The population growth and shrinkage of Long Beach City Council districts over the past decade could require big changes for a majority of the city’s district lines, which will be redrawn by the Long Beach Independent Redistricting Commission in the coming months.
A memo published by the city Tuesday gave the first glimpse of legacy data released by the United States Census Bureau earlier this month boiled down to the neighborhood level.
The 7th District, which includes West Long Beach and parts of Bixby Knolls, supplanted the 9th District in North Long Beach as the city’s most populous after gaining 2,834 residents since the 2010 census.
The city’s 6th District, which includes Central Long Beach and Cambodia Town, is now the city’s least populated after losing 2,174 residents since 2010.
The memo includes a report produced by Redistricting Partners, a consultant the city hired to help the Redistricting Commission complete the line-drawing process that is scheduled to begin in mid-October.
However, the memo noted that it’s expected that finalized data including redistributed prison population could be released to the city about 10 days sooner than the Sept. 30 date the city had originally planned for.
The additional time could give commissioners time to sort out what could be a series of tough decisions in the city’s five council districts running from downtown to North Long Beach, all of which saw changes in population that have pushed them out of the 10% deviation threshold that the individual district populations must meet.
In 2010 the “ideal population” of each district, the number of people that would give each district the same number of people, was 51,363 residents. However, the process allows for a total deviation span of 10%, meaning that one district could be 5% lower than the ideal number and one could be 5% higher.
The 1st district had 49,117 as of the 2010 Census (-4.4%) and the 9th District had 53,828 residents (4.8%) bringing the city’s total deviation to 9.2%. The incomplete data in the memo released Tuesday shows Long Beach has a total deviation of 14.7% with the 6th District (-8.9%) and the 7th District (5.8%) sitting on opposite sides of the divide.
This year’s ideal district population is projected to be 51,860, based on the initial Census data not including prison populations.
To bring districts into compliance with the 10% deviation rule, the 1st (47,384) and 6th Districts will likely need to grow and the 7th and 9th Districts could have to cede ground because of their recent population growth.
Individual communities have asked the commission in recent months to fix issues that they feel damaged their neighborhoods in the last redistricting cycle.
The Los Cerritos Neighborhood was split between the 7th and 8th Districts in 2011 and there’s a movement to unify it during this cycle. The 7th District needs to shrink and so does the 9th District, both of which serve as bookends to the 8th District.
The Cambodian community in Central Long Beach has asked the commission to unify its voting block that is current split between four council districts.
Cambodia Town is split between the 6th District, which needs to grow, and the 4th District to the east, which saw the smallest population change of any district in adding just 48 people over the previous decade.
Other requests like keeping the 9th District’s lower boundary at South Street and unifying all of West Long Beach into one council district could be harder to accommodate given the needs of adjacent districts to grow.
Keeping council district populations “as nearly equal as practicable” is the first criteria listed in the city charter that the commission is charged with following while drawing the new maps.
The list also includes respecting neighborhood boundaries, following the Federal Voting Rights Act, and respecting major topographic and geographic formations like freeways, rivers and mountains.
The report found that Long Beach grew by about 1% over the last decade, less than the statewide population change (6.1%) and Los Angeles County, which grew by 2.8%.
However, its voting age population grew by an estimated 15.5% bringing the city’s eligible voter pool to 65%, according to the report. Latinos saw the largest gain in voter-age residents with a 7% increase and Asians saw a 1% increase citywide. The Black voting age population dropped by 3%.
The population of Black residents overall dropped in five out of nine districts in the city with the only increases occurring in the 1st, 6th and 7th districts when compared to previous population estimates. It remained unchanged in the city’s 4th District.
Like in 2010, no ethnicity makes up a majority of any one council district’s voter-age population but Latinos now make up 45% of the 1st District and 48% of the 9th District.
An analysis published by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs this month suggested that this year’s Census may have had more significant undercounts than previous efforts due to the pandemic and the Trump Administration’s effort to include a citizenship question on the survey.
The UCLA analysis said that Asians, Latinos, renters and those living in poverty were most likely to be undercounted during this Census cycle. According to the report.
While Asians and Latino populations did decrease in a few districts when compared to the 2010 Census it’s unclear if undercounts occurred in Long Beach and won’t be confirmed until an analysis is completed by the Census Bureau next year.
The Redistricting Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. inside the Bob Foster Civic Chambers at City Hall.
Editors note: This story originally said the next meeting of the Redistricting Commission was Sept. 7, the meeting is on Sept. 8. The story has been updated.
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