A woman holds a sign opposing some of the maps discussed by the Redistricting Commission Wednesday Oct. 27, 2021. Photo by Jason Ruiz

The Long Beach Independent Redistricting Commission voted to continue its meeting for the second straight week after members were unable to advance any maps to a scheduled Nov. 10 final draft hearing that could determine the City Council district lines for the next decade.

Shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday, with no maps approved and the commission continuing to request amendments to the map that’s been under consideration since Oct. 20, Commissioner Eric Oates requested that the commission create an additional meeting on Nov. 3 so the body could have additional time make amendments before moving them on.

Oates’ request, which passed with a 10-1 vote, means the commission will continue to work on maps before taking public comment, something that has hindered its deliberations the past two meetings that have attracted hours of public testimony.

More than four hours of public comment dominated the start of Wednesday’s meeting, with individual communities coming out to speak in favor of, or against, the lone map that had been on public view since the commission’s Oct. 20 meeting.

Communities in Southeast Long Beach successfully lobbied for large proposed changes to their neighborhoods last week, and those from the Cambodian community, which saw all of Cambodia Town put into one district in the one map currently under consideration, spoke in favor of the draft map.

However, others said that the current construction of the map would disenfranchise voters of color.

Multiple members of the Latino community argued that putting all of the Westside into one district would water down Latino’s voting power because it would consolidate them into one large area mostly west of the 710 Freeway. The areas west of the freeway are currently split across two districts, both of which have the City Council’s only two Latino representatives.

According to the 2020 Census, Latinos make up nearly 43% of the city’s overall population.

“For so many years these communities have worked so hard to foster a community, and it’s allowed them to bring about some progress, but there is also a lot of work to be done,” said 1st District resident Ivan Garcia. “That’s why it’s important for these neighborhoods to remain together.”

A contingent of Latino community activists pushed its “equity map” submission that included some big changes including pushing the current 5th District into the present day 7th and 8th Districts.

The “Equity Map” presented by members of the city’s Latino community that the commission could consider to become one of the final maps at the Nov. 3 meeting. Photo by Jason Ruiz

Members of the city’s historic Black community in Central Long Beach said that breaking up its neighborhoods would marginalize their power.

The city’s Black population saw declines in every district but one, according to the most recent Census data, with the largest loss (19%) coming in the current 6th District.

But issues surrounding this year’s Census have led researchers to conclude that larger than normal undercounts occurred among Latinos and Asians in Los Angeles County. A more recent analysis found that the same may have been true for Black Americans in cities across the country.

Speakers urged the commission to keep the community together and not to make wholesale changes to achieve greater diversity.

“The 8th wasn’t drawn with a Black councilman in mind, and the 6th District wasn’t drawn with a Cambodian in mind, but here we are,” said resident Carl Kemp. “Long Beach figures it out.”

There have been multiple threats of litigation over the maps in the past few weeks, but the commission’s counsel advised that the only group that would potentially have a claim to a Voting Rights Act issue would be Latinos.

The group makes up nearly half of the city’s population but has just two council members out of nine possible positions. Thomas Willis, an attorney with Olson Remcho, the firm representing the commission, said that any group would have to prove three things: That its population is both large enough and compact enough to potentially form a minority-majority district, that the group votes cohesively, and that other groups are regularly able to block their preferred candidate because they’ve been denied a majority stake in a given district.

Still, some commissioners requested some overhauled versions of maps to be available for discussion at its next meeting.

Commissioner Genna Bekenhaupt asked that a reworked version put most of Bixby Knolls back into the present day 8th District with North Pine and the Washington and Magnolia neighborhoods put into the same district, among other changes.

A request from Commissioner Feliza Ortiz-Licon called for West Long Beach to be split back into two districts and establish the historic Black communities boundaries between Pacific and Gundry avenues running from 10th Street to the 405 Freeway.

The move could require shifting as many as 15,000 residents throughout the city, which could require dramatic shifts for all proposed districts. But multiple commissioners expressed a concern that the biggest changes were being placed on communities of color in the western part of the city.

“Were not going to keep every single neighborhood together and I don’t think all concessions need to be made at the expense of communities of color in the western third of the city,” Commission Chair Alejandra Gutierrez said.

The commission will meet again Nov. 3, where it will potentially forward as many as three final draft maps to a Nov. 10 meeting that could determine which map heads for a final vote at its Nov. 18 meeting. The commission has until Dec. 7 to approve a final map and send it to LA County election officials for use in the 2022 elections.

One map that appears to be a strong contender to advance to the final stage is a version of the map the commission advanced from its Oct. 20 meeting but with small changes to North Long Beach that would carve out the Coolidge Triangle and Longwood neighborhoods to preserve South Street as its southern border, and a move to add Wilson High School and the adjacent tennis courts back into the present day 3rd City Council district.

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

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.