Following pleas to give students more time to get involved with Berkeley’s redistricting process, the Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to delay its decision on proposed changes to the city’s council districts that are required to balance the population among them.
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.
In June, Councilman Kriss Worthington‘s office created an alternative map — the United Student District Amendment (USDA) map — which includes 11 co-ops, three dorms and International House that aren’t part of the BSDC map. The USDA map would boost the population of student-aged residents from 86 (BSDC) to 90%. (Worthington said Thursday that currently his district is composed of about 70% student-aged residents.)
Some council members said Tuesday night that the increase, from 86 to 90%, is not worth the impacts to other districts, namely those of Susan Wengraf, District 6, and Gordon Wozniak, District 8. They said a number of neighborhood groups and other communities of interest would be divided by the proposed USDA map. (See the current map of council districts here.)
Mayor Tom Bates made a motion to ask the city manager to review the USDA map to ensure it complies with state and local rules, and to have the city’s agenda committee schedule a session to present both map alternatives at some point in the fall. His motion passed 8-1, with Wengraf the only “no” vote.
Wengraf, in her comments, described the USDA map as “a pretty radical change” for her district, noting that her area has never extended south to Cedar at Shattuck. She also noted that there’s “a whole area of southside south of Dwight” proposed to be removed from the campus district.
“You’re sacrificing one group of students for another group of students; what’s the net gain?” she asked. “I’m not very happy about this.”
Worthington said Thursday that a driving factor behind his office’s June (USDA) proposal is a desire to ensure that the co-ops stay in the student district, as many co-op residents fought hard to be included 13 years ago, and want to remain in the district to ensure their voices can be heard.
“They’re already in the student district, why kick them out?” he said. “They were some of the activists pushing to get a student district. The co-opers are probably more emotional than anybody else.”
One student who spoke Tuesday night before the council also noted that the co-ops bring an important measure of economic and ethnic diversity to the student body and, particularly for that reason, should be included in any campus district.
Numerous student speakers asked the Berkeley City Council to give them more time to consider the two maps and potentially see if a new compromise between the two could be designed. The East Bay Young Democrats, the Cal Berkeley Democrats and the Daily Cal have come out in support of the USDA map. Wednesday night, the ASUC considered a proposal to support the USDA map, but the motion ultimately failed. Safeena Mecklai, external affairs vice president for the ASUC, said the next time the group might consider the maps is when they come back before the Berkeley City Council.
Councilman Laurie Capitelli said Tuesday night that he was uncomfortable considering a map submitted so late in the game, adding: “This process is pretty screwed up.” He said the second map had come “very late to the table” and that he himself would have submitted a map had he known the city wouldn’t stick to its deadlines.
But other council members said there’s a precedent for making late-stage changes to redistricting maps; Arreguín and Worthington said it happened during the last redistricting process.
Ten years ago, said Worthington, four council members sat down together late in the process to try to reach a compromise about redistricting. He suggested a similar approach among council members this time around, adding “I don’t think either version that’s before us is ideal.”
But his idea didn’t gain traction with the rest of the council.
“I’m thinking this is what we’ve got,” said Bates.
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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