosted by the league of women voters? Or any of the public forums at the council? At all those meetings, the maps were printed and placed on BIG stands available for the public to see. If they really wanted to be involved they could have come and examined the maps.

    ‘Hidden from them?’ The maps were in plain view, John.

  • historical_record

    So you’re never on Berkeleyside comments or Facebook while at work?

  • George Beier

    Yes, of course. You are exactly right.

    Without the referendum, we’d have the student district right now. And even if the lines weren’t perfect, we could have adjusted them at the next census. Now we may not get the student district at all.

  • Markos Moulitsas

    Ha ha ha no doubt! They didn’t want the referendum process to actually lead to a referendum, they wanted to use it to blackmail the council into caving in to their demands. See, that’s not divisive at all! How dare the council majority “further divide the community” by allowing the petition gatherers to do what they said they were doing when collecting signatures?

    Why, it’s an OUTRAGE, I tell you!

  • Markos Moulitsas

    Step 1: Get referendum on the ballot

    Step 2: Vote against referendum at city council
    Step 3: Whine about referendum that you got on the ballot

    Honestly, that has to be up there in a “Top 10 dumbest things to come out of Berkeley city government” the last few years.

    On the positive side, I hope you guys make a serious effort at the independent redistricting commission. Now that’s something I can get behind.

  • John Freeman

    Markos have you even read the charter? There is absolutely nothing inconsistent about supporting a referendum petition and then advocating for direct repeal rather than waiting for an election. In the previous redistricting cycle, that’s exactly what the so-called council moderates did.

    Honestly, that has to be up there in a “Top 10 dumbest things to come out of Berkeley city government” the last few years.

    Oh, I see. You’re just engaged in boosterism so maybe facts don’t matter much to you.

  • John Freeman

    They didn’t want the referendum process to actually lead to a
    referendum, they wanted to use it to blackmail the council into caving
    in to their demands.

    So I guess you are saying that the lines from 2002 are the result of “council moderates” “blackmailing the council into caving into their demands.”

    You are accusing Linda Maio, for example, of being a hypocrite “blackmailer”.

  • guest

    Right, because anyone who objects to sore losers abusing the process for their own personal gain is “engaged in boosterism.” Right.

  • John Freeman

    Right, because anyone who objects to sore losers abusing the process for their own personal gain is “engaged in boosterism.”

    Who is the sore loser here? I think it is you and Markos. Markos because he has to pretend a referendum petition is something other than what it is. And now you because all you can do in defense of this is call people names like “sore loser”.

  • guest

    Yet you conveniently petitioned for referendum signatures when students were out of town, and hired signature gatherers to stand outside Berkeley Bowl who told signers that signing the petition would help block a student district.

    The only maps that were tied to your office that were submitted before the deadline were ones that didn’t include real student districts, and the one submitted by your office after the deadline is a hack job that mixes different, distinct communities of interest in a pathetic attempt at gerrymandering a district you think will be more likely to keep you in office.

    Add to that the fact that your voting record is at direct odds with the opinions of the majority of UC Berkeley students whenever they’re polled and it’s clear that no matter how many Cal students pad their resumes with a stint in your office you are one of the most anti-student members of the city council.

  • guest

    Right, because attempting to slur anyone who disagrees with you as “engaged in boosterism” is totally different than calling someone a name. Right.

  • informed

    The timing of the referendum was mandated by state law because of when the council majority passed it–don’t blame Worthington, blame the mayor and his pals.

  • Hi Becky.

    Great job totally ignoring the rest of the comment.

  • guest

    Have to agree with that. Worthington did not control the timing of the referendum or what hired signature gatherers said about it.

    But I am not impressed by all the students he has appointed. The last time I was at a commission meeting, the crowd groaned when his appointee spoke, because the appointee was not well informed and was very conservative – obviously appointed just because he was a student, despite his incompetence.

    I guess it is just politics that you have to appeal to your constituents, even if it makes for some very bad appointments.

  • andrew johnson

    I look forward to helping Arreguin’s referendum garner sufficient signatures to be on the ballot. We need to take the drawing of district lines OUT of the hands of council members.