CITY NEWS SERVICE
The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday tentatively approved two redistricting plans — one each for City Council and Board of Education districts — in the face of threatened lawsuits from two council members and Koreatown community groups.
The council voted 12-2 on first reading in favor of an ordinance to enact the maps with new boundaries for City Council and Los Angeles Unified board district voting areas.
Councilmembers Jan Perry and Bernard Parks opposed the council map, alleging that changes had been made to district boundaries without explanation or approval by the council. Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller said no changes were made to the map approved by the council in March.
Parks and Perry, upset by how the council carved up their districts — Perry lost of much of downtown and Parks lost the University of Southern California — threatened earlier this year to sue in order to block the new boundaries from taking effect.
A coalition of Korean American groups — the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council, Korean American Bar Association and Korean American Democratic Coalition — were also unhappy with the City Council district boundaries and also vowed to sue.
The groups wanted Koreatown to be moved into a district with Thai Town and Historic Filipinotown. Instead, the areas were moved into City Council President Herb Wesson’s district.
Korean American Coalition Executive Director Grace Yoo said two law firms — Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks & Lincenberg — agreed to take the case pro bono.
Deputy City Attorney Harit Trivedi told the council that the map was legally defensible. Though no lawsuits have been filed, the council voted 14-0 to hire the law firm of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell to represent the city if it is sued.
Chief Assistant City Attorney Pete Echeverria told the council that outside counsel was necessary because of the “specialized and esoteric” nature of redistricting law. A lawsuit challenging the city’s once-a-decade redistricting process has not been filed in more than 20 years, he said.
Opponents of the new council district boundaries accuse Wesson of secretly orchestrating an effort to turn his mid-city district into a majority-black voting district, by influencing the 21-member Citizens Redistricting Commission. The federal Voting Rights Act requires a study to justify race-motivated redistricting, a study opponents contend was never done.
Wesson has denied trying to influence the process.
“To suggest that one person, me, could influence a 21-member commission and a 15-member council in my view is kind of insulting to these … independent thinkers,” Wesson said in March.
The new map will come up for a second and final vote next Wednesday.