Commission tasked with redrawing council district lines forwards just 1 possible map

The Long Beach Independent Redistricting Commission was only able to forward one draft map to next week’s public hearing Wednesday night before voting to continue its map selection process to its Oct. 27 meeting.

By voting to simultaneously move one map forward and continue the study session to next week the commission set in motion an odd situation where some maps could have less public review than the one discussed Wednesday night.

The commission was scheduled to approve up to three draft maps Wednesday, which would be available for public viewing for one week before a community feedback hearing next Wednesday, but only the one will be available leading up to that meeting. Any additional maps that get selected next week and sent to the Nov. 10 final draft map hearing won’t be revealed until the discussion on Oct. 27.

Deputy City Manager Kevin Jackson said that he doesn’t anticipate the city will have to schedule another meeting to meet the legal requirement that the maps be made public for at least a week because the commission’s next meeting won’t be until Nov. 10.

However, any additional maps moved into that final public hearing would be a week behind the one advanced Wednesday. The commission has until Dec. 7 to reach a supermajority approval on a final map for inclusion in the 2022 elections. The commission’s schedule currently has it voting on a final map on Nov. 18.

A condensed timeline for the process was necessitated by the release of Census data to cities being delayed by months. The commission is being asked to complete what was supposed to be a six-month process in under three months.

The commission heard hours of public testimony Wednesday in response to the trove of draft maps that were released last week, which included public submissions and 10 maps drawn by the city’s consultant, Redistricting Partners.

Wednesday’s meeting was by far the most attended of the series of redistricting meetings that started in earnest earlier this year. Dozens of people holding signs crowded into the Bob Foster Civic Chamber inside city hall, with so many people wanting to give public comment that it required the fire marshal to regulate how many could line up at once to ensure that physical distancing guidelines were followed.

Most of the speakers focused on the current 3rd City Council district, where incumbent Councilwoman Suzie Price was shown to be the only member that was in danger of being drawn out of her district in every version of the consultant’s maps.

Price held a community zoom meeting Saturday where she rallied support for the district, which was projected to undergo substantial changes, including the loss of Cal State Long Beach and Colorado Lagoon while being stretched as far west as Shoreline Drive.

“It’s not about the current council representative and who is or isn’t in a plan,” Price said Saturday, adding that her concern was about the long-term makeup of the district.

Richard Wherry, a member of the Alamitos Heights Improvement Association, said that residents were concerned because the maps showed them being in separate districts from the bodies of water they recreate.

“They were concerned that they would lose their voice in the issues that affect that area,” Wherry said. “Separating our district in this way and taking Alamitos Heights neighborhood out of our district will have an impact on how my family uses the neighborhood.”

Price lives in the Alamitos Heights neighborhood, and while most of the residents holding signs imploring the commission not to split up Belmont and Alamitos heights stuck to geographic arguments, some outright addressed that the proposed maps would mean Price could no longer be the council representative.

Price was not the only member of the council that turned out to the meeting Wednesday. Councilwoman Cindy Allen joined a large contingent of advocates arguing her Downtown waterfront district and all of its hotels and attractions, like the Queen Mary, should stay intact.

Allen and members of her council staff joined other hospitality industry members in advocating for Pier H, the part of the port that includes the Queen Mary and the Carnival Cruise Line terminal, to stay in the 2nd City Council District. Allen even requested the commission consider a map she personally drew.

The one map that the commission agreed to move forward with drew Price back into what is currently the 3rd District, added Pier H back into what is currently the 2nd District, kept South Street as the southern border of the present-day 9th District, put all of Cambodia Town in one district and had multiple districts touching the Long Beach Airport.

The map, as drawn, would have all council incumbents still inside their districts if it were to be adopted. The commission is not supposed to consider the homes of City Council members during the map-drawing process.

It’s in no way a final map, but could be among the bunch that the commission forwards to its Nov. 10 meeting where it will select a final version for a procedural approval vote on Nov. 18. However, a lot can change between now and then with commissioners expected to continue to tweak maps, potentially in response to additional public comment.

The Oct. 27 meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. inside the Bob Foster Civic Chambers at Long Beach City Hall.

First round of City Council district maps are released—and they spell big changes

What happens if an incumbent City Council member is drawn out of their district?

 

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.
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