Five Koreatown residents jointly sued the city Tuesday, alleging a process used to redraw City Council district boundaries was racially motivated and unconstitutional.
The suit asks a judge to find the law enacting the new district boundaries on July 1 unlawful and to appoint a new “special master’’ to redraw the district lines.
A 20-member citizens commission appointed by City Council members, the mayor, city controller and city attorney last fall was charged with re-mapping the city’s political boundaries based on demographic shifts reflected in 2010 U.S. Census data.
The commission over the winter held numerous, often contentious public meetings across the city. Neighborhood Councils, ethnic groups and other activists urged the commission to keep their constituencies whole within council districts.
The City Council approved the new district boundaries recommended by the commission in March with some changes.
The new district maps angered a coalition of Korean American groups, who opposed the split of the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council into two districts.
The groups wanted the city’s large Korean American population to be moved into one district after long being divided among three districts. Instead, the commission split the neighborhood council between City Council President Herb Wesson’s district and Councilmember Eric Garcetti’s 13th District.
The lawsuit filed by attorneys with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, which took the case pro bono, alleges Wesson’s appointee on the commission explicitly sought to increase the black population in his district at the expense of keeping the Korean American community whole.
The suit also claims the commission unjustly moved black neighborhoods from Councilmember Bernard Parks’ South Los Angeles district into Wesson’s to further boost the district’s black voting population.
“The city has diluted and negatively impacted the voting power of Koreatown residents by unnecessarily, unlawfully and unconstitutionally dividing their community,’’ lawyers wrote in the complaint.
Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter said he reviewed a courtesy copy of the lawsuit, “but the city has not yet been formally served. Once served, we’ll obviously meet with our client, the City Council, and receive guidance on how to proceed. At this time, we cannot comment.’’
Deputy City Attorney Harit Trivedi, who advised the City Council on redistricting, told the council in June that the maps were legally defensible.
The council also voted in June to pay up to $295,000 for the law firm Remcho, Johansen & Purcell to represent the city in the case of a lawsuit.
Founding partner Robin Johansen could not be immediately reached.