Koreatown redistricting fight moves to federal court
The bitter battle over redrawing Los Angeles council district boundaries moved to federal court Tuesday, with a group of Koreatown residents accusing officials of illegally using race as the predominant factor in creating City Council President Herb Wesson’s new district.
Five residents of Wesson's district filed a lawsuit asserting that city leaders reworked political boundaries with the “explicit purpose” of increasing the percentage of African American voters in Wesson’s district.
Wesson, who is black, represents Koreatown, West Adams, Mid-City, the Crenshaw Boulevard corridor and other nearby neighborhoods.
“The city has diluted and negatively impacted the voting power of Koreatown residents by unnecessarily, unlawfully and unconstitutionally dividing their community into two separate districts,” the lawsuit states.
The residents’ lawyer, Hyongsoon Kim, said he wants a federal judge to bar the city from using the new districts in the March election. The lawsuit also called for a court-supervised special master to redraw the lines. Lawyers for the city had no comment. A Wesson spokesman also said his boss had no comment.
The lawsuit comes after activists demanded that Koreatown be removed from Wesson’s district and shifted into one represented by Councilman Eric Garcetti. They argued that combining Koreatown with other parts of Garcetti’s district -- Thai Town and Historic Filipinotown – would improve the chances of electing an Asian American candidate. Villaraigosa and council members rejected those demands.
Tuesday’s lawsuit marks the latest clash in an especially nasty once-a-decade redistricting process. Council members Jan Perry and Bernard C. Parks have accused Wesson of orchestrating changes that stripped their districts of economic assets. Wesson responded that he was only one of 15 council members.
Koreatown activists also attacked Wesson, accusing him of treating their neighborhood as “an ATM” –pulling out campaign contributions but failing to improve services.
Wesson dismissed the allegations, saying he had focused on bringing business and new public improvements to the area.
--David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall.
Photo: William Min, left, was among dozens of people who protested the Los Angeles City Council's Koreatown redistricting plan earlier this year. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times