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Proposed L.A. council redistricting map leaves many dissatisfied

February 23, 2012 |  9:07 am

Herb Wesson
The Los Angeles Redistricting Commission finalized its package of proposed boundaries for 15 council districts, rejecting requests from hundreds of Korean Americans to have their neighborhood council placed in a single district.

Minutes before midnight Wednesday, the panel voted 16 to 5 to send a map to the council. But even some who approved it said they weren't particularly proud of it.

Several on the 21-member panel were sheepish about having dealt a blow to Koreatown civic groups, which had spent weeks sending residents, business people and activists to testify on the proposed boundaries.

"I am terribly guilt-ridden over the concerns of the Korean community," said Commissioner David Roberti, who nevertheless voted for the changes that disappointed Koreatown advocates. "They did not win here and 10 years ago they didn't win either, and I was on that commission as well."

The 21-member panel meets Wednesday to finalize the proposal, which will then go to the City Council for a vote.

For weeks, Koreatown civic groups and activists had asked for their neighborhood -- an area covered by the boundaries of the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council -- to be placed in the district represented by Councilman Eric Garcetti.

Because that neighborhood also includes Thai Town and Historic Filipinotown, advocates believed it would give an Asian American candidate a better chance at winning a council seat. Commissioners rejected the proposal while acknowledging Koreatown was experiencing a political "awakening."

Roberti, who was appointed by Councilman Paul Koretz, said he had focused his energy on satisfying the demands of the Orthodox Jewish community, which wanted specific neighborhoods to be kept out of Councilman Tom LaBonge's district.

Meanwhile, others gave their work equally mixed reviews. Commissioner Jose Cornejo, who may run for the City Council in one of the districts he helped create, called the map and the process used to create it "ugly."

Commissioner Rob Kadota said he was dissatisfied with the map, which he nevertheless approved.

"I don't think we were as visionary or caring about all parts of our city," said Kadota, an appointee of Councilman Bill Rosendahl. Those who voted against the map were even more critical.

Commissioner Helen Kim, an appointee of City Controller Wendy Greuel, said the panel had favored some neighborhoods over others. Commissioner David Roberts said the commission's work would only "add to public distrust of government."

"I don't think I've ever seen a process this dysfunctional," he said.

The maps were created largely by a voting bloc that included representatives of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and council members Herb Wesson, Jose Huizar, Richard Alarcon and Tony Cardenas.

On the council, the biggest winners were Wesson and Huizar, who added major assets to their districts. The biggest losers were council members Jan Perry and Bernard C. Parks, both of whom have threatened to sue.

Commissioner Jackie Dupont-Walker, who voted for the final map, said she was "saddened" for Little Tokyo and skid row, both of which were carved out of Perry's district, and for Baldwin Hills, the affluent black neighborhood that was removed from Parks' district.

Commissioner Michael Trujillo, whose votes helped ensure that Parks' district was stripped of assets like USC and Baldwin Hills, was more philosophical about the slight felt by Koreatown.

He told the audience that as long as Koreatown sits in the middle of Los Angeles, it would always be in danger of being redistricted across multiple council districts.

"Unfortunately, the way the process goes is, if you're in the middle of the city ... that's going to be carved up," he said.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson is one of the winners in the proposed redistricting map. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times.

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